updated 04/20/2011 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 04/20/2011 AT 8:00 AM ET
When Catherine Zeta-Jones received a recent diagnosis of bipolar II disorder, a mental illness marked by prolonged periods of depression alternating with episodes of mild mania, she didn’t hesitate to step forward with the news.
“This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them,” the actress, 41, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement in this week’s cover story. “If my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help, then it is worth it. There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.”
In early April, the Oscar-winning wife of actor Michael Douglas, 66, and mom to son Dylan, 10, and daughter Carys, 8, checked in to Silver Hill Hospital, a mental-health facility in New Canaan, Conn.