DBSA e-Update May 2015

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Hosts Groundbreaking Congressional Briefing on the Value of Peer Support Services

Truly authentic firsts are extremely rare in D.C. To experience two in a single day is amazing beyond the pale. Yet, that is exactly what happened on Wednesday, April 29. That day, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance—DBSA—hosted one Congressional Briefing for the House and another for the Senate. Never before has a peer group ever hosted even a single Congressional Briefing, let alone two. Just marvelous! Ronald Manderscheid, Executive Director, National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors

Speaking on behalf of individuals living with mood disorders and DBSA, five panelists educated congressional staffers on the value of peer support services at briefings held for the House of Representatives and the Senate on April 29. Panelists included mental health advocates Larry Davidson, Ph.D., Lisa Goodale, Tom Lane, Ronald Manderscheid, and Olga Wuerz. The House briefing was kicked-off with remarks from Rep. Bill Foster (D-ILL) and Rep. Bob Dold (R-ILL) who praised the work of DBSA and asked the audience to consider how peer support services can be better integrated into the mental health care dialogue.

Peer support services work because we instill hope leading to decreases in depression and substance use. Peer support services lower health care costs by reducing hospitalizations, address the workforce shortage crisis, and most importantly is evidence-based.Collective comments from panelists

DBSA President Allen Doederlein moderated the panel discussion and concluded the event by making four asks to Congress.

  • Increase the current number of Medicaid reimbursable states for peer support services from 37 to 50
  • Maintain and expand the current level of funding for peer support services within the Veterans Administration (VA)
  • Provide funding to research the efficacy of peer support services within the VA
  • Include peer support services as an essential health benefit as part of the Affordable Care Act

“Until she heard my story, a VA participant at the Dallas VA Center, volunteered that she had no hope.” That message of hope was a key takeaway from the event, as shared by panelist Olga Wuerz a certified peer specialist, and an Army veteran. DBSA is proud that so many people in a position to influence the public discourse on the value of peer support services were in attendance to hear that remark and learn why these valuable services should be part of the solution as Congress debates mental health care reform.

You too can raise awareness about the value of peer support services by speaking out in your own communities. Learn more on the DBSA advocacy site and be sure to subscribe to our advocacy alerts to receive future updates.

I to We Weekend

Hemingway, Solomon, and Fricks to Keynote DBSA I to We Weekend

I to We Weekend

The DBSA I to We Weekend will include inspiring speakers throughout the weekend of September 25-27. Friday will include a keynote from Academy Award nominated actress, author, and mental health and suicide awareness advocate, Mariel Hemingway. Saturday’s celebration will be punctuated with a keynote from Pulitzer Prize nominated author, philanthropist, and mental health and civil rights advocate, Andrew Solomon. Sunday’s Leadership Forum will be a full day of education and inspiration, including a keynote from nationally recognized consumer leader and forefather of the peer support movement, Larry Fricks.

We are ecstatic these inspiring peers will be a part of this 30th anniversary celebration weekend. Plan your weekend now, and take advantage of the Early Bird rates for savings of up to 50%, which are available until May 24th! For more information about the weekend registration, agenda, and location go to www.DBSAlliance.org/ItoWeWeekend.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Celebrates May Wellness for Mental Health Month

Throughout the month of May, DBSA is celebrating Mental Health Month on social media with May Wellness, featuring a daily wellness strategy post on Facebook. Each week in May, we’re posting unique wellness tips focused on Self-Care on Mondays, Relationships on Tuesdays, Finding Purpose on Wednesdays, Taking Action on Thursdays, and Bonus tips on Fridays. Little changes can have a big impact! We hope you’ll find these suggestions to be helpful ways to build wellness into your lives and the lives of others―in May and throughout the year. Join us by liking the DBSA Facebook page and following May Wellness at Facbook.com/DBSAlliance, or view all the tips at DBSAlliance.org/May2015.

Introducing New Young Adult Resources on DBSAlliance.org

Moving out on your own, finding first jobs, connecting with significant others—people experience many changes between the ages of 18-29. For those living with a mood disorder, this time of life can be particularly difficult. DBSA has pulled together new resources to help support young adults through these challenges as well as help them connect to other young adult peers.

DBSA's Young Adult Council (YAC) has been hard at work answering questions other young adults have posed. The YAC will be continuing to add to this question and answer series as well as developing additional podcasts in coming months. If you have a question you would like the Young Adult Council to consider adding to the series, please submit them here.

If you are a young adult (between the ages of 18-29) and would like to get more involved with the DBSA Young Adult Council, please email YACMembership@DBSAlliance.org.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Free Understanding Agitation Webinar Tonight

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
5:00–6:00 PM Central

Everyone feels antsy, fidgety, or restless from time to time. But some people develop a more severe form of uneasiness called agitation. They may pace, wring their hands, or feel that they can’t sit still or focus. People living with mood disorders may be more disposed to experiencing agitation. Recognizing the signs of agitation and knowing what to do when they appear can be helpful to people with mood disorders and their loved ones.

Please join us for a webinar that will highlight what agitation looks like, the impact it can have on individuals and their caregivers, and treatment options. Our speakers are leaders in the movement to promote compassionate treatments for people experiencing agitation as an alternative to coercive practices that can cause harm, such as the use of physical restraints.

Scott Zeller, M.D.
Chief, Psychiatric Emergency Services, Alameda Health System
Tom Lane, CRPS
Member of the DBSA Board of Directors 

Learn more and register now!

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: Childhood Anxiety

Anxiety is the most common mental health issue for children and adolescents, with symptoms developing, on average, at 6 years old (source)  It’s important to remember that not all anxiety is a problem. Anxiety helps us identify threats and can help motivate us to prepare for a situation. It’s only when the anxiety begins to interfere with our lives or occurs when there is no specific trigger that it is generally considered a problem. Having an anxiety disorder has been shown to be a significant predictor that a person will develop depression, so in addition to wanting our children to feel better now, it’s important to deal with childhood anxiety to prevent future depression.  Here are some ways parents can help:

  • Allow children to express their feelings and thoughts without judgement. While we mean to be reassuring, minimizing their concerns does not help reduce the anxiety. Instead acknowledge their feelings and help them explore what may help them feel better.
  • Have a routine. Knowing what to expect can help children feel more secure. Try not to over-schedule your life with events and activities. Set aside enough time each day for your child to complete homework and other necessary tasks.
  • Encourage your child to take small risks. Sometimes it can feel much easier to avoid whatever causes your child anxiety, but this does not help your child learn to cope with their feelings and can actually cause anxiety to grow.
  • Teach and practice relaxation techniques such as taking slow, deep breaths.
  • Be a role model. While you do not want to trigger additional anxiety in your child by sharing all of your fears, you can model safe risk-taking and share the coping skills you use when you experience anxiety.
  • Get professional help if needed. In addition to the above, talk therapy or other treatments may be very helpful for your child.

To learn more about childhood anxiety and ways to help, visit http://www.anxietybc.com/parent/anxiety.php.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Greg Simon, MD, MPH

Ask the Doc

I have been noticing memory loss lately, after years on different medications. Is this a side effect? Will it get worse or are there ways to make it better?

Problems with memory or concentration can certainly be side effects of medications used to treat mood disorders. Figuring that out often takes time and careful observation. Memory problems can build up gradually over time, so the relationship between memory problems and any specific medication may not be obvious.

You can start by talking to your doctor about which of your medications would be more likely to cause problems with memory or concentration. While almost any medication can cause memory problems, some are more likely suspects than others. Anti-anxiety medications (called benzodiazepines) and sleeping medications are among the most likely to affect your memory or mental sharpness. Those problems are more likely as you age, because your body eliminates the medications more slowly.

Pay attention to your own observations. Can you link memory problems to the time you started or increased any specific medication? Sometimes, problems with memory or concentration are caused by a combination of medications—especially anxiety and sleeping medications. Even if neither medication alone would interfere with your mental sharpness, the combination can have an additive (or more than additive) effect.

The good news is that medications used to treat mood disorders are not known to cause lasting or permanent problems with memory or mental sharpness.  Any negative effects on your memory would be expected to go away if you stop the “guilty” medication or even decrease the dose. But remember that medications that tend to slow down your thinking are also medications that you don’t want to stop suddenly. Talk to your doctor about a safe schedule for cutting down on any medications that might be causing memory problems—and about whether you need to consider some replacement medication before cutting down. And it’s usually best to change only one medication at a time—and wait long enough after any change to get a clear picture of whether the results were negative or positive.

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.

Training for Peer Specialists: Summer & Fall Opportunities

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.

DBSA Veteran Peer Training Course                     
July 20–25, 2015                                                         
Download Application (PDF) or apply online
Application deadline is June 19, 2015

DBSA Core Training Course
August 17–21, 2015
Application available online in early June

Continuing Education for Peer Specialists

Peer Specialist Leadership Forum
DBSA I to We Weekend
4 hours of continuing education (application pending with Illinois Certification Board, Inc.)
September 27, 2015
Itasca, Illinois

This day-long forum tackles two topics key to effective peer specialist practice: telling your story and ethical practice.

"Tell Me Your Story”—Why and How?
Telling your story is integral to the work of peer specialists, but what does that really mean? Do you feel confident in talking about your recovery journey, what to tell, and what you might choose to keep private? This workshop session will explore techniques for crafting and using your story in diverse settings.

Peer Specialist Ethics in the Real World
Often peers’ values and good intentions collide with the real world of peer support services. This session takes a look at the difference between ethics and boundaries, considers how core recovery values inform everyday peer specialist practice, and offers case studies that will help you define not just what to do, but how best to do it.


Next Steps Training
32 hours of continuing education for experienced peer specialists
September 28–October 1, 2015
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.

Apply online
Application deadline is September 9, 2015

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Sonja E. Mattison

Life Unlimited: Meet Sonja E. Mattison

In the dark year of 1999, I was challenged with a dilemma that I thought could not be solved. But luckily, with treatment and time, I recovered gracefully. I learned how to grasp onto my once lost will while I erased my self-pity, self-doubt and self-defeat. In essence, I overcame my mental disorder, bipolar, and I refused to let it block my success in life. I never thought I would have been able to write a self-affirming story about my experience with bipolar. My suffering seemed too gloomy without any possible retraction. My psychiatric disorder began when I was twenty-six years old. I was a top customer service representative and I received many accolades for my performance along with other merits and awards until my one-year anniversary. My life took a total spin.

As a customer service representative it was normal for me to handle a high volume of calls even if they seemed overwhelming. Without notice, it seemed as if I lost control of my thoughts. The calls at work were decreasing in volume, but to me it seemed as if they were quadrupling by the millions each second. I became unaware of time. I also began to lose touch with reality. The more calls I received, the more confused I became. The voices of customers were distorted and scary to me. I also began to have “visions”. My perception of the biblical world became an unreal fantasy. Now I was in two worlds—real and unreal. 

Hence, I could not perform my job any longer. My unreal mind told me that I was going on a pilgrimage, so I, without question left my place of employment, with resignation that I was “going into a new world.” 

I was so focused on becoming my own Savior that I walked night and day trying to save the world, to find Jerusalem, but to no avail the many days I walked around without a plan led me not only to be malnourished, but an undiagnosed patient into a crisis center (the night I tried to drive myself to space or heaven).

Thankfully, on December 31, 1999, treatment began for me when my loved ones coaxed me into going to a crisis center. Although my behavior was mimicked in the year of 2003, and I was once again convinced to go to a crisis center again. When I was admitted I was given medication that “woke me up” or rather brought me back to reality. Once I discovered that my disorder was a lifelong illness I was disappointed as well as depressed. I turned my depression into words of pain, anxiety, and frustration on paper—I journaled every day. Tear drops landed on many pages of my many entries.

Though I journaled, I almost became reclusive. I was ashamed of who I was. But I came to an epiphany, “why worry?” My misery soon was released after three years of writing, and journaling. I concluded that bipolar should be a major concern and managed with responsibility, but not obsessed with worry.

Empowered, my low self-esteem eventually diminished. I chose to believe that bipolar was only a “condition” and a part of me, which I accepted. I began to love myself for who I am and moved forward. I regained my confidence and re-established what I had lost.  I found employment, gained control of my finances, and my social life; it was like a bad dream and waking up to a new fresh morning.

Furthermore, as recovery is always an ongoing process, I claim myself as “healed.” I continue my methods of treatment. Faith, prayer, and positive thinking contribute to my everyday lifestyle. They all are a part of my daily routine, and keep me well. I will live with this disorder for eternity, but I will embrace my journey that led me to be able to tell this story. Also, I greatly wish for others who have this disorder to overcome it and defeat stigma without giving up hope, and to identify themselves as “extraordinary.”

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Nominations Open for 2015 DBSA Life Unlimited Award

Nomination deadline is July 25, 2015

Do you know someone who is living life a life unlimited by a mood disorder and actively working to help others do the same? Nominate them for the 2015 DBSA Life Unlimited Award.

The award will be presented at the DBSA I to We Weekend in Itasca, IL. The winner will be given a scholarship to the DBSA I to We Weekend Conference, including travel and hotel accommodations.

See past winners!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Allen's Note

I am humbled and deeply honored to be in the company of such extraordinary individuals as the leaders within our Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. We are creating a world in which people will be able to contribute all of their many gifts; wherein wellness will not be a matter of luck for some but the expected and likely outcome for all. This world of wellness may sound very far off—it does to me on far too many occasions—yet the “I” that is often full of doubt knows that “we” who challenge doubt with action can and will achieve this world.

The action perhaps most essential to our world of wellness is peer support—most importantly, starting and sustaining the groups that have been the vital core of DBSA for three decades. I think of dear friends and important DBSA leaders in Baltimore, who, amidst extraordinary devastation and upset in that city, are forging ahead and growing their groups, deepening ties with clinical and research colleagues, and even helping towards the launch of young people’s groups in schools. Such efforts—which take so much time and even more tenacity—create safe places for people in need of help, and they galvanize positive change as these people begin to see their gifts and possibilities through the caring and supportive eyes of peers.

Another action we urgently need is community engagement. The kickoff of the DBSA I to We Tour was a brilliant realization of such engagement, with several hundred members of the Colorado Springs community convening to better understand, speak up about, treat, and live with depression and bipolar disorder. We will have several more stops on the DBSA I to We Tour, including an exciting DBSA I to We Weekend in Chicago September 25-27, 2015. Yet community engagement is certainly not only the province of this tour. I reflect on the work of a wonderful DBSA leader in Tennessee, a retired nurse, who has launched an educational program for student nurses, helping them understand peer perspectives and enrolling them in the idea of peer support as a crucial component of a world of wellness. This work is another fine example of engaging the broader community, from lay people to clinicians, with the idea that wellness is possible.

We also need to act now and speak up with confidence, strategy, and the authority of our lived experience of mood disorders. To be part of the first-ever congressional briefing sponsored by an organization “by and for” people with mood disorders—where we were at the center of the conversation, not a special guest or lone voice on a panel of other stakeholders—was a great step forward in the overall transformation to a world of wellness. When on April 29, 2015, DBSA presented its briefings on peer support services to over a hundred congressional leaders, we called for a national stand for mental health in the form of growing the peer support services workforce. From a clinical perspective, a cost perspective, an employment perspective, and (most importantly) a human perspective, investing in peer support services will be crucial to achieving wellness. Indeed, all avenues of treatment are made more effective when they are offered in conjunction with access to peer support. I consider the good fortune of people who encounter a DBSA-trained peer specialist and community leader who now works in a drop-in program run by a local mental health facility. His ability to hold hope for someone until she can once again hold it for herself is emblematic of the “lift” we need to bring to scale if we are to bring about our world of wellness.

Despite doubting it in my moments of fear, or when I’m overwhelmed by the challenges we face in navigating complicated conditions experienced in a complicated system, I know for sure we can make a difference and take a stand for mental health. We can create that world of wellness. I know that because of you. So I will challenge doubt with action. Thank you for showing me the way.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp: Bipolar & Learning from my Past

Psychotherapy focused on healing trauma can be helpful in bringing forgiveness for your past, peace in your present, and hope for your future. Read more.

News from Our CFYM Advocacy Blog

Understand why peer support services are so valuable and what DBSA is doing to ensure these resources are included in the delivery of quality mental health care.

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.

Write a list of positive things in my life and stick it on the fridge!

When you smile, you are bringing happiness into yourself. Make sure to smile today and let happiness in.

Get up out of that chair, start moving, step outside, smell a rose, pick it, cherish its beauty; walk in the sun with the dog by your side, then go on… there is so much more you can do today.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

Wednesday, May 20, 2015—TONIGHT
Free Agitation Educational Webinar
5:00–6:00 PM Central Time

May 24, 2015
Early Bird registration deadline for DBSA I to We Weekend
Register NOW!

July 6, 2015
Scholarship application deadline for DBSA I to We Weekend          
Apply online

July 20–25, 2015
Veteran Peer Training Course
Download Application (PDF) or apply online
Application deadline is June 19, 2015

July 25, 2015
Life Unlimited Award Nomination Deadline
Nominate a peer

August 17–21, 2015
Core Peer Specialist Training
Application available online in early June

August 24, 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 (following the DBSA I to We Weekend Wellness Conference & Leadership Forum)
Apply online