DBSA e-Update March 2015

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I to We Weekend

2015 DSBA I to We Weekend Wellness Conference and Leadership Forum Registration Is Now OPEN!

The 2015 DBSA I to We Weekend Wellness Conference and Leadership Forum website is now live and registration is open. Get a head start on your plans to join the DBSA community for this educational and inspirational weekend at the award-winning Eaglewood Resort & Spa outside of Chicago. Now is the time to take advantage of deeply discounted early bird rates at www.DBSAlliance.org/ItoWeWeekend.

Join us September 25–27, 2015, for a weekend-long event that connects you with a community of peers, inspires wellness, provides support, and celebrates 30 years of connection and hope.  The DBSA I to We Weekend will offer two days of educational programming for peers, parents, families, friends, and the public as well as a day of in-depth training and networking opportunities for community leaders—chapter participants, parents, young adults, advocates, and peer specialists. Visit the registration center to secure your spot today!

On the 2015 DBSA I to We Weekend website you’ll find all of the following resources and more:

Register now for this very special DSBA 30th Anniversary Wellness Conference and Leadership Forum!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Share Your Perspective on Spirituality!

What are your thoughts on the relationship between spirituality or religious faith and mental health? DBSA will use results from our Spirituality and Wellness Survey to help us develop programs to support wellness and recovery.  This information will also help us to inform mental health providers and clergy or other religious leaders. Take the Survey »

Depression and Bipolar Support AllianceRobert Graves

Life Unlimited: Meet Robert Graves

Some of my earliest memories go back to when I was in kindergarten.  These are not happy memories of friends, coloring, chocolate milk, and cookies.  Rather they are memories of profound sadness with a strong desire to disappear.  I did not know the words depression, suicide, or mental illness, but I did know that I was very sad, alone, and all I wanted to do was just go away and never be heard from or seen again.  In later years, coming to terms with these memories actually became a comfort to me as I realized that a five year old would not be having suicidal ideations all the time if there were not some profound clinical cause of these feelings and thoughts.  This helped me realize that my character was not flawed and that I was not a “bad person”.  Instead I was sick.  I have a real illness.  However, I had a difficult road to this realization.

In my teens, I started to self-medicate my constant feelings of despair and sadness.  It did not take long before I was addicted to alcohol.  In my mid-twenties, at the intervention of my employer, I went to drug and alcohol rehab and became sober.  My first year of sobriety was as if I unleashed a terrible monster in my mind as my untreated depression raged at full fury without the numbing effects of alcohol.  In little time, I became jobless, delusional, and suicidal.  I had a clear and intentional plan to kill myself.  I sincerely thought I would be doing the world a favor and the voices I kept hearing in my mind told me it was the right thing to do.

Another intervention saved my life.  An out-patient addiction counselor I had been working with called the local crisis team.  In minutes, two people knocked on my door and sat down and spoke with me.  I spent the next eleven months between in-patient psychiatric care and an out-patient partial hospitalization program.  After numerous trials of medications, combinations of medications, intensive and sometimes confrontational therapy, and a round of ECT, the wounds in my soul suffered from a lifetime of depression began to heal.

In the nearly two decades since I was hospitalized with severe, psychotic depression, I worked in several capacities caring for and providing community based services for people with a variety of disabilities.  I also cared for my wife, who was slowing dying from complications caused by lupus.  When my wife passed away in 2005, I found myself again at the door of a professional counselor.  I have since come to view monthly appointments with mental health professionals as “preventative maintenance”, much like taking my car for an oil change.  I remain on psychotropic medication and will be for life.  I continue to monitor my symptoms, mood changes, and even my behavior.  I am okay with this because I have also learned that I have an inner strength and a determination to persevere, survive, and thrive.

I once had grandiose ideas of what I would become in life.  I now know that a simple life being honest with myself and others and working to help make the world just a little bit better is truly noble and honorable.  I have left full-time employment but I continue to volunteer my time and energy to helping others. Bipolar type II has been added to my diagnosis to reflect the frequent hypomanic episodes I experience.  I must continually monitor symptoms and my medication sometimes needs adjusting.   I have remarried and my spouse is truly a partner who supports and encourages me to maintain my mental health.  She monitors my symptoms and is honest with me even when it may make me uncomfortable.  Being male, I have learned there is no shame in being honest about my mental illness.  I feel a calling to help other men realize this as well because society has long taught that talking about our feelings was not okay.  This barrier caused by stigma destroys many lives and needs to be broken.  There is strength in honesty and healing.

My name is Robbie Graves.  I am a man with mental illness.  I preserve, strive, and thrive.

NEW Young Adult Podcast Series

Podcast #1: Should I or Shouldn’t I?
Disclosing a Mental Health Condition

How do you decide when, and with whom, to share a mental health diagnosis? This is a question virtually anyone living with depression or bipolar disorder struggles with, but for young adults it can be particularly difficult. Many are starting new jobs and beginning serious relationships during this time. Knowing who you can trust and how to handle those who are not receptive is very important. Join DBSA’s Young Adult Council chair, Geralyn Dexter, and author and fellow mental health advocate, Linea Johnson, as they discuss their own experiences with disclosure. DBSA would like to thank Rebecca’s Dream for their support of this new Young Adult podcast series. This series is an extension of Rebecca’s Dream’s ongoing mission to promote awareness and compassion of depression and bipolar disorder as real diseases. Watch eUpdate for the next installment in April! Listen to podcast »

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA State Grassroots Advocacy Organizations Take Action

Progress Report on DBSA advocacy state grassroots organizations

It was warm with enthusiasm as 14 advocacy leaders representing the DBSA state grassroots organizations (GO) of CA, FL, IL, NJ, TN, TX and the District of Columbia gathered on what was one of the coldest weekends in Chicago. This group developed and honed their leadership skills by sharing best practices with each other and learning how to utilize the resources and tools available to them from DBDA national.

The goal of the weekend was to leave on Sunday afternoon armed with a plan that will support the advocacy efforts in each of their own states. Speaking about the weekend, Carol Rickard DBSA New Jersey GO chair, shares “What a magical weekend it was! Having the opportunity to learn from so many wonderful people and work together on building a pathway towards advocacy, is something I will always be grateful for."

Several of the DBSA state GOs have or will take an active role in planning and participating in a mental health rally at their state’s capitol as part of their 2015 plan. Don’t have a state GO in your state? Don’t let that keep you or DBSA on the sideline. Most of the state NAMI organizations have a mental health day rally. Check out your state’s NAMI organization’s website to learn more. Take action now—if you've been denied mental health coverage share your story.

To get involved with a DBSA state grassroots organization (GO) in CA, FL, NJ, IL, TN, or TX, contact advocacy@dbsalliance.org.

Apply Now for DBSA Peer Specialist Training Opportunities

Are you interested in using your experience to support others? DBSA is a recognized leader in training the peer specialist workforce: people who use their lived recovery experience to assist others in regaining hope, making the most of their chosen paths to wellness, and moving forward to achieve their goals. Here are your next opportunities to participate in DBSA peer specialist training: facilitated by nationally recognized trainers, highly interactive, and incorporating small group coaching and feedback sessions.

Core Peer Training Course
June 1-5, 2015
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Download application (PDF) or apply online

Peer Specialists: Take Your “Next Steps” in Continuing Education

Are you already certified as a peer specialist and seeking to add to your toolbox of peer support skills? Plan now to attend a Next Steps Training Course and earn 32 hours of continuing education credits!

Next Steps is continuing education for peer specialists developed by the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS) and DBSA under the SAMHSA-supported national Recovery to Practice. This highly-interactive 4-day course features group exploration and relevant practice in:

  • The transforming power of recovery
  • The complex simplicity of wellness
  • Effects of trauma on recovery
  • Influence of culture on recovery
  • Dual recovery
  • Peer support values and guidelines
  • Strengthening workplace relationships
  • Supportive recovery relationships

Next Steps is based on a cooperative learning model in which facilitators guide a process (rather than teach) and participants actively contribute (rather than passively listen). The whole group benefits from the wisdom of practical lessons from the field.

Please note: In order to be accepted for participation, registrants must have completed core peer specialist training and certification in their home states or through VA nationally-designated peer specialist courses.

Upcoming Next Steps Courses

May 19–22, 2015
Tacoma, Washington
Apply online
For additional information, visit our website.

September 28–October 1, 2015
Itasca, Illinois (following the DBSA I to We Weekend)
Watch this site for the training application: www.DBSAlliance.org/Training

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Parent Connection

Building Hope for You and Your Child


For some, hearing that your child has been diagnosed with a mood disorder is a relief. A relief to finally have a name for what your child and the rest of the family have been struggling through. For others, it can feel like you and your child have just been issued a life-sentence. Many parents report feeling like all their hopes and dreams for their child have been broken into a million pieces.

There is an adjustment period for everyone, but there are ways to help put this diagnosis into perspective for both you and your child. Here are some suggestions for helping yourself and your child look towards the future with more hope.

  1. Share lists of famous people who had extraordinary lives while living with a mood disorder. Famous people with bipolar disorder. Famous people with depression.
  2. Learn the stats the National Institute of Mental Health reports that approximately 14% of all 13-17 year olds have experienced a mood disorder. With about 25 million adolescents in the US, this would mean approximately 3.5 million are having similar experiences. Your child is definitely not alone. Make sure they know this.
  3. Continue to encourage your child’s dreams, regardless of how unlikely they seem at the time. Many, many children living with mood disorders grow up to live the lives of their dreams, in spite of (and sometimes because of) their diagnosis.
  4. Help de-stigmatize the illness by talking openly and frankly about it. As parents, we may fear that our children, or ourselves, will be judged by others. However, keeping it a secret only teaches your child that their diagnosis is something to be ashamed of.
  5. Help your child build confidence in themselves by showing your confidence in them yourself. Offer plenty of opportunities for them to step outside their comfort zone and utilize their problem solving skills.
  6. Seek out support through DBSA’s Balanced Mind Parent Network.

There are so many ways we can build hope for our children, and ourselves. What ways have worked for you? Share your thoughts on April 7, 2015 in a Facebook discussion from 9:00 PM─10:00 PM Eastern Time at facebook.com/DBSAlliance.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Greg Simon, MD, MPH

Ask the Doc

I was prescribed a medication for insomnia. When I take it, I wake up more often than I already did and I feel very hung-over the whole next day.  Any suggestions?

We wish we had a sleeping medication that worked throughout the night to help you stay asleep—and then disappeared completely when you’re ready to wake up.  But biology doesn’t work like that.  Any medication that helps you stay asleep at 3 or 4 in the morning will stay in your system for quite a while after you wake up.  That’s why taking sleeping medications can interfere with your mental sharpness or increase your risk of problems like falls or auto accidents.  If you are feeling groggy well into the next day, ask your doctor if a shorter-acting medication would be better for you.

Adding to that, many sleeping medications can cause tolerance (it takes more and more to have the same effect) and dependence (you have a withdrawal or rebound if you stop taking them).  Tolerance and dependence are more likely if you take this type of medication regularly (more than 2-3 times a week) for longer than a few weeks.  Be sure to ask your doctor if the medication you are taking could lead to tolerance or dependence.

Taking sleeping medication may sometimes be necessary.  But you’re better off taking as low a dose as possible for as short at time as possible—especially with medications that can cause tolerance or dependence.  Here are some practical things you can do to improve your sleep and minimize the need for sleeping medication:

  • Stick to a regular waking time every day, even if you slept badly the night before.
  • Avoid naps during the day, since that will make it harder to sleep that night.
  • Limit your time in bed to no more than 8 hours per day.  Spending more time in bed more often leads to more depression rather than more restful sleep.
  • Move your bedroom clock so you can’t see it.  Watching the clock when you can’t sleep just makes you feel worse.
  • If you are lying in bed feeling more and more awake, get out bed, sit in a quiet place, and do something relaxing (or even boring) until you feel sleepy again.

Following those steps can be hard at first.  But they really do work—without any long list of side effects!

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 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 Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen: My Call to Action

On Thursday, February 26, 2015, I represented those with the lived experience of a mood disorder at The Hill’s mental health briefing Fixing America’s Mental Healthcare System to an audience of nearly 100 leaders and activists in Washington, DC. The discussion focused on the current state of the mental health care system in America and outlined key next steps that Congress and government agencies should consider to solve the inefficiencies and fill the treatment and service gaps experienced by millions of Americans living with a mental health condition. Watch the event’s archived video.

Why the Lived Experience Voice Shouldn’t, and Can’t, Be Overlooked

I’ve often found that the “voice of the lived experience” is missing from the discussion around mental health care policy reform. I find this both unfortunate and ironic, given that these conversations seek to improve the system but don’t consult those who actually need and use it. That’s why I was so pleased to represent the perspective of the individual with the lived experience at this important forum.

At the briefing, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) spoke about introducing bills in the Senate and House targeting necessary measures to equalize the mental health care landscape, as well as the need for cross-collaboration across parties. It is essential that these pieces of legislation support a much-needed shift in the dialogue between providers embracing only the medical model and the needs and rights of those with lived experiences.

How We Are Being Failed by Current Mental Healthcare Policies

While designed with well-meaning intentions, much of the current legislation and policies fail to properly support the individual. During his remarks, Dr. Seth Seabury from USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics shared research outcomes that reveal how Medicaid formulary restrictions designed to curb spending actually have the opposite effect. Dr. Seabury’s research found that by restricting access to antidepressants, the probability of hospitalization increased by 16.6 percent for those with major depressive disorder (MDD). Further, these restrictions had no numerical evidence of net savings for Medicaid. These prescribing limitations truly hinder the recovery process of those who need these medications.

Finding Solutions

During the panel discussion in which I participated, I shared that a peer specialist stands for mental health alongside the individual living with the condition by offering support. One of the most helpful things one person can say to, or hear from, another is “I’ve been there.” This evidence-based practice, when incorporated into the delivery of mental health services, results in an increase in positive outcomes.

My Call to Action

Based on the discussion on February 26th, I see a three-part call to action:

  1. Encourage greater and more open communication between providers and those with lived experiences: Current and future health care professionals entering the medical and mental health fields must be encouraged to have increased, candid conversations across the lived experiences-professional divide. Those with lived experiences must insist that their providers shift their thinking to recognize the importance of a holistic, patient-centered, and integrated approach to mental healthcare, and reimbursement must follow suit. Those with lived experiences are the “captains” of their recovery and providers must take on a stronger role as their “navigators.” Without embracing this dynamic, the mental health care system will continue to fail the millions of Americans with lived experiences.
  2. Reform the current Medicaid prescribing limitations: In their current state, formulary restrictions on antidepressant therapy in state Medicaid programs are associated with worse outcomes for those with MDD. These formulary restrictions must be changed: individuals with lived experiences respond differently to different medication treatments, and policies must reflect this.
  3. Advocate for legislation that recognizes the importance of peer support: Individuals with lived experiences respond more positively to those who have gone through similar, relatable experiences compared to those who have not. Peer support, an evidence-based practice, plays a significant role in helping individuals regain their voices and lives in the greater American community, and should be embraced as a component of mental health care.

Join us to ensure that those with lived experiences remain the driving force for change in mental health policies by commenting here on how you will work to help fix our mental healthcare system.

Patrick Kennedy on Bipolar

The mental health advocate talks about life after Congress, his new family, mood changes and how he stays in balance. Click here to read more »

News from Our CFYM Advocacy Blog

Intimate Partner Violence can lead to depression and suicide. Learn the facts.

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.

Sometimes, slipping into a depression is nature’s way of saying “I need to rest.” Ride it out, knowing that “being OK” will resurface as time moves forward. When I recover from a depressive bout, I usually awaken with some great insights to carry me on even better than before.

Bipolar Disorder
I have found that having a series of rituals throughout your day (eg: doing my morning grooming, making a pot of hot tea and sipping it slowly, doing a meditation every day at the same time, turning on the house lights at dusk) and stringing them together every day so that I get through the day balanced and stable, really helps.

The only sure thing is change. So if you are feeling badly, know that this mood will not last forever.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

Mark your calendar!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 9–10 PM Eastern Time
DBSA Facebook Parent Network Discussion https://www.facebook.com/DBSAlliance

April 13-18, 2015
Veteran Peer Specialist Training in Birmingham, AL
Download application (PDF) or apply online

May 19–22, 2015
Recovery to Practice Next Steps Training Course
Tacoma, Washington
Apply Online
For additional information, visit our website.

June 15, 2015
Core Peer Specialist Training in Colorado Springs, CO
Download application (PDF) or apply online

September 25–27, 2015
DBSA I to We Weekend
Register Now!

September 28–October 1, 2015
Recovery to Practice Next Steps Training Course
Itasca, Illinois (following the DBSA I to We Weekend)
Watch this site for the training application: www.DBSAlliance.org/Training