DBSA e-Update December 2015

Quick Links to Articles Below

Note from Allen: The Year in Review
Chapter Spotlight: We Need Chapter Leaders!
Parent Connection: You Are Not Alone
Ask the Doc: How long does post-episode depression last?
bp Magazine: Balancing Bipolar and Holiday Stress
DBSA Convenes Historic Summit
Care for Your Mind
Life Unlimited: Jack
Wellness Tips: Get Your Own Back! Stepping Forward! Dance!
Save the Date

Note from Allen: The Year in Review

2015: DBSA Leads the Way…From I to We
When it was founded, the notion of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, or any organization, being not only for people with depression and bipolar disorder, but also led and governed and staffed by these individuals, was unusual, to say the least. Many people were skeptical that such an organization would last.

Now, in 2015, as DBSA closes its thirtieth year, we can take immense pride in the transformation we have achieved. For we, as a force some three million strong and growing, are leading the way to a world in which mental health is not a lucky accident for some, but rather the accepted norm for all. We are leading the way to a world where people with mental health conditions are celebrated for their contributions rather than feared or ignored. We are leading the way…from I to We:

  • from eliminating illness to building wellness
  • from isolation and fear to a welcoming community of support
  • from individual views to powerful, collective voices

Indeed, 2015 has been our celebration of I to We.

From eliminating illness to building wellness
2015 included members of the DBSA team traveling to three major cities to host events combining information, connections to community, messages of hope, and inspiration from people doing extraordinary work to help their peers achieve wellness. We were immensely impressed by the engaged and active participation in our I to We events in Colorado Springs, Los Angeles, and New York, and I’m thrilled to share that we will be continuing our I to We community events in 2016, too!

And then, on September 26, 300 people gathered at the Eaglewood Resort in Itasca, IL for the DBSA I to We Weekend, our thirtieth anniversary national conference and leadership forum. The weekend focused on the importance of community and the mind-body connection in wellness. The event was also a celebration of the significant contributions of people living with mood disorders. In addition to educational content on wellness, whole-health, positive psychology, intimacy, nutrition, sleep, and substance use, we welcomed wonderful keynotes: Dese'Rae Stage, founder of LiveThroughThis.org; actress, author, and mental health advocate Mariel Hemingway ; and author, philanthropist, and mental health and civil rights advocate Andrew Solomon.

For the first time this year, our conference also included an overall DBSA Leadership Forum for numerous members of the mental health community: DBSA chapter leaders, parents, young adults, advocates, and peer specialists.  The DBSA Leadership Forum also included powerful keynotes by Larry Fricks and Barry Bradford.

From isolation and fear to a welcoming community of support
DBSA was founded by leaders who understood that no one could understand, or help, with a mood disorder like someone who had been through such a journey her or himself. With a peer support model that would come to be an evidence-based practice championed by leading clinicians and researchers (not to mention the genesis of a new role within the mental health workforce—the peer specialist), DBSA began with a handful of chapters that offered free, in-person support. Now, over 53,000 people attend a DBSA support group in a year, and a nationwide network of nearly 300 DBSA chapters is creating safe spaces of learning and healing—lifelines to community and inspiration.

Additionally, the work of the Balanced Mind Parent Network continues to flourish, a dedicated group of super-volunteers answering questions for and providing hope to hundreds of parents whose children have mood disorders.

DBSA’s Young Adult Council launched a series of podcasts on young adult issues in 2015, and we also assembled new resources to help support young adults through challenges and help them connect to other young adult peers. The Young Adult Council also created a new Young Adult Q&A resource.

On October 1, 2015, DBSA launched its new I’m here… campaign. The campaign encourages open and authentic communication between people living with depression or bipolar disorder and those who care about them. To help begin these conversations, DBSA offered a special friendship pin kit symbolizing the three pillars of I’m here…

  • Creating Safety in Numbers
  • Starting the Conversation
  • Spreading Awareness  

From individual views to powerful, collective voices
Self-advocacy and legislative advocacy continue to be priorities for DBSA. Making it easier not only to learn about issues that affect access to quality mental health care, but also to take concrete, strategic action in order to influence change, have been our chief advocacy goals. To facilitate these, we have our Care for Your Mind blog, a partnership with Families for Depression Awareness, and newly launched DBSA Advocacy Platform. And nine DBSA Grassroots Organizations, or DBSA-GOs, are leading state-based advocacy initiatives, bringing passion and the peer voice to the forefront of the policy, regulatory, and media dialogue.

On October 5 and 6, 2015, over 30 DBSA participants joined forces in Washington, D.C. with 700 other mental health advocates from around the country. Under the auspices of the National Council for Behavioral Health’s annual Hill Day, DBSA and nine other organizations’ constituents coalesced powerfully for access to, and funding for, quality mental health services and programs.

At the 2015 Hill Day, attendees also heard from singer and mental health advocate Demi Lovato, who along with DBSA and other mental health organizations, is part of the Be Vocal Speak Up for Mental Health campaign.

Bookending 2015 were two unique and groundbreaking initiatives led by DBSA. On April 29, 2015, DBSA organized and led the first-ever Congressional briefings to be entirely initiated by people with lived experience of mental health conditions. The briefings educated members of the House and Senate and their staffers about the extraordinary efficacy of peer support and peer support services. And then on December 8, 2015, DBSA welcomed 14 leaders from throughout the mental health community to a Peer Support Services Summit, where the assembled individuals met to launch—and continue—collective efforts to advance the peer support workforce.

DBSA has for 30 years informed, empowered, supported, and inspired people who have mood disorders and people who care about them. With the DBSA: I to We Campaign, we are raising our sites to say not only do we have the ability to be powerful and transformative in our own lives, we truly have the power to change the conversation about mental health from one of danger and drain to one of collaboration and contribution. We could not do it alone, though, as the very words I to We suggest, and we thank our chapters, volunteers, staff, donors, board, and all who are part of our growing force for good.

Chapter Spotlight: We Need Chapter Leaders!

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

DBSA’s local affiliate chapters offer more than 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.

Although every community could benefit from support groups, our current chapter recruitment focus areas are Phoenix, AZ, Minneapolis, MN, and Cincinnati, OH. If you or anyone you know lives in these areas, DBSA would love to collaborate!  All you need is a desire to give back, a commitment to helping your peers toward wellness, and the sense that wellness is possible. Upon affiliation of a group, DBSA provides chapter leadership and facilitation training opportunities, connections with chapter leaders from around the country, regular informational communications, and other resources to support chapter growth and effectiveness.

You can learn more about becoming a chapter leader by requesting a complimentary copy of DBSA’s guide, Starting a DBSA Chapter, or contact us at startup@dbsalliance.org. To find a DBSA chapter in your community, visit our Online Support Group Locator.

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: You Are Not Alone

2015 is nearing its close, and we have been excited at DBSA to celebrate all that has been accomplished. This year the Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN) has continued to provide an incredible community, resources, and hope for parents of children living with a mood disorder, including depression and bipolar disorder.  A very special thank you to each of our parent volunteers who ensure that BMPN is available to everyone.

Learning that your child has a mental health condition can be frightening and, at times, isolating. You are not alone. Moderated by parents who have been there, BMPN’s community provides important peer support for parents managing their family’s wellness. Parents are able to connect in several online communities and access resources that are accessible anywhere, anytime.

To join BMPN’s community or learn more, visit TheBalancedMind.org.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
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.

Ask the Doc

What's the longest a recovery period can be after a depressive episode? And, is it possible to exist in a state where depression kind of hovers over you constantly?

Your question, unfortunately, is a common one. Many people who live with bipolar disorder experience lingering or persistent depression. The mood stabilizer medications currently available are typically more effective for treating or preventing mania or high periods than they are for treating or preventing depression.

Adjustment in medication can sometimes be helpful with lingering or persistent depression. You should certainly let your doctor know about what you are experiencing. Doctors may sometimes pay more attention to the acute or dramatic aspects of bipolar disorder (like mania) than to less dramatic problems like long-term depression. Your doctor would probably look first at adjusting mood stabilizer medication. Use of antidepressants to treat depression in bipolar disorder is complicated and somewhat controversial. Antidepressants my help some people, but there is a significant risk of antidepressants causing mania or more frequent mood swings.

Counseling or psychotherapy is probably the preferred treatment for persistent depression in bipolar disorder. Research shows that specific kinds of psychotherapy are effective for reducing and preventing depression. And psychotherapy will not increase risk of mania or cause other side effects.

The types of psychotherapy shown to be effective are more than just general support or “venting” about life situations. Effective psychotherapy concentrates on specific positive changes, such as: establishing a healthy daily schedule, identifying and confronting exaggerated negative thoughts, scheduling specific activities that are rewarding and enjoyable, developing positive social contacts. Those may sound like things everyone already knows about, but they are things that are hard to do—especially if you feel depressed. Seeing a counselor or therapist can help people to actually do those things that we all know are helpful. DBSA’s online wellness tools can help you make and stick with your own plan for positive change.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Balancing Bipolar and Holiday Stress

The very things that define the holidays can also be the things that make us feel stressed, depressed and anxious. Follow these steps to reduce stress and make the most of this holiday season! Read article

DBSA Convenes Peer Workforce Stakeholders for Historic Meeting

On December 7, representatives from organizations that train, employ, and promote the peer specialist workforce gathered in Chicago to participate in the first-ever roundtable discussion about advancing the peer specialist profession. Convened by DBSA, the cross-sector group discussed how, collectively, they could advance the idea that peer support services are an essential element of quality behavioral health services and should be readily available, thereby creating high demand.

Prior to the event, DBSA identified the top five issues facing the field. Each participant ranked the list and Allen Doederlein, DBSA president, shared the results. The group felt that in order to be successful, the community needs to ensure that there is

  • a common understanding of the roles and scope of work that ensure effective integration and utilization of peer specialists in a variety of venues; and
  • a clear understanding of the value of peer support services in achieving desired outcomes.

Participants agreed that the health of the profession requires ongoing dialogue around these issues and departed with a commitment to continue to collectively work towards these goals in 2016.

Included in the group were representatives from Appalachian Consulting Group, Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey, Humana Health Systems, International Association of Peer Supporters, Mental Health America, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Optum, Recovery Innovations, Resilience Inc., Value Options, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Mental Health Services.

Allen Doederlein leads the Summit discussion.

DBSA Staffers Lisa Goodale and Phyllis Foxworth (left) attend the
Peer Specialist Summit.

Care For Your Mind

What’s going on with mental health reform? CFYM explains two different reform bills making their way through the U.S. Congress. Read more.

Jack Reeves

Life Unlimited: Jack

Know Thyself
There is nothing quite like cooling your heals in the psychiatric wing of your local hospital to make you realize that something isn’t quite right. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a series of very poor life decisions and self-destructive behavior back in 2001 at the ripe old age of 23ish. Taking stock of my situation, I began to understand that things hadn’t been “quite right” for some time when I was able to connect the dots of aberrant behavior and wild mood swings back to my early teenage years. If I didn’t get help back then, I probably wouldn’t be here telling you my story today.

The years after my diagnosis weren’t much of an improvement. I gained over 100 pounds and could not hold a job for more than seven or eight months at a time and moved more times than I can remember. Overdrawn accounts, broken leases, and a couple stints being homeless also didn’t help much. To be honest, I also didn’t stick to any medication regimen for long either. I tried fish oils and other “remedies” but saw no improvement. It wasn’t until my first child was born in 2005 that I decided to stick with my prescribed medication treatment for the long haul. After a few months, I had finally found a modicum of stability. It was because of this newfound inner peace that I was able to handle the series of tests that came next.

The years that followed saw a steady stream of tragedies in my family. My wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 when we were expecting our second child. My wife survived treatment but we lost the child who was to be our second daughter. In 2009 my child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In 2013 we had another daughter, but she was born with a congenital spinal defect that required a spinal fusion surgery on her first birthday. There was more, but I will stop there.

You see, while my family and I did experience one tragedy after another, it was religiously sticking with my treatment that made it far easier to bear. From every incident, I learned a new skill or life perspective. From my wife’s cancer, I learned to be proactive. The best way to deal with a problem is to face it head-on, resolve it, and file it away for future reference. From my daughter’s diabetes, I learned to take better care of my health to set an example for her. I ate right and became active, eventually losing over 130 pounds in two years. 

Let me take a moment here to provide a bit of insight. While prescribed medication was helpful in a number of ways, it was very important to be mindful of how I felt and work with my doctor to make adjustments accordingly. While losing weight, the drug regimen I was on became toxic. I was scared to switch medications, but given my state at the time, I was open to anything. I’m glad I made that decision because the new regimen has brought me stability, clarity of thought, and razor sharp focus.

There’s much more to my story. I’ll probably write a book about it someday. It’ll have to wait, though, because with my new lease on life, I have been extremely busy in school. I finally graduated from college and am now completing a master’s program. Next year I plan on continuing my education in another graduate program to get my PhD in public health (you can guess what my inspiration was), and despite the health issues that plague my family, we are happy and looking forward to the future.

We all walk our own paths with our mood disorders. What I hope you take away from this is the knowledge that no matter how hard something is, you can always learn from it and apply that lesson to your life. Know your limits, know your strengths, and, most importantly, know thyself. It is through the hardships you face that you will grow and learn to overcome anything life throws at you. Bipolar disorder may seem like a life sentence, but you have the power to not let it be so.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips: Get Your Own Back! Stepping Forward! Dance!

You’re Going to Be Ok
You're going to be ok. You got your back. Just survive for now. You can get through this. You’re going to be ok.

Moving Forward
Inspirational Quotes
“You build on failure, you use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, any of your time, or any of your space.” –Johnny Cash

Let the Music Soar
Bipolar Disorder
When I’m around loud music that I love, dancing and singing and feeling the beat through my soul, I forget everything except that I am in Heaven.

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

Whether you’re looking for initial training to enter the peer specialist workforce, or continuing education to maintain your certification, DBSA—the recognized leader in peer specialist training—can meet your needs! Here are your next opportunities to participate in DBSA peer specialist training: highly interactive, informed by first-hand peer experience, and facilitated by nationally recognized trainers.

March 7–11, 2016
DBSA Core Peer Specialist Training Course
Chicago, Illinois
Apply online or Download PDF

April 18–23, 2016       
DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist Training Course
Chicago, Illinois
Apply online or Download PDF