DBSA e-Update September 2014

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October 9—National Depression Screening Day
Screening for Mental Health, Inc. will hold its 23rd annual National Depression Screening Day on October 9 to raise awareness of mood disorders and provide the public with free, anonymous mental health screenings. Learn more: helpyourselfhelpothers.org

Fresh Inspiration: Presenting DBSA Life Unlimited Award Winner AJ French

DBSA proudly celebrates the strengths, inspiration, and accomplishments of peers. 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. The 2014 award was presented by DBSA President Allen Doederlein to AJ French August 17 at the DBSA National Chapter Leadership Forum in Union, NJ.

AJ 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. 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! 

AJ says, “When I found out I had been named the recipient of DBSA’s 2014 Life Unlimited Award, I was stunned. I would characterize my life as remarkable, but I also know each one of us is remarkable in some way. Each one of us is created for some kind of greatness.” Read AJ’s story.

DBSA President, Allen Doederlein
and DBSA 2014 Life Unlimited Award winner, AJ French

Demi Lovato

Thursday, September 25—Better is Not Well: Raising Treatment Expectations

My good days are just okay days really. I miss feeling genuinely happy. How can someone be mentally well if they are incapable of happiness?

Too often, when a person is out of immediate risk and able to function in most day-to-day activities, the assumption is made by both clinician and patient that they have achieved treatment success, and as such further steps aren't taken to facilitate complete well-being. While the person's condition may have improved greatly, they are still living with residual symptoms of their condition and/or not living to their full potential. The expectation and reality of wellness is not realized.

Join DBSA Thursday, September 25, 4:30–6:00 PM CT, for Better is Not Well—a dynamic forum for individuals and their families alongside clinicians, to address one of the chief barriers to wellness among people who live with depressive disorders—raising expectations for treatment from crisis management and reduction of symptoms to wellness.

Join us for a LIVE web-streamed broadcast of the event, attend the event in Chicago, or attend a DBSA chapter viewing party.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Volunteers Needed for Peer Helpline

One of the great programs that came to DBSA during the merger between The Balanced Mind Foundation and DBSA is the Family Helpline. The Family Helpline is a volunteer-based phone and email resource line that parents and other family members can contact to get suggestions about specific challenges they are facing. Those with questions can send an email or leave a voicemail on the Helpline and an assigned volunteer will then respond to the request.
This resource line has been so helpful to so many that we are planning to expand the Family Helpline to also serve peers. In order to be able to offer this excellent service though, we need a few great peer volunteers who would be willing to serve on the Helpline.

How does it work?

  •  An individual calls the Helpline and leaves a voicemail, or completes an online form with their question.
  • Our volunteer Helpline manager reviews the requests and then assigns a member of the volunteer team (via a private online group) to respond.
  •  The assigned volunteer will then be responsible for emailing or calling the individual with the question and providing resources.

What training is provided?

It’s important to note—the Helpline is not a warm or hotline; rather, it focuses on connecting people with resources that may be helpful to them.

  • Observation If your application to become a volunteer is accepted, we will begin by making you a member of the online volunteer listserv (or online group). Here you will be able to see how the questions are handled by the group and get a feel for the system.
  • Mentorship Once you are comfortable with the system, we will begin assigning requests to you along with one of our more seasoned volunteers. This mentor will help you formulate a response.
  • Team Member After you have handled requests with the help of another volunteer, you will then begin to answer requests on your own—but remember, you will always have the support of the other volunteers if you have any questions.

How much time does it take?
You are able to respond to requests on your time schedule. If you will be on vacation or have a particularly busy week, you can ask to not have any requests assigned to you. All that we ask is if you agree to handle a request, you do so within 48 hours.

Most of our volunteers say they spend no more than two hours a week responding to requests.

We hope you will consider filling out an application to become a Helpline volunteer. If you have any questions about the Helpline, please contact Volunteer Coordinator, Julia Small, at JSmall@DBSAlliance.org.

Humana Communities Benefit Grant Winner Announced

This past Tuesday, Humana announced PCC Community Wellness Center the winner of the 2014 Chicago Communities Benefit Grant. DBSA is honored to have been considered for such an impactful grant, and to have been a finalist alongside Family Alliance. DBSA extends our congratulations PCC Community Wellness Center.

We want to extend a huge thank you to all of you that voted for DBSA over the two weeks of the Community Vote phase in August and shared DBSA’s participation as a finalist with your family and friend networks. We could not have made such an ambitious push during the Community Vote phase without you.Your outreach gave us a significant lead throughout the two weeks of voting. Your belief in, and support of, our work is energizing and makes us work harder to ensure resources like our proposed DBSA Peer Leadership Center will exist for our community of peers.

Although we did not win the grant, we were glad for the opportunity to engage with you in our community and humbled by the great and overwhelming response. We will continue to forge ahead in our efforts to create impactful resources, like the DBSA Peer Leadership Center, for you and all whom we serve.

Thank you for being a leading voice supporting DBSA and the whole mental health community. You can and do make a difference through your engagement with DBSA and our community of peers.

Read the Humana Foundation press release. (PDF)

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: 5 Tips to Help Your Child Achieve Stability

In anticipation of Better Is Not Well—a live web-streamed panel discussion on raising expectations for the treatment of mood disorders—we asked Balanced Mind families for their tips on how parents can work together with clinicians to help their children achieve mood stability more quickly. Here’s what they recommended.

Locate a professional. If your child is experiencing symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder, it will be helpful to have him or her evaluated and treated by a psychiatrist who works with children with mood disorders. You can find a list of professionals on our website under Find a Professional Resource. You can also search the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Doctor DirectoryThe Doctor’s Visit: Parent Checklist of Questions will help you prepare for the initial visit by streamlining the most important information for the doctor.

Chart your child’s mood. If you are worried about your child’s behavior, start keeping notes about what the behavior looks like, when it occurs, and what triggers it. It may be helpful to find out if the behavior is similar or different in other settings—for example, in the classroom or on the playground—to round out the picture. Once your child’s psychiatrist has a working diagnosis, you may want to continue to keep track of your child’s behavior with the use of a mood chart, which monitors mood, sleep, energy, and events of concern.

Jot down questions. Between office visits, it can be beneficial to keep a running list of questions for the doctor. Without a written reminder, it’s inevitable that you won’t remember the one question you’ve been meaning to ask the doctor all month until the appointment is over and you’re in the car driving home.

Keep medication records. Even though your child’s psychiatrist will keep a medical chart of your child’s symptoms and medications, it can be helpful for you as the parent to keep a record of the medications your child tries and how he or she reacts. The time during office appointments can pass quickly; you will be glad to have that information at your fingertips if the doctor recommends starting a medication your child has already trialed.

Foster close communication. If your gut instinct tells you that your child isn’t responding well to treatment, be sure to stay in touch with your child’s doctor by email or phone, even if an appointment isn’t scheduled for a week or two. Careful reporting of your child’s symptoms to the doctor can head off a more serious crisis down the road.

JOIN US: We’ll be hosting a Facebook discussion this Friday, September 19, at 11 am CT so you can share your own tips for building a positive relationship with your child’s treatment team. Join the conversation!

DBSA Webinars: Learn about Treatment Choices, Restoring Intimacy, and More from Top Experts

DBSA webinars are online educational sessions featuring mental health experts that cover a wide range of topics from treatment options, to personal wellness strategies, to relationships. All DBSA webinars are available on DBSAlliance.org/Webinars

Treatment Choices for Mood Disorders 4-Part Webinar Series
This series explores how individuals can get back in the driver’s seat on their road to wellness. 

  • On Tuesday, October 28, 6:00 PM–7:00 PM, Central, DBSA will present the second webinar in this series, Treatment Choices Part II: Options for Depression. This webinar will address key areas of choice for adults living with depression and offer suggestions for working with your clinical team to align your treatment with your wellness goals. Presenters: Andrew Nierenberg, MD, and Ellen Frank, PhD. Registration is open.
  • On Thursday, November 6, 5:00 PM–6:30 PM, Central, DBSA will present the third webinar in this series Treatment Choices Part III: Options for Bipolar Disorder. This webinar will address key areas of choice for adults living with bipolar disorder and offer suggestions for working with your clinical team to align your treatment with your wellness goals. Presenters Joe Calabrese, MD, and additional speaker TBD. Registration is open.
  • Treatment Choices Part I: Understanding Your Options is now available for viewing online.

Restoring Intimacy Webinar
This webinar takes a realistic look at the challenges to intimacy posed by depression and bipolar disorder, as well as practical ways to make relationships work better under such conditions.  View the recording of Restoring Intimacy with Anita Clayton, MD, and Holly Swartz, MD, or join us November 19, 6:00 PM–7:30 PM, Central, for a repeat live webinar. (Registration coming soon!)

Diagnosis, Treatment, and the Role of Peer Support Continuing Education Opportunities—Atlanta, GA

Peer supporters may not be clinicians, but they can play a key role in supporting others in choosing and getting the most out of treatment. Immediately following the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS) Conference in Atlanta, DBSA is offering a three hour institute, We Do Talk About That:  Diagnosis, Treatment, and the Role of Peer Support, on the role of peer supporters as it relates to diagnosis and treatment. DBSA trainers will offer information about a range of mental health treatments, guide peers in examining their support role in the context of their own experiences with diagnosis and treatment, and share key tools for peer supporters to appropriately assist others in this important arena.

This course is appropriate for support group facilitators and peer specialists. Certificates will be issued for use in continuing education. Pre-registration is required.

October 15, 2014
Sheraton Gateway Hotel - Atlanta, GA
Fee: $45.00
Learn more/Register

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Greg Simon, MD, MPH

Ask the Doc

Q: Do treatment plans ever include getting off of medication? I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 17 years ago. I’ve tried—unsuccessfully—to get off medications in the past. Now I am seeing a psychologist and changing my thinking and the people that I hang around with. I've been off medication for three months and feeling fine. 

Any answer to this question has to start with a reminder that there are averages and there are individuals.

On average, we know that both depression and bipolar disorder tend to be less severe as people age. Community studies show that the rate of bipolar disorder or more severe depression is lower in older people than in younger or middle-aged adults. And long-term follow-up studies show that many people with more severe depression or bipolar disorder do recover—and no longer need medication or other professional treatment.

But the long-term path of mood disorders varies widely from individual to individual. While many people improve, some people do notice more severe symptoms over time. Most people taking medication for depression or bipolar disorder would prefer to eventually decrease or discontinue medication. That goal is possible for some individuals, but not for others. The likelihood of doing well without medication is certainly higher for people with less severe or chronic depression—and lower for people with more chronic depression or bipolar disorder.

You are most likely to be successful decreasing medication if all of the other parts of your recovery or wellness plan are strong. For most people, that plan includes:

  • Following a daily wellness or self-care plan; things you do every day to stay healthy.
  • Avoiding things that put you at risk, like alcohol or street drugs.
  • Getting support from peers, friends, and family.
  • Knowing your personal warning signs of mood episodes—and being honest with yourself when you notice them.
  • Finding health care providers you trust and being honest with them about how you are doing.

With careful planning, persistence, and hard work, some people will be able to decrease—and possibly discontinue—medication. However, mood symptoms can some back, even after months or years. If that happens, re-starting medication before symptoms get too bad usually leads to taking less medication (compared to waiting until things are very severe). Whatever your path, it’s important not to think of taking medication as some sort of failure—a sign that you aren’t strong enough or didn’t try hard enough. Blaming yourself for taking medication is like blaming yourself for having a mood disorder in the first place. And many of us know from experience how well that works.

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 was immensely inspired by meeting AJ French in-person for the first time last month, at the DBSA 2014 Chapter Leadership Forum (CLF), when we presented her with our 2014 Life Unlimited Award. Of course, AJ’s impressive list of achievements clearly demonstrates how people affected by mental health conditions can and do make extraordinary contributions to their communities. Yet what so touched and motivated me about my time with AJ was not solely her success, but also her willingness to share that she doesn’t always feel successful, she doesn’t always feel as “unlimited” as she truly is. To share struggles bravely in rousing speeches like the one she gave when accepting her award, or in quieter moments like the conversation we had over way-too-late dinner the night before, reinforces that wellness or recovery is not a magical, perfect endpoint. Instead, wellness is a continual process of meeting life’s inevitable challenges with the benefit of the strengths, resiliencies, and supports that we can proactively create and nurture in our own lives—and reinforce and celebrate in the lives of our peers. When we share not only our great and successful moments, but also our vulnerable and “imperfect” times, we open the door to the possibility of a true life unlimited: a life that gives honestly and openly, and a life that can withstand the challenges and even setbacks that we who have mood disorders can often face.

It is this definition of an imperfect (yet vitally strong and resilient!) wellness that I hope you will keep in mind as you join us for our Thursday, September 25, 2014 live webcast, Better is Not Well. Our panel of individuals with lived experience of mood disorders and clinical/research professionals will examine how we can collaborate towards a mental health care system with higher standards and endpoints. That is, an environment not of “managed symptoms” or “stability” (stables are for horses!), but of holistic, person-centered progress towards a set of individually defined life goals. We know we have to do better; but what that means must evolve and change over time, just as we do. Think if AJ had stopped at the first declaration of “better,” or “stable” or “sufficiently controlled symptoms”! The world would be so much poorer without her contributions; not of perfection, but of real, lasting, resilient wellness, which she is creating—and DBSA is creating—in partnership with all of you.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Positive Six: New Podcast and Building Support

Each month—May through October, 2014—we're featuring a new +6 challenge aimed at enhancing your well-being. In this month’s challenge, we are sharing tips and tools designed to help you nurture your sense of passion and purpose by exploring interests and reconnecting with old hobbies.

Don’t miss this month’s special highlight—the DBSA Embracing Creative Interests podcast. DBSA Executive Vice President Cindy Specht hosts Julia Cameron, best-selling author of the groundbreaking book on creativity, The Artist's Way. Julia discusses how we can all foster creativity in our daily lives.


October Sneak Peek
Don’t forget to join us October 1–10 on Facebook for the kick off of the October "Building Support" Challenge. We will be giving away Positive Six merchandise, esperanza Magazine subscriptions, books on bipolar disorder, and more!

Care for Your Mind: September Highlights

National Association of School Psychologists Issues Call to Action
How You Can Help Kids Access School-Based Services

The Reality of Recovery

It took many years before bp Columnist, Stephen Propst, finally confronted the reality of what recovery actually involves.
Read “Face the Facts.”

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

What is recovery?
Recovery begins when you live your life focused on what’s meaningful to you without the interference of symptoms.

Writing about your experiences helps you bring out what you know you should do. To see it in front of you, on paper really is awesome.

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

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