DBSA e-Update August 2012

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Patrick Kennedy and Linda Gray Sexton
Join DBSA Honorary Board
Depression Video Series
Positive Six: New Connections Challenge November DBSA Peer Specialist Training in Baltimore
Navigating Change Reminder: National Peer Support Events in Philadelphia
Note from Allen

Reminder: DBSA Chapter Leadership Forum

Ask the Doc Wellness Tips from Peers
DBSA Ambassadors Make a Difference Save the Date

Kay Redfield Jamison HAB
Patrick Kennedy

Linda Gray Sexton
Linda Gray Sexton

Patrick Kennedy and Linda Gray Sexton Join DBSA Honorary Board

The DBSA Honorary Advisory Board is excited to introduce two new honorees who have answered the call to fight mental health stigma in the public eye. Congressman Patrick Kennedy and writer Linda Gray Sexton bring their compelling personal stories and powerful advocacy efforts to the DBSA’s celebrity-studded Honorary Advisory Board.

“High visibility individuals can use the example of their own experiences to reach out to those who are uninformed about bipolar illness and depression,” says Linda Gray Sexton, author of two memoirs, two books of non-fiction, and four novels. Her memoirs recount her family’s struggle with mood disorders and her triumph over the tendency to suicide, which she inherited from her mother, the late Pulitzer-Prize winning poet, Anne Sexton. After book readings for her latest memoir, "Half in Love: Surviving The Legacy Of Suicide," Sexton finds opportunities to share information about DBSA and its resources with those who are in need of support.

Congressman Patrick Kennedy served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and is best known as the author of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008. This powerful act provides millions of Americans who had been previously denied care with access to mental health treatment. Kennedy’s continued support of advances in mental health awareness and research extend beyond his legislation and membership on DBSA’s Honorary Advisory Board. The Congressman co-founded One Mind for Research, an initiative that seeks new treatments for psychiatric diseases.

All of the members of the DBSA Honorary Advisory Board exemplify that people living with mental health conditions can and do live extraordinary lives unlimited by a diagnosis. Please join us in welcoming these inspiring individuals.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Positive Six: New Connections Challenge

This month, the challenge for the DBSA Positive Six Campaign is all about making new connections. We challenge you to reach out to four new people, whether you send them an email, a note, a hello, or a Facebook friend request.

From among DBSA’s Positive Six August resources, we’re especially excited to share a video cast from former DBSA employee and current president of Phired Up Productions, Matt Mattson. Mattson’s a professional connection maker, so be sure to watch the video cast for tips on how you can become socially excellent, too.

Get Involved

September Sneak Peak

Don’t forget to join us September 4th (a few days late to account for the holiday) for the kick off of the Bodies in Motion Challenge. We will be giving away +6 merchandise at the top of every hour (9am-5pm Central) on our Facebook page. The September challenge encourages you to get moving.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Navigating Change

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the upheaval and strong emotions associated with major life transitions. That’s true even for experiences typically seen as positive, such as going to college, having a baby, starting a business, or transitioning to an “empty nest.” In fact, marriage and retirement rank in the top 10 on the Holmes and Rahe scale, right up there with jail term and losing a job. 

For many people, fatigue, sadness, lack of concentration, withdrawal, and other depressive symptoms triggered by big life changes may be manageable and subside on their own. In others, however, they progress to clinical depression.

Read the full story at Esperanza.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Note from Allen

Usually, I have issues writing the monthly Note from Allen because I have far too much I want to say. This month, that was still true, but I also just felt stuck as a writer. I decided to look at the August 2011 eUpdate to see what I was thinking a year ago.

It turns out that, a year ago, with no knowledge that the DBSA team would conceive of anything like the DBSA Positive Six Campaign as a way to connect with one another, I wrote, “That’s a suggestion I’ll make: reach out to someone, and let her or him know you think she or he is great. That she or he can achieve something big—that you believe in her or his ability and strength. It’s an amazing thing to know someone believes in you.” In essence, I said, “Make connections,” and now, a year later, we have the New Connections Challenge.

All of the DBSA Positive Six challenges are important, but if I had to pick one challenge that I think is the most impactful, it would be August’s New Connections Challenge. Depression and bipolar disorder can be immensely isolating, and, when we’re not at our best, many of us may wish to avoid rather than seek out others. When we break the cycle of isolation, we can help ourselves to get better, and we can inspire others to continue on their own paths to wellness.

I was reminded of the power of connection recently when I ran into a friend with whom I’d gone to college. Back then, I had no idea that she, like me, was coping with the recent diagnosis of a mood disorder. Nor did I imagine that the intervening years (I won’t say how many!) would include some very similarly challenging times for both of us. I just knew that she was my awesome friend Amy, who was talented, bright, and energetic—someone I admired and wanted to be like.*

When I handed Amy my card, and she saw where I worked, she disclosed that she has bipolar disorder and has been struggling of late. And, while this was news to me, it was nevertheless almost obvious—she looked tired, like the weight of the world was dragging her towards the earth.

Through the course of our conversation, she said, “I’ve pretty much given up on a happy life—I just want a life where I’m not in the hospital and I’m not causing problems for my loved ones.” I let her know that almost identical thoughts had occurred to me many times, and that I hoped she’d believe me when I told her that something better is possible—that I’m living proof of that. She was skeptical, and understandably so. I probably would have wanted to punch anyone who said something like that to me back when I was wrestling with acute, relentless depression. So I just said, “I’m so thrilled to have seen you, and I want to stay in touch. I think you’re extraordinary—indeed, I wanted to be more like you when we saw each other regularly. That’s who you are to me: a leader, a passionate artist, a warm and kind friend. That’s what I hope, and know, you’ll be again.”

In the past two months since we reconnected, we’ve gotten together for coffee three times. No, Amy’s not all better with a totally happy life. But this last time we met, her hair was down, making her look like a golden lioness, which is how I remember her from our college days (the previous times, her hair was clenched in a ponytail). I said, “Wow. You look amazing.” She replied, “Ha. You’re the third person who’s said that recently. Even my mother, who’s not prone to compliments, said I’m looking good lately.” I said, “You’re being who you are: extraordinary.” She smiled and, with clear eyes, whispered, “Thank you.” And then we started in on lots of things: books, exes, which frozen yogurt is the best. We didn’t sit and compare mood disorder stories. But she—my peer in so many ways—is, and always was, extraordinary. And what a marvelous gift that I could help her reconnect with that. "It’s an amazing thing to know someone believes in you."

With positive energy,


*Name and certain identifying details changed for privacy

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Greg Simon, MD, MPH

Ask the Doc: Greg Simon, M.D., M.P.H.

Two years ago I ended a long-term relationship that wasn't healthy for me. My mood has been much more stable, and I feel happy for the first time. Can a life circumstance actually change the chemistry in someone's brain to the point where they are no longer bipolar?

Congratulations! And thank you for sharing the news that recovery is possible.

Mood disorders (including depression and bipolar disorder) usually have many causes or contributing factors: the genes you were born with, positive and negative things that happen to you, your physical health, and substances you put into your body. Symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder are not a yes/no thing (like being pregnant, where either you are or you are not). Instead, symptoms of mood disorder are like high blood pressure. Some lucky people are born with a very low tendency to high blood pressure. But some people are born with a higher risk. Whether or not that risk comes out as high blood pressure depends on lots of other factors in your life (diet, exercise, stress, etc). And even if you develop high blood pressure, you can bring it down over time by working on those other factors. In the same way, you can certainly reduce symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder by making positive changes in your life: working to avoid or better manage negative events or stress, avoiding alcohol or drugs, increasing your physical activity. So positive life changes can certainly change the chemistry of your brain and reduce symptoms of mood disorder. 

Some people refer to bipolar disorder as a chemical imbalance, and that term has both positives and negatives. On the plus side, that term reminds us that bipolar disorder is a serious illness and not just a moral weakness or character flaw. But on the negative side, that term can sometimes give the impression that there is nothing you can do to change the way the illness affects you. Recovery is hard work, but it is possible.


Greg Simon, MD, MPH, is a psychiatrist and researcher at Group Health Cooperative at the Center for Health Studies in Seattle. His research focuses on improving the quality and availability of mental health services for people living with mood disorders, and he has a specific interest in activating consumers to expect and demand more effective mental health care.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Ambassadors Make a Difference

Since the launch of the DBSA Ambassador Program on June 4, DBSA Ambassadors have made nearly 100 connections and raised $11,124. This is a strong kickoff to a program that enables individuals to make connections with others in their community with the goal of helping people with mood disorders live well. To date, there are about 21 ambassadors active in the community on behalf of DBSA. If you are considering becoming an ambassador, today is the day.

DBSA Ambassadors find all kinds of ways to inspire their friends, families, and communities to support the resources and programming that help people with depression and bipolar disorder. One such ambassador, David Griffin, set out on a solo bicycle trip of about 250 miles, inspiring his community to make a difference for mental health. Other ambassadors share their personal stories on the DBSA website to raise awareness and encourage their communities to give.

If you have ideas for personal challenge events (races, physical campaigns, etc) or a simple desire to tell your story, you can promote your event and spread awareness through the DBSA Ambassadors page. We’ll provide support to help you reach out to friends and family along the way. DBSA Ambassadors work together to grow our community and save lives.

Become an ambassador or make a gift today.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Depression Video Series

Last month we asked what you wanted to see in our upcoming video series about bipolar disorder. This month, we want to know what topics you would like to see covered in DBSA’s depression video series. Take our quick survey to help us address the questions that matter to you.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

November DBSA Peer Specialist Training in Baltimore

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”  Booker T. Washington

People like us—people who have experienced both the valleys and peaks associated with mental illnesses, overcoming great obstacles along the way—can offer a unique gift by using what we’ve learned to support and help others create the futures they desire. DBSA was founded on a bedrock belief in the power of peer support and training as a Peer Specialist is one important way that individuals can learn skills to effectively provide that support to others.

DBSA’s next core training course takes place November 26–30, 2012 at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD, followed by online testing in your home community. The intensive 5-day training curriculum includes sessions on effective listening, using dissatisfaction as an avenue for change, Peer Specialist ethics, Recovery Dialogues, and much more. DBSA actively seeks a diverse group of applicants for this unique training experience. Download a copy of the course application, and visit www.DBSAlliance.org/Training to learn more. Application deadline is October 19, 2012.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Reminder: National Peer Support Events in Philadelphia

Don’t forget to register for the 6th annual National Association of Peer Specialists Conference in Philadelphia, Sept. 6–8, 2012. During the conference, you’ll have a chance to preview the new Recovery to Practice advanced peer specialist training curriculum for working peer specialists, along with keynotes, interactive workshops, and forums about professional practice standards and national certification.

To register, or for more information, visit the NAPS website.

And don’t forget, the Hope Concept Wellness Center will host Wellness Solutions 1.0 just a few days before in Philadelphia on Sept. 4–5, 2012. DBSA is an organizational co-sponsor for the event. Register online or contact the Center at (817) 263-4673. Early bird registration runs through August 23.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Reminder: DBSA Chapter Leadership Forum

Don’t forget DBSA Chapter Leadership Forum (CLF) on October 10 in Portland, OR! The 2012 CLF will connect DBSA chapter leaders from around the world to a wide range of educational sessions and some of the greatest experts out there—your fellow peer leaders! This event is free for most chapter members and is open to the public for a small registration fee of only $50.

Find out more and register.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

In the Facing Us Clubhouse, consumers who have found small ways to make a big difference in their recovery share wellness tips. Visit the Clubhouse to be inspired by your peers and to pass on some of your own inspiration.

Visit the Facing Us Clubhouse to get more tips, create your own tips, track your wellness, and connect with peers. Joining the Facing Us Clubhouse is easy and free.


Today I will be productive.

If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again

I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later. I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less. I’d do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play. I’d run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging and less tugging. I’d be firm less often, and affirm much more. I’d model less about the love of power, and more about the power of love.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

August 1–31, 2012
DBSA +6 New Connections Challenge

September 1–30, 2012
DBSA +6 Bodies in Motion Challenge

September 1–10, 2012
National Recovery Month
United States

Sept. 4–5, 2012
Wellness Solutions 1.0 Conference
Philadelphia, PA

Sept. 6–8, 2012
NAPS Conference
Philadelphia, PA

October 10, 2012
DBSA Chapter Leadership Forum
Portland, OR

November 25–30, 2012
DBSA Peer Specialist Core Training Course
Baltimore, MD