DBSA e-Update August 2015

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I to We Weekend

New Educational Materials about Intimacy and Sexual Health

Many people living with mood disorders experience issues related to their sexual health―defined by the World Health Organization as freedom from sexual diseases or disorders AND a capacity to enjoy and control sexual behavior without fear, shame, or guilt. Often, sexual health can be impacted by symptoms of, as well as medications for, mood disorders. While many think of sex as being a function of simple biology, biological, psychological, interpersonal, sociocultural factors all play a contributing role.

Despite how common it is, many people have difficulty speaking about sexual issues with their healthcare providers and partners. Visit our Sexual Health and Mood Disorders page to learn about the many contributing factors, ways to improve, and how to handle concerns regarding this deeply personal subject and critical factor in overall quality of life.

I to We Weekend

Don’t Miss This Incredible Lineup at DBSA I to We Weekend

We’re pulling out all the stops to create a weekend that is focused on building wellness, creating a community of support, and finding our voices. The DBSA I to We Weekend wellness conference and leadership forum will feature:

  • Inspirational keynotes from Academy Award nominated actress, author, and mental health and suicide awareness advocate, Mariel Hemingway; Pulitzer Prize nominated author, philanthropist, and mental health and civil rights advocate, Andrew Solomon; forefather of the peer support movement and Deputy Director, SAMHSA-HRSA Center of Integrated Health Solutions, Larry Fricks; and suicide prevention advocate and videographer Dese’Rae Stage
  • Special performances by singer songwriter Shannon Curtis, comedian David Granirer, and storyteller Jennifer Marshal at Friday evening’s Peer Showcase
  • Two days of wellness focused educational programming for peers, parents, families, friends, and the public
  • One day of in-depth training and networking opportunities for community leaders—chapter participants, parents, young adults, advocates, and peer specialists
  • Four days and 32 CE hours (post-Weekend) of continuing education for peer specialists
  • An evening of music and celebration featuring one of Chicago’s premiere blues bands, Sonic Soul, at Saturday evening’s 30th Anniversary Reception
  • Celebrations honoring individuals who’ve been instrumental in DBSA’s legacy of 30 years of hope, help, and support―and those instrumental in our future.

We invite you to join us, September 25–27, 2015, at the beautiful Eaglewood Resort and Spa, in Itasca, IL, outside of Chicago, for three days of a very special mental wellness conference and leadership forum. Whether you’re a first-time or long-time DBSA conference attendee, this is one weekend you won’t want to miss! Learn more about the full Weekend agenda, download the brochure, and register now at DBSAlliance.org/ItoWeWeekend.

Attention New York City: The DBSA I to We Tour Comes to You October 25

DBSA is crossing the nation this year on the DBSA I to We Tour with the goal of shifting the focus in mental health from “I to We”—from eliminating illness to building wellness; from isolation and fear to a welcoming community of support; and from individual views to powerful, collective voices!

Our third and final 2015 stop on this multi-city tour will be in New York City, on Sunday, October 25, 2015, when the national organization of DBSA joins forces with our local chapters and other metropolitan New York City mental health organizations for the DBSA I to We Tour: New York presentation. Lending her voice to our New York tour stop is Melody Moezzi, JD, award-winning author, United Nations Global Expert, and mental and civil rights advocate. Her latest book Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life is a critically acclaimed memoir that interweaves her experiences with both clinical and cultural bipolarity. Learn more about Melody and her work at MelodyMoezzi.com.

Please join us Sunday, October 25, 2015, 1 PM–3PM at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Bruno Walter Auditorium, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023. Learn more about the event at DBSAlliance.org/ItoWeTour.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Why DBSA Matters

A mood disorder diagnosis can be frightening, discouraging, and simply overwhelming. Peer support can be incredibly powerful tool for an individual living with depression or bipolar disorder. Peers have the unique perspective of a shared experience―they know what you are going through and can offer encouragement and comradery not seen anywhere else.

DBSA chapters are filled with people who have been there, and who can help. Kathy, a longtime chapter leader and support group participant explains, “…The DBSA group is a place where I can find support from others that is available nowhere else.  Far from being stuck on the sidelines, I have reached for and gained access to this source of health and energy that includes me along with others who are succeeding day by day, in not only hoping but actually living with the possibilities of a rich life.”

For Kathy, DBSA support groups are a friendly place of acceptance. Group participants find strength and comfort in knowing that they are not alone and that there is hope, “I have learned that the best way to wellness is through sharing of experiences, and realizing that I am not the only one who lives with mental health concerns.”

To find a support group near you, go to: DBSAlliance.org/FindSupport.
To share why DBSA matters to you, go to: DBSAlliance.org/WhyDBSAmatters.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
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: Reduce Back to School Anxiety

It’s nearly time to go back to school! Like any change, a new school year can cause anxiety, particularly so for a child living with a mood disorder. Here are some tips on ways to reduce back to school anxiety:

  • Get to know your child’s classmates. Plan a playdate, attend an activity center near their school, text, skype, or find other ways to socialize with the children they will be spending the school year with.
  • Start your school schedule early. Gradually change bed and waking times to avoid a sudden, harsh change.
  • Set daily expectations. Practice homework at a relaxed pace to prepare for the school year’s work load. 
  • Plan a visit to school before it starts to introduce your child to their teacher, classrooms, and other areas of potential anxiety: locker assignments, the lunchroom, bathroom locations, etc.
  • Talk to teachers regarding any specific supplies or requirements for their classroom.
  • Create a memory book of summer activities as a fun way to close the summer and prepare for classroom sharing.
  • Consider planning a fun activity for the first weekend after school starts to blend summer and school. Celebrate the first week back.
  • Discuss past experiences and feelings about the upcoming year. Does your child remember being anxious last year? What helped calm those feelings?
  • Prepare, but don’t over prepare. With some children, discussing the school year is helpful. For others it is not. It may be helpful to avoid counting down the days to the new school year or to have other conversations highlighting this big transition.
  • Stay flexible. After a few days or week of school, organizational systems and other needs may change.

A special thank you to the parents from the Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN), a program of DBSA, for sharing their thoughts and ideas on reducing back to school anxiety. BMPN guides families raising children with mood disorders to the answers, support and stability they seek. Go to the BMPN website to learn more.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Supports Inaugural Global Peer Supporter Day

Thursday, October 15, 2015, will mark the first annual celebration of Global Peer Supporter Day. DBSA is proud to support this observance and the value of people helping others. The celebration is being spearheaded in the U.S. by the International Association of Peer Supporters (INAPS).

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Building Your Way to Wellness Workbook

DBSA and Optum® have collaborated on Building Your Way to Wellness, a workbook that helps individuals identify and prioritize wellness goals as well as action steps towards achieving them. It has been clearly demonstrated that individuals who are actively involved in their own recovery plan have much better outcomes. This printable workbook can be downloaded from Liveandworkwell.org―a member and family resource site for people with Behavioral Health, Employee Assistance or WorkLife benefits from Optum® or Optum® partner companies―filling a need for those who do not have access to smart phones or internet. Members can complete this document and keep a copy for themselves as well as share it with their supporters and clinicians if so desired. DBSA thanks and applauds Optum® for their support for the creation of Building Your Way to Wellness and similar tools to help their employees, and their partner companies’ employees, achieve and maintain wellness.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Mark Bauer, M.D., is a psychiatrist and researcher in the VA Boston Healthcare System and a member of DBSA’s Scientific Advisory Board. His research has developed and evaluated programs to help people living with bipolar disorder better manage symptoms and work more effectively with healthcare providers. He is the author of the “Overcoming Bipolar Disorder” workbook and editor of “A Mind Apart”, a collection of poetry by people living with mental illness.

Ask the Doc

Is it possible to be hypomanic and depressed at the same time?

Certainly! Some studies, the most common mood state in bipolar disorder is a mixture of hypomanic/manic and depressed symptoms. In fact, the classic picture of bipolar disorder having a course alternating between the poles of high and low moods is an over-simplification. The very name, bi-polar disorder is probably less accurate than the older term, manic-depressive disorder. How can this be?

Although bipolar disorder has been classified as a “mood” disorder, ample research shows that the core symptom of hypomania and mania is not high mood, but rather hyperactivation. The mood, as many people have experienced, can either be elevated or irritable. But what always appears in manic or hypomanic episodes is a sense of being “sped up” physically and/or mentally. Racing thoughts, pressured speech, decreased need for sleep, starting lots of projects, and impulsive decision-making all derive from being overly activated, overly driven. Many times this sense of hyperactivation is pleasant—when one is feeling particularly “on my game” the person is self-confident, more likely to act decisively, and often more likely to take risks. However, sometimes being hyperactivated simply is a sense that one’s “motor cannot be turned off.” This can lead to restless irritability, especially if one is confronted by reality or other individuals that do not match expectations. Thus what is common in mania or hypomania is the sense of hyperactivation, or being driven, but the mood can be variable.

What does the DSM, the official naming system for the American Psychiatric Association, have to say about this? Well, there has been some improvement between DSM-IV and DSM-5. In DSM-IV, mixing of manic and depressive symptoms was barely recognized, appearing only in the very limited category of “mixed manic and depressive episodes.”  More recent research guided the writers of DSM-5 to rethink this approach, and they came up with this more reasonable and accurate way of describing mixing of hypomanic/manic and depressive symptoms: Mood state is categorized as primarily hypomanic/manic or depressed, but clinicians can add the “modifier” of having depressive features (for hypomanic or manic episodes) or manic features (for depressive episodes). It is also notable that DSM-5 has taken the same approach to recognizing anxiety features in hypomanic, manic, or depressive episodes.

Overall, then, it is not surprising that mood in hypomania or mania can sometimes be depressed. In fact, it may be most accurate to think of bipolar disorder not as a condition of alternating too-high and too-low moods, but rather as a condition of recurring depressive periods punctuated by periods of hyperactivation—and sometimes these periods of hyperactivation alternate with slowed down, depressed periods, but at other times they overlap.

Because many people think that bipolar disorder can only be “bi-polar”, they may not talk to mental health providers about feeling both depressed and sped up. Assumptions or labels can sometimes get in the way of understanding.

Got a nagging question you want to ask a doc? Submit your questions online for a chance to get the answer. Check future DBSA eUpdates 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

bp Magazine: Mary Lambert: Spreading the Love

Two-time grammy nominee, Mary Lambert talks and sings about bipolar, body image, and more!
Read "Spreading the Love" article.

Training for Peer Specialists: Upcoming Opportunities

DBSA is proud to announce a special Core Peer Specialist training course. Our November 2015 46-hour course will include 6 hour s of content related to dual diagnosis recovery and the role of peer support services. Open to individuals throughout the country, the course will be accepted for Virginia peer certification during the current grandparenting period. Already trained and certified as a peer specialist? Join us on Saturday only for the 6-hour supplementary course.

The first-ever DBSA Peer Specialist Leadership Forum will be held on September 27, 2015 as a part of the DBSA I to We Weekend in Itasca, Illinois. This day-long forum tackles two topics key to effective peer specialist practice: telling your story and ethical practice. Join the wellness weekend for inspiration, education, and connection. Learn more at DBSAlliance.org/ItoWeWeekend.

September 9 is deadline for Next Steps Training, September 28–October 1, 2015 following the DBSA I to We Weekend in Itasca, Illinois. Developed by the International Association of Peer Supporters (INAPS) under the SAMHSA-supported national Recovery to Practice initiative, this experiential course will strengthen your knowledge in key areas of peer specialist practice, including peer support values and guidelines, trauma-informed services, multicultural awareness, and more. This training includes 32 hours of continuing education for experienced peer specialists.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Develop Your Advocacy Leadership Skills This September

Want to know what the DBSA state-wide grassroots organizations (GO) have been doing to end discrimination? Want to know more about how recent changes to federal laws that support greater access to care? Or better yet, want to learn how you can get involved? Then the grassroots advocates workshop as part of the DBSA Leadership Forum is a must attend during the DBSA I to We Weekend, September 25–27 in Itasca, Illinois just outside of Chicago.

Presented by DBSA GO chairs from Illinois, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. these hands-on sessions will give you the tools and skills to affect change in the lives of chapter participants and the wider community. 

  • During the first workshop, you’ll learn how health care reform has increased access to mental health services for millions of Americans. This workshop will review reforms in both private/commercial insurance plans and government health care programs. You’ll be provided with information on how to determine if your rights to care have been denied, as well as how to fight a benefit denial. And you’ll learn how this information can be shared with others in your community.
  • During the second workshop, you’ll learn how your voice can make a difference in eradicating stigma, educating elected officials on mental health policies or developing the next generation of treatment options.

Getting involved is easy. View the entire weekend agenda, then simply register and select your preference to attend Sunday’s grassroots advocates workshop. Take that first step today to make a difference.

News from Our CFYM Advocacy Blog: Minority Youth Suicide

The mental health of our youth has led to a significant increase in minority youth suicides. This month CFYM explores programs that are addressing this challenge. 

Read the first post in the series, Why are children taking their own lives? What can we do? by Donna Holland Barnes, PhD, Howard University, Department of Psychiatry and President/Co-Founder, National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Sign Up for First Patient-powered Mood Disorders Research Network

DBSA is a partner with Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital on a new initiative that’s aiming to gather more diverse information about experiences of depression or bipolar disorder. MoodNetwork.org is the first patient-powered research network for mood disorders, and it will bring together at least 50,000 participants who have experienced a mood-related condition of any kind, at any time. Participants may, but do not have to, participate in studies and/or share their de-identified information and feedback so that we can find better treatments and achieve greater understanding of how people—whether very sick or mostly well—manage and live with mood-related conditions. By engaging people who may not strictly be at the affect of acute illness, we can hopefully understand not just why mood conditions are challenging, but also what treatments work best for which people, and what strengths and resiliencies can offset any detrimental experiences or issues.

DBSA President, Allen Doederlein, says of the MoodNetwork Project, “We at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance are immensely proud and excited to be part of this important initiative that will enroll thousands of people like us, who have experienced mood disorders, in a vital process of transformation. We envision a stand for mental health that can hold both the person in crisis and the person in wellness, and all in between. We believe that all have contributions we need if we are to achieve this essential shift.”

Signing up for MoodNetwork is easy! It takes about 3 minutes or less, and you’re not obligated to do or share anything—you just have the opportunity to do so if it’s a good fit for you. For more information, visit MoodNetwork.org, and to sign up now, go to MoodNetwork.org/user/register.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Ivy N. McQuain

Life Unlimited: Meet Ivy

It never crossed my mind that I might be suffering from a mental illness, despite staying awake for days at a time, working myself into an aggressive stupor, or tearing apart my relationships.  I thought it was just my personality until I was diagnosed with manic depression in 2004. I didn’t think too much about it when it was suggested that I attend counseling, which I did, and take medication for the rest of my life. That was my problem. The medicine. As a young 24 year old mother with two sons and a husband at the time, I couldn’t fathom taking medicine just to get through a day without feeling “different.” So I avoided medication and continued on with my life of tyranny for the next 11 years.

Finally, I hit a brick wall. No, I didn’t hit a brick wall… it hit me. Suddenly, I was in a position in my life that I had never been in: arrested. I had worked my entire life to go to college, graduate, own a business, get married (and divorced) raise my two sons and do things most people only think about. I had spiraled so out of control that it landed me in jail. That was what did it for me. Once I bonded out, I called my doctor and told her I was ready. I knew I needed the help but avoided it even when it led to me being hospitalized in 2007 for a week. Prior to my arrest, I felt that I was stronger than any mental illness, after my arrest, I was ready to seek support. 
It’s laughable now but jail was the greatest reality check I needed. I went to my doctor and she started my treatment plan. What a relief. Or so I thought. It has taken me time to get over some of my past mistakes. I didn’t realize how much damage I caused the people I loved because I refused treatment. I wanted and needed to be stronger than my illness because in the Black community, mental illness feels like it is only your burden and shame, with no help for those in need. So you walk alone. I had to decide to step out in walking alone to help others.

I started to video journal my story about being Young, Black and Bipolar on YouTube as an outlet for others, like me, who are trapped inside of their minds and their communities. My videos allow me to humble myself and ask for forgiveness but most importantly to forgive myself. I try hard to stay on the right path because sometimes I want to let the worst part of me come out but I enjoy being kinder and more thoughtful of my actions. It’s nice to know who I really am versus contending with the symptoms of a mental illness gone unchecked.

Read more Life Unlimited stories like Ivy's.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen: Back to School

As I write this, it's a perfect summer day in Chicago (noteworthy, since Chicago has only two or three such days in any given year): sunny, blue skies, warm but not too warm. It's the kind of day that would perhaps make a kid not want to go back to the classroom, the kind of day that makes us grown-ups dream of playing hooky...or at least taking our laptops outside at lunchtime, maybe.

I'm struck by the feeling of "back to school" that's in the warm summer air—a memory for me, a reality for millions of children and their parents. We touch on the ways in which the return to school can provoke anxiety for some students, and makes me think of my own relationship with school...finding the return to school exhilarating, but frightening; overwhelming in both a good and bad way simultaneously.

Thankfully, if we can open up and speak frankly about such challenges, learn from the experiences of peers, and create our own practical solutions for meeting these challenges, we have the best possible chance of wonderful learning and connections. Such education and networking are definitely in store for all who attend the DBSA I to We Weekend in Chicago this coming September 25–27, 2015. Our roster of “teachers” includes such thought-leaders as Larry Fricks and Andrew Solomon, and such interesting artists as Shannon Curtis and David Granirer. I hope to see you there!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

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.

Change of Perspective
When I was feeling very depressed inside a library, I decided to go for a walk. Throughout the walk, I continued to feel deeply sad and lost. I happened upon a tree that looked good for climbing and thought, “Why not?” After the small act of climbing the tree, I sat there, filled with a genuine sense of accomplishment and the physical change in perspective (being above the ground) helped me to change my mental outlook as well.

Social Supports
The best cure for the soul is feeding it with time with your loved ones who genuine care about you, the ones waiting for you, gently to heal.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

August 20–21, 2015
“Advocacy, Poverty and Peer Support” 2015 conference of the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS)

September 8, 2015
Advanced registration deadline for DBSA I to We Weekend

September 25–27, 2015
DBSA I to We Weekend Wellness Conference & Leadership Forum
Learn more

September 28–October 1, 2015
Recovery to Practice Next Steps Training Course
Itasca, Illinois
(follows the DBSA I to We Weekend Wellness Conference & Leadership Forum)
Apply online

October 15, 2015
Global Peer Supporters Day

October 25, 2015
DBSA I to We Tour: New York City
New York City, NY
Learn More

November 2–7 2015
DBSA Core Peer Specialist Training Course
Roanoke, Virginia
Applications due October 2, 2015