DBSA e-Update December 2013

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

A Note from Allen: Stronger Together in 2013

As I look out my window on a cold and snowy December day, I reflect that is takes a strong person to survive a Chicago winter. I am blessed that I have many tools to reinforce my own strength: a wonderful family, supportive friends, a beautiful lakefront, my talented colleagues…and the promise of summer. I am stronger with the support of others. And so, too, is DBSA. I think all of us are Stronger Together. Indeed, if there has been a prevailing theme for these notes in 2013, it’s been the idea that we can be more effective if we come together.

On a personal level, we who have mood disorders need support from people who have been there and who understand the journey to wellness. DBSA’s 286 peer-led chapters have provided free, in-person support; information and education; and community engagement to 53,471 people. This vital network of chapters is DBSA’s launch pad to the wider community, and our total organizational reach was over 2,000,000 in 2013…and this will grow.

Many among our community of peers have chosen to move out into the mental health workforce through peer specialist work. This past year alone, DBSA provided 26 trainings to over 500 people—most of these being Veterans. We were immensely proud to serve our country’s Veterans by creating a custom program geared specifically to addressing an Executive Order from President Obama to train and hire peer specialists to serve in U.S. Veterans Administration Hospitals and Centers.

Advocacy on an individual, personal level has always been an important part of what we at DBSA do. For nearly 30 years, we have been at the forefront of supporting peers’ roles in determining needs and best practices for delivery of mental health services. Our relationship with the University of Michigan and its Depression Center—through WeSearchTogether—has taken this longtime commitment to the next level. It enables us to advocate for lives that move beyond surviving to ones wherein we thrive. Our members’ willingness to share personal and clinical experiences through participation in formal research programs is both courageous and vitally needed.

In May, DBSA entered the blogosphere with our partnership with Families for Depression Awareness to post our first Care for Your Mind blog. This relationship brings the perspective of families and friends to the mood disorder conversation. With commentary from experts in areas of policy and legislation, we invite comment from the community and encourage dialogue about ensuring that access to quality mental health care is available to all Americans.

In 2013, we further formalized DBSA’s role in advocating for policy and legislative change with an intensive, three-day advocacy training for peers from four states. This training was followed-up with DBSA’s first-ever participation in a national mental health Hill Day through our partnership with the National Council for Behavioral Health. Twenty-five peers met with their national representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. sharing personal stories and asking for support of current mental health legislation. Our 2013 trainees are now replicating this program in their home states with outreach to their state and local government representatives.

The National Council partnership is just one of many opportunities DBSA found in 2013 for collaboration with colleague organizations. DBSA’s Chapter Leadership Forum and National Conference in June were greatly enhanced by our first-ever joint day of programming with the International Society on Bipolar Disorders. We worked with the International Bipolar Foundation on the Say It Forward Campaign during October. And now, as we bring 2013 to a close, we are aligned with the Balanced Mind Foundation, creating a single, stronger organization that serves people of all ages who have mood disorders. Through this merging of organizations, DBSA has greater potential, through early detection and intervention, to help reduce the severity of mental health issues for children as they grow and transition into young adults.

Eleven months ago, in my first column of 2013, I shared a bit about my own struggles with mood-related symptoms…and my growing realization that living in wellness is much more likely when we make commitments to help others. That is my challenge for you, DBSA peers and friends, in the coming year. Find your own place within DBSA: mentor a peer at a support group, participate in a research study, enter the dialogue on Care for Your Mind, become involved in advocacy in your community. I believe we can be individually and collectively stronger when we offer our peers support; we can be stronger together if we focus not on danger and drain, but on collaboration and contribution; we can be stronger for ourselves and subsequent generations as we shift treatment to build wellness, not just eliminate symptoms; and we can have truly lasting impact as a unified and strategically minded coalition of peers who advocate together for the civil rights of all people living with mental health conditions.

Wishing you positive energy and strength as we venture forward together in 2014,

– Allen

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Holiday Greetings

The holiday season is in full bloom at the national office in Chicago for the close-knit family of the DBSA staff. Baking elves are mysteriously leaving cookies in the conference room. We take a little longer to linger over our morning coffee while enjoying tasteful treats from goody baskets that have arrived. It is during these quiet moments of sharing companionship that we find the time to reflect on the inspiration you, our extended family, bring to us each and every day of the year. We can think of no better holiday present than to share a small sampling of the inspiration from peers we are so fortunate to be on the receiving end of. Happy Holidays from your DBSA family. Read Holiday Greetings from the Staff.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Life Unlimited: Victoria Cain


Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Pr. 13:12

This scripture beautifully describes the journey I have traveled in healing from profound symptoms of Bipolar I disorder and PTSD. For many years I did not have the hope of living a full life. Hope lay on a dry river bed of despair. To give perspective, I am fifty-eight years old, and I am thriving now. I enjoy meaningful work, writing, family and friends, recreation, and pastimes. I work in the field of geriatric social work, both in hospice and mental health, as a licensed master of social work and a thanatologist (death, dying and bereavement counselor.)

I want to focus on work life since it was so difficult, yet so rewarding for me to come to a place of fulfillment. I had some jobs during my twenties and early thirties. In my late forties I again began to work a bit. But, for the seventeen years in between I received Social Security Disability Income (SSDI.) I felt so ashamed when I first received the letter from the Social Security Administration that I called their office and told them, “I don’t need it. I’m going to be okay. Give it to someone who is truly sick.” I told a friend of mine what I had done, and she said to me, “Call them back! It is a lifeline from God! Take it.” Fortunately, I listened to her because I needed an income to live; I could not work or study beyond a month or two before getting sick again. This was a crushing blow to my hopes for a career. My heritage was of a family of doctors, for heaven’s sake.

Why couldn’t I have hope for that kind of success? What kind of hope could I have? I had been struck with a psychotic episode when I was twenty-five. By the time I was thirty-one I’d had three psychotic episodes, and that third one got my attention. I began the journey to find out what was wrong with me. That was in the day when mental health diagnoses were long in coming for some of us. It took another three years to get a definitive diagnosis, and I went through shelter homelessness, public assistance, and multiple combinations of medications and therapies before I had any kind of stability. Read Victoria’s Story.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Greg Simon, MD, MPH

Ask the Doc

Q: Are sweet holiday treats an effective way to cope with holiday blues? Or is it really true that sugary or fatty foods can cause depression or mood swings?

A: Depression or mood swings can certainly make those sugary or fatty foods more tempting and put you at risk for over-indulging. People experiencing depression often prefer foods that are “calorie dense” high in sugar or fat. Some believe this is about chemistry that sugar or fat can be a kind of self-medication. Some believe this is about psychology that we tend to prefer “comfort foods” when we feel depressed or stressed. In any case, the holiday combination of increased stress and increased availability of high-calorie sugary or fatty foods can be an unhealthy combination.

The relationship between depression and gaining weight seems to go in both directions. Gaining weight can bring on or worsen depression. And worsening of depression can contribute to gaining weight. But eating sugary or fatty foods probably doesn’t have an immediate effect on mood. If you feel more stressed or depressed after indulging in holiday treats, it probably has more to do with feeling guilty than with changes in your blood sugar or chemistry.

The best strategy for dealing with those holiday food temptations like the best strategies for dealing with lots of other temptations emphasizes ahead-of-time planning rather than after-the-fact guilt. If guilt or self-blame really helped us to live healthier lives, we’d probably all live to 150. But feeling guilty after the fact is not a very effective motivator. Instead, you’ll want to anticipate high-risk situations and plan ahead. Key steps in that plan would include:

  • Being aware of the feelings (depression, anxiety, stress) that make you more likely to over-eat or eat less healthy foods.
  • Looking for alternative ways to manage those feelings.
  • Looking ahead to situations when you’ll face lots of unhealthy food choices.
  • Deciding ahead of time about what you’ll eat and what you’ll avoid. 

If you decide ahead of time on a two-cookie limit, then you’ll be motivated to find the two very best ones. And that third (or fourth) cookie is never as satisfying as the first one.

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.

Got a nagging question you want to ask a doc? Submit your questions online for a chance to get the answer. Check the next DBSA eUpdate to see if your question was chosen.

In the meantime, take a look through our Ask the Doc feature page, a comprehensive archive of past Ask the Doc features which may already be home to the answers you seek.

DBSA by the Numbers

We have a lot to be proud of. With your support, DBSA touched countless lives and made a difference by giving personal support and hope with life-saving tools. Take a look at all you have accomplished.

  • 2 Million people directly touched by DBSA resources and services
  • 655 support groups served 50,000+ peers in local communities
  • 277 chapters and 13 state organizations provided organizational support
  • 121 shared best practices at the Chapter Leadership Forum
  • 757,000 visitors to DBSA web properties increased education and awareness of mood disorders
  • 20,000+ Facebook fans helped socialize DBSA services
  • 13,000 Care For Your Mind visitors generated 50,000 page views supporting advocacy

Magnify Your Gift today!

The year is wrapping up quickly, but you still have time to make a big impact on 2013. Your gift today will be magnified and counted towards The SeaChange-Lodestar Fund for Nonprofit Collaboration challenge to raise $30,000. As one of our most valued partners we need your continued support to reach our goal of wellness for our community of peers. If you have already made your gift this year and are willing and able to do so, we ask that you consider an additional gift this holiday season in honor or your peers. Your support makes us strong, so make your gift today!

Chapter Spotlight: DBSA Michiana Promotes Suicide Prevention Awareness

DBSA Michiana (MI) works hard to fight stigma and educate their community about suicide prevention. The chapter’s Community Awareness Committee (CAC) participates in a variety of health fairs and community events. Visitors to the chapter’s table receive a Mental Health Statistical Quiz, designed to combat stigma associated with mental health conditions. Chapter participants created display boards with items showcasing suicide prevention and awareness. DBSA Michiana also printed a special issue newsletter pertaining to suicide which they distributed widely. The chapter planned a Suicide Awareness Walk to honor loved ones who have attempted or completed suicide. The money raised from the walk helped DBSA Michiana members attend Mental Health First Aid training and funded an educational seminar for the community.

“These actions also helped recruit new participants to the chapter and educate and heal our members on their road to recovery,” says group leader Cindy F.

Care for Your Mind: December Highlights

Care for Your Mind has been following the federal budget negotiations. Several Action Alerts were issued through Care For Your Mind. It’s not too late to contact your Congressional Legislators and ask them to support positive Mental Health legislation.

Your Signature Can Help Protect Mental Health Programs

ART of Healing: Coping Creatively

Art as antidote? People who paint, dance and make music say it's a great way to get out of your head and let out your emotions. Read full article from esperanza's Fall 2014 issue.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

Inspirational Quotes
All the water in the world, However hard it tried, Could never sink a ship, Unless it got inside.

All the hardships of this world, Might wear you pretty thin. But they won’t hurt you, one least bit, Unless you let them in. Author Unknown

If there is someone in your life who uses your illness against you even in good times, then that person doesn’t truly love you. Love yourself enough to leave that situation.

Bipolar Disorder
My father used to tell me “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, all we have is today.” Living in the now, I believe, is one of the biggest challenges of being Bipolar.

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.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

The first quarter of 2014 is in high gear with peer specialist trainings:

  • January Veteran Peer Specialist Training (in Chicago): January 27–February 1
    (*applications due January 7)
  • March Veteran Peer Specialist Training (in Hampton, VA): March 24–29
  • April Core Peer Specialist Training (in Milwaukee, WI): April 28–May 3

Mark your calendar for the second round of Advocacy Training to be held in Washington D.C.

  • Advocacy Training, March 2014 for peers living in California, Florida, Michigan and Texas