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DBSA Life Unlimited Award

The annual DBSA Life Unlimited Award was established in 2012 to honor individuals who exemplify a life unlimited by depression or bipolar disorder and who are actively working to help others do the same. Through this award we celebrate the strengths, inspiration, and accomplishments of our peers.

Miguel Garcia Named DBSA 2016 Life Unlimited Award Winner

Miguel Garcia
Miguel Garcia

Miguel Garcia was born in Detroit from a family of hard-working Mexican immigrants. Despite his family not speaking English and not having formal education, he graduated as valedictorian of his high school, Cass Technical High School. During his junior year at Harvard College, he experienced a severe onset of bipolar disorder that led him to leave his studies. Slowly, however, with the help of friends and family he began the recovery process by seeking better mental health treatment and slowly picking up the pieces of the life he had given up on. Miguel began his work as a Peer Mental Health Specialist at a Community Health Center in Detroit that focused on the mental health needs of poor and disadvantaged communities. While working at the clinic, Miguel also served as a patient advocate for individuals seeing psychiatrists who felt like they needed support in voicing their concerns about their treatment. After more than four years of leaving Harvard due to mental health reasons, Miguel is back to finish his last year at Harvard. Even while in school, he still works for a Mental Health/HIV Care and Prevention Clinic supporting programming that fights mental health stigma and brings awareness to disadvantaged communities, and the needs of the LGBTQ community. Rather than limit his career and ambitions, Miguel believes his bipolar diagnosis has instilled him with a hard-earned ability to express compassion and empathy. After graduation, Miguel plans to continue his studies to become a mental health clinician and work in public health.

Past Award Winners

Carolyn Burke
Carolyn Burke

Carolyn Burke Named DBSA 2015 Life Unlimited Award Winner

Carolyn Burke’s struggle with depression began during her teens. Over the years, she came to realize she could not recover the time lost to her illness but could begin to live in the present and move herself and others forward. She now volunteers for DBSA and the National Alliance on Mental Illness and works in the mental health field as a peer case manager, using her experiences with depression to educate and encourage others towards acceptance of their conditions and maintaining wellness. She is an artist and graphic designer.

AJ French
AJ French

AJ French Named DBSA 2014 Life Unlimited Award Winner

AJ French embodies living a life unlimited. Despite times when she has literally been unable to speak out loud, AJ is regularly invited for speaking engagements throughout the nation in which she boldly shares her recovery experiences and vision for changing the world. Once homeless, AJ persevered and advocated for herself to gain access to public housing and is now a home owner. Once told she would never work again due to a psychiatric disability, AJ refused to believe the limitations placed on her and demonstrates that it is possible to transition from disability income to earned income, becoming a Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS), a WRAP Recovery Educator, and a Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) Facilitator. Today, AJ serves as the Founding Executive Director of Sacred Creations, a statewide mental health recovery coalition, while pursuing a degree in organizational leadership.   

She has not only helped people at the personal and social levels, but she has made an enormous impact at the system level as well. AJ completed her appointment by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to the Statewide Independent Living Council and presently serves as a national council member for the ADA Legacy Project. She also serves on the Illinois Mental Health Planning & Advisory Council. She spearheaded the first peer-organized Recovery & Empowerment Day at the Illinois state capital, co-sponsored by Sacred Creations, Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, GROW, and Next Steps. Her work in the field of mental health has helped thousands of people, the names and faces of which she will never know. AJ works to move people from being hopeless, purposeless, and having no will to live, to having purposeful, hopeful, and empowered lives. She inspires people to know that they can truly recover from a mood disorder and fully participate in their lives, unlimited by a mood disorder and related social inequities.

AJ is an example that even the sky is not the limit for mental health recovery—because of her we know that we can reach the stars! 

The award presentation will be on August 17, 2014, at the DBSA National Chapter Leadership Forum in Union, NJ and will be available for viewing via a live web-stream.

Linea Johnson
Linea Johnson

Everett Page
Everett Page

2013 DBSA Life Unlimited Awards Honor Two Peers

DBSA proudly awarded Linea Johnson and Everett Page with the 2013 DBSA Life Unlimited Awards during a luncheon ceremony on June 16 at the DBSA 2013 National Conference in Miami, Florida. DBSA Board Chair Lucinda Jewell presented the awards before a crowd of peers, including conference attendees, DBSA Board members, staff, and the awardees’ families.

The DBSA Life Unlimited Award was established to honor individuals who exemplify a life unlimited by depression or bipolar disorder and who are actively working to help others do the same. Johnson and Page, each nominated for the award by the peers whose lives they’ve touched, perfectly exemplify the spirit of these awards.

Linea Johnson is a writer, speaker, and photographer who shares her story to inspire others and fight stigma on a global level. The co-author of a nationally published memoir, Perfect Chaos (St. Martins, 2012), Johnson recently returned from working with a community mental health team in India and working on a documentary about world mental health conditions.

Everett Page came to DBSA Boston 27 years ago and has spent a third of his lifetime helping thousands of DBSA members find hope and support through his leadership and group facilitation. He is known for his consistent support and guidance—no matter what kind of day he’s having—to help fellow group members lead their own unlimited lives.

Please join DBSA in celebrating these outstanding peers!

David Granirer
David Granirer

2012 DBSA Life Unlimited Awards Honors David Granirer

DBSA is proud to announce the winner of the inaugural DBSA Life Unlimited Award: comedian, counselor, and author David Granirer, a pioneer in the use of humor to increase wellness, reduce stress, and cope with change. The DBSA Life Unlimited Award was established to honor individuals who exemplify a life unlimited by depression or bipolar disorder and who are actively working to help others do the same.

David Granirer does just that. In addition to working as a counselor and comedian and authoring The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead to Happiness and Success, Granirer also lives with depression. He performs, is a sought-after keynote speaker, and teaches Stand-Up Comedy Clinic at Langara College in Vancouver, a course that prepares people from all walks of life to perform on stage at a comedy club at the conclusion of eight weeks.

David Granirer founded Stand Up For Mental Health, a program that teaches stand-up comedy to people with mental health conditions as a way of building self-esteem and fighting public stigma. For the past four years, Granirer has worked with DBSA to conduct a virtual stand-up class with members of the DBSA community, after which the newly trained comics make their stand-up debut at the DBSA national conference.

"DBSA has been privileged to partner with Stand Up for Mental Health over many years,” says DBSA President Allen Doederlein. “We have witnessed David's work transform the lives of members of our community who participate in his stand-up program. Those newly empowered comics have in turn provided laughter—along with information and inspiration—to diverse audiences."

Granirer got the idea for Stand Up For Mental Health from watching students in his Langara Stand-Up Comedy Clinic course. “I've had students overcome long standing depressions and phobias, not to mention increasing their confidence and self-esteem. There's something incredibly healing about telling a room full of people exactly who you are and having them laugh and cheer,” says Granirer. Learn more about Granirer’s stand-up classes in a feature story about Granirer on Dateline, Australia’s longest running international current affairs program.

DBSA President Allen Doederlein presented Granirer with the award during an intimate ceremony of DBSA chapter leaders at the 2012 DBSA Chapter Leadership Forum in Portland, OR this October. While the groovy CLF theme, Power to the Peers, inspired Doederlein’s flower-child outfit, the literal meaning of the theme perfectly captured DBSA’s reasons for creating the award—to celebrate the individual strengths of peers and their contributions to our communities and beyond.

Stories from of Life Unlimited

In addition to the DBSA Life Unlimited Award, DBSA features a new story of strength and inspiration each month from someone living a life unlimited by depression or bipolar disorder. Check out DBSA’s Stories of Life Unlimited.