DBSA e-Update October 2014

Quick Links to Articles Below

Getting the benefits you're entitled to? Find out on November 13th

Are you getting all the mental health insurance benefits you are entitled to? According to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 60% of people have difficulty understanding their health insurance options and nearly 40% believe they selected the wrong plan.

Many people do not realize that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) created opportunity for individuals living with mood disorders to access mental health care benefits that may have previously been denied. Are you operating under outdated assumptions on what insurance benefits you are entitled to under the law?

November is the time when many employer-sponsored health care plans have open enrollment and it is the beginning of the open enrollment period for plans purchased from the health care marketplace. To be better informed about your choices, join us on Thursday, November 13, as DBSA presents a webinar that explains many of the advantages of health care reform for individuals living with mood disorders.

For example, did you know that the ACA includes mental health care as one of the 10 essential benefits that ACA health insurance plans must now include? Did you know that mental health care coverage must now be treated at the same benefit level as coverage for other physical conditions in your plan? Did you know that you may now be eligible for Medicaid coverage, even if you have been declined in the past?

Learn about these and other changes that provide more access to mental health care through improved insurance coverage by registering for Health Care Reform: Providing More Access to Quality Mental Health Care webinar today.

Calendar of Webinars
October 28: Treatment Choices Pt. II: Options for Depression
November 13: Health Care Reform: Providing More Access to Quality Mental Health Care
November 19: Restoring Intimacy
November 24: Treatment Choices Pt. III: Options for Bipolar NEW DATE!

DBSA Core and Veteran Peer Specialist Training Opportunities

What an absolutely wonderful job your organization does to prepare all the peers ... I learned and valued each moment of training. – VA peer support employee and training participant

November 2014 DBSA Peer Specialist Training Course—Deadline extended!
Madison, Wisconsin
November 3–7, 2014
Download application (PDF) or apply online.

Would you like to use your lived recovery experience to give back to others? Join the nationally-expanding peer support workforce! A few slots remain for the DBSA Nov. 3–7, 2014 Core Peer Specialist Training Course. Training takes place in Madison, Wisconsin, and is valid toward certification in Wisconsin, Illinois, and many other states. Apply today.

DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist Training Course—Last training opportunity in 2014!
December 8–13, 2014 
Chicago, Illinois
Download application (PDF) or apply online.

DBSA trains Veterans who live with mental health conditions to support the recovery of their peers by becoming Peer Specialists. This comprehensive course delivers a foundation in recovery principles, peer support intervention skills, and ethical practice and is followed by a post-course examination to demonstrate competency. Training is designed for individual Veterans who wish to qualify for VA peer support positions and consists of 46 hours of web-based and face-to-face training. Benefits may be available from the VA or your state to support training costs. Deadline for applications for our Dec. 8–13, 2014 course is Oct. 31. Apply today.

Demi Lovato

Better is Not Well Live Web-Streamed Event a Success

What would happen if clinicians and individuals raised treatment expectations from crisis management and reduction of symptoms to true wellness?  

On Thursday, September 25, 2014, DBSA hosted Better is Not Well, a web-streamed moderated panel discussion exploring how peers and clinicians working together to raise the expectations for the treatment of mood disorders.

A live audience joined panelists Judith Cook, PhD; William Gilmer, MD; Rebecca Fulk; and Robert Haggard at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Many more participated as a part of DBSA Chapter viewing parties around the country, or from the comfort of their own homes, submitting questions through the Better is Not Well chat rooms. If you missed the discussion, please view the video on DBSAlliance.org/BINW.

Viewers shared,

I absolutely loved the presentation! I even took notes. The Better is not Well campaign planted a seed of hope in me, and it couldn't have come at a better time in my life. – Attendee

I am very pleased you addressed this hugely important topic. I’d like to learn as much practical application as possible on how I can immediately apply this concept into my life. – Attendee

Over 88% of all participants polled shared that they would like to see more events focused on the subject of Better is Not Well.

DBSA wishes to thank Better is Not Well panelists Dr. Judith Cook, Rebecca Fulk, Dr. William Gilmer, and Robert Haggard; live audience, internet, and chapter viewing party attendees; and event sponsor Lilly, USA, LLC.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Support is Needed in Every Community

DBSA’s local affiliate chapters offer nearly 700 peer-led, in-person support groups, offered at no-charge to people living with mood disorders. In addition, many chapters offer groups for friends and family members of peers. These local meetings offer attendees a sense of community and the type of support that can only come from someone who has been there and can help.

Have you ever thought about starting a support group for depression or bipolar disorder? Now is the time! DBSA wants to help you start a face-to-face peer support group.

Although support is needed in every community, this quarter’s chapter recruitment focus areas are North Dakota, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wyoming. If you or anyone you know live in these areas, DBSA would love to work with you to start a support group!

No special training is required to lead a DBSA group. All you need is a desire to give back, a commitment to helping your peers toward wellness, and the sense that recovery is possible!

You can learn more about being a chapter leader by requesting a complimentary copy of DBSA’s guide Starting a DBSA Chapter. You can also contact Chapter Relations Manager Stephanie Kubik at chapters@dbsalliance.org or (800) 826-3632 x154.

To find a DBSA chapter in your community, visit our Online Support Group Locator.

Welcome to Our Newest Chapter
DBSA has gained one brand-new chapter in the third quarter of 2014, DBSA UMC Acworth! Welcome to the DBSA family!

Ashley H. Johnson

DBSA Life UnlimitedAshley H. Johnson

I was born to a substance-addicted mother in a rough section of North Philadelphia, and was raised by my grandmother and step-grandfather. I was sent to a private school outside of my neighborhood because my grandmother didn’t want me to be influenced by the local kids, who were getting into any and everything that you could possibly imagine. Things were normal even though the household was in dysfunction. I was doing well in private school. But then, as I was getting closer to my middle school exit—I got sad one day and it never went away.

High school hit, and I didn’t shake this feeling. I didn’t fit in and my peers made sure to let me know it. I went from being an honor roll student to failing. I noticed that I was sad one minute, then happy the next. I went from having a normal sleep schedule to not sleeping at all, sometimes for days on end.

I told my family what I was experiencing. We tried mobile therapy; that didn’t work. With these feelings, coupled with the almost daily bullying and fighting, I was beginning to fall apart. I couldn’t grasp a thought let alone muster the words to explain everything that was going on. One day I wrote a suicide letter because I wanted out. I knew I needed help. No one believed me.

After high school, and deciding to skip my graduation, I was finally able to take myself to the doctor. I was hit with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. What did this mean? I never got an explanation. I just got a prescription and was sent on my merry way. A year into my treatment, as I was slowly getting better, tragedy struck. My grandmother had a heart attack right in front of my eyes. During the time that she was in hospice, my mother, brother and I were told that we were no longer welcome to stay in the house. Just like that, everything was packed, and the night of the funeral we had to go.

I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle. After a few months, I was sent back to live in my hometown. Just like that, I became homeless and transient. I found myself on constant euphoric highs, and extreme depressive lows. I tried to support myself by working multiple jobs at once while continuing my education. I soon found myself bouncing from house to house. I felt like a burden and like no one cared. It wasn’t until I met the person who is now my best friend that things changed. She wanted to help me, so she took me in as if I was one of her own. She has been a constant in my life, and has helped me to move forward.

I am set to graduate in May of 2015 with my Associate of Applied Science Degree in Behavioral Health and Human Services, and, in June, exactly ten years after skipping high school graduation, I will receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in Behavioral Health Counseling. I am a member of an international honor society and an academic honor society, and currently hold a 4.0 GPA. I found my passion; I currently work as a Recovery Coach, providing peer support and hope to transition-aged youth and adults. I learned what has worked for me, what hasn’t. I have learned my triggers and how to counteract them. I have the best system that a woman can ask for, surrounded by the love of friends and classmates who root for me every step of the way.  

I’ve come to realize that even though these things may have happened to me … it’s ok. Although these things may be fact—I am not these things. I’m more than just another face, another statistic, or person living with a disorder. I’ve been given a gift and have been selected to now sit on the other of the table to share my experiences. I’ve been through a lot; more than I would have liked to at a young age, but, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am a survivor.

I want to say I lived each day, until I died, and know that I meant something in, somebody's life
The hearts I have touched, will be the proof that I leave. That I made a difference, and this world will see
-Beyonce, I Was Here

Trudy Lapin

DBSA Participates in Congressional Briefing

On Tuesday, September 30, DBSA participant Trudy Lapin shared her story at two Congressional briefings. Over 140 Congressional staffers heard firsthand from Ms. Lapin on the positive impact of current Medicare Part D regulations that provide access to important medications for individuals living with mood disorders.

The briefings were sponsored by the Partnership for Part D Access, of which DBSA is a member. This coalition represents a broad range of disease and disorder groups that have come together to ensure that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services (CMS) retains the protected class status for antidepressants, antipsychotics, and immunosuppressants. Any changes in the status of these medications would make it more difficult for people who receive their drug benefit from Medicare Part D to access the medication their providers prescribe.

In her comments Ms. Lapin stated, “To remove the foundation of recovery—whether it’s electroconvulsive shock therapy or a host of medications which may often change during the lifetime of the patient—is the equivalent of going back to the Dark Ages or killing the patient slowly.”

Now it’s your turn. It is critical that you let your elected officials know that you are keeping an eye on this issue. The Partnership for Medicare Part D Access has made it simple for you:

  • Access the partnership website.
  • Enter your address to obtain contact information for your representative and senators.
  • Personalize the letter with either your or your loved one’s experience.
  • Follow the instructions to deliver.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

The  Parent Connection appears each month in the DBSA eUpdate. Here, parents and guardians can expect to find up-to-date information and resources about parenting children and adolescents with depression and bipolar disorder. We also feature news about Balanced Mind Parent Network online support communities, the Family Helpline and other family-focused programming.

Parent Connection: 6 Tips to Help Your Child Make—and Keep—Friends

DBSA’s Positive Six challenge for October is building and strengthening relationships. However, children with mood disorders may have difficulty making and keeping friends. Here are six tips for parents to put into action to ease our children’s pain and help support them in building friendships:

Listen to your child. Listen to your child in a kind, caring way. Reflect back to your child what you hear because that acknowledges your child’s feelings and helps her identify them. It also encourages further conversation. Try to avoid giving advice or criticizing. Sometimes all your child wants is for her parent to listen with understanding.

Encourage flexibility and resiliency. When your child brings his social woes to you, you may experience it with him. But it doesn’t help to dwell on the negative by asking excessive questions or trying to figure it out for him. Instead of “interviewing for pain,” ask what he’s done to solve the situation, encourage efforts, and let your child know you are there. This encourages flexibility and resiliency rather than hurt feelings.

Be a friendship coach. Coach your child on how to navigate tricky social situations. For example, if your child continually talks about wanting to join in on a recess game, but doesn’t know how to go about it, invite your child to brainstorm some ways she might approach the situation. What can she do to fit in? When she gets home from school, talk over how things went and brainstorm ideas of what she might do differently the next time.

Open your home. Make your house a welcoming place for your child and invited guests. Particularly when your child is younger, plan a couple of activities with your child beforehand so he is not at a loss for things to do when his friend comes over to play. It may also be helpful to limit a play date to three hours or less so your child doesn’t become overtired and overstimulated and can end the experience on a positive note.

Get your child involved. Find an activity outside the home that your child enjoys. Being around kids who share interests may help foster new friendships both within the organized activity and outside the group. Sometimes you may need to call the director of the program beforehand to figure out if it will be a good fit for your child and to make sure any necessary accommodations can be made. 

Locate a social skills group. Ask your child’s school counselor or therapist if he or she offers or knows of a social skills group. A child struggling in the friend department may lack certain qualities such as being sensitive to other people's feelings and needs, and formal training in this area may bring about improvements. 

If you as a parent are having difficulty finding a community of families who are traveling a similar journey to your own, join one of the Balanced Mind Parent Network online support networks where you'll find a safe haven of ideas and information in the midst of the storm.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Greg Simon, MD, MPH

Ask the Doc

Q: A relative of mine, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, has been displaying disorganized thinking, exercising poor judgment without knowing it, overstepping boundaries, with hyper-religiosity. She does not see these things, but her loved ones do. I want to let her know our observations so she can get the right help. How do I gently tell her this without upsetting or alienating her?

A: These conversations can certainly be challenging. Despite what you see on television, dramatic confrontations or “interventions” are often not at all helpful. It’s usually best to start with a calm and non-confrontational one-on-one conversation. Some general advice about how to make those conversations more effective:

Pick the right time. You may feel the most urgent need to have this conversation right after something upsetting has happened, like an argument or confrontation. But those can be the most difficult times for people to feel safe and understood. Try to pick a calmer time when things are going relatively well—when you are feeling more connected or in agreement about things. It’s natural to want to fix the roof when it’s raining, but it’s safer and easier when the sun is out.

Describe, rather than label. Try to express your concern about specific things you notice without using diagnostic labels (like “manic”) or inflammatory terms (like “out of control”). Instead, try using “I” statements to describe what you see: “I notice that you’re talking faster than usual” OR “I notice that you’re only sleeping a few hours at night.” If you use any labels, be sure to allow that you might be wrong: “Last time you were talking fast like this, it turned out that you were getting manic. Could that be happening again?”

Find common ground. Is something happening that both of you can identify as a problem? You may be most concerned about your relative’s over-spending, but she may care most about not being able to sleep. Try to understand what she is most bothered by, even if it is not your highest priority.

Avoid threats and “I told you so.”  If you are upset or frightened, it’s natural to want to say things like “If you don’t get help, then (fill in terrible disaster of your choice)!” The only thing less helpful is to say, “Didn’t I tell you this would happen if you didn’t get help?” If your relative is not seeing some problems that you are seeing, then fear or humiliation will not make it easier for her to see them.

Offer to help. Instead of saying, “You’d better get in to see your doctor right away!” it’s usually more helpful to say something like “How could I help you to check in with your doctor?” Offering and asking often works better than telling.

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.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

I’ve been energized and encouraged by our work with young adults through DBSA’s Young Adult Council and with parents and guardians through DBSA’s Balanced Mind Parent Network. As a community of mental health advocates, we have an extraordinary opportunity to work with these young adults, and those who care for our youngest peers, to transform how depression and bipolar disorder are experienced in the world.

In conversations with these groups, from which I’ve learned so much, I sense two prevailing themes:

  1. That mental health is—simply, yet very importantly—health. It is not distinct, separate, or less-than other health conditions; achievement of wellness in a mental health context is vitally connected to our whole health over our lifetimes. We must address the mental health of our youngest peers if we are to improve not only our traditional mental health outcomes, but also our nation’s chances at long-lived and robust citizens of the future.

  2. That a mental health diagnosis is nothing to be ashamed of, yet it is not nearly all of anyone’s story. When we pursue personal paths to wellness, when we help others, and when we advocate, we do so as complete individuals who are so much more than our diagnoses. Depression or bipolar disorder is not our identity—and no one “gets” that more than young people and those who care for them. When we tackle mood symptoms, we do so in service of our hopes and dreams for wonderful lives; the lives wherein we’re firefighters, ballerinas, astronauts, teachers, judges, generous and tenacious marathon runners or even pop stars.

The DBSA family thanks these vital members—young adults and parents and caregivers—for enriching our lives and our advocacy.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Positive Six: We’re Almost There!

There’s only a few weeks left of the DBSA Positive Six Campaign—six months of small, positive changes to connect with your health and your community.

Our October Building Support Challenge encourages you to set aside time to reconnect and strengthen your relationships. Thoughtful attention is one of the best gifts we can give to someone, including ourselves. Visit the October challenge page for inspiration, thought starters, conversation starters, and more!

Care for Your Mind: October Highlights

How Will You Protect Access to Quality Mental Health Care for Seniors?
According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation depression impacts more than 6 million of the 40 million Americans over 65. Health problems become more common and increasingly complex as seniors age. With the onset of more serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, individualized medicine becomes increasingly critical to helping seniors manage their mental and physical health. Read more...

Allen Doederlein, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance President, with singer,
Demi Lovato

The Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour Connects Demi Lovato with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and bp Magazine

Platinum-selling recording artist Demi Lovato is a pro at performing in large concert venues. But on a Saturday afternoon just days before her 22nd birthday, Lovato took time away from her performing schedule to step onto a much smaller stage—with no backup band in sight. In an intimate lecture hall at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance New Jersey annual conference at Kean University, she answered questions from Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance president Allen Doederlein and spoke candidly to an enthralled audience about how she faced up to mental health challenges and lives well in recovery.

The appearance was part of The Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. “It has become my personal mission to share with others that there is life on the other side of the dark times, and that they are not alone,” Lovato told bp Magazine afterward.

Read an excerpt of "Demi Lovato: Stronger than ever"

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

Be Kind
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.-Ian MacLaren

Relationship Help
Work with my wife, not against her. It’s just like shaving; go with the grain or you liable to get cut.

One disappointing situation does not determine how other situations will turn out!

Download a free book of wellness tips for and by individuals with depression or bipolar disorder.

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