DBSA e-Update September 2015

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All For 1

DBSA Works with All For 1 Coalition to Improve Student Mental Health

DBSA has recently begun working with All For 1, a new coalition of colleges and universities working together to improve student mental health. All for 1 strives to offer support for college students experiencing mental health concerns as well as work with universities across the nation to reevaluate their current policies with regards to mental health.

All for 1 co-chairs, Jenna Zhang and Kathryn Dewitt, share “Mental health policies currently in place at many universities often impose unreasonable consequences on those who choose to disclose their conditions, such as forcible medical leaves, financial burden of therapy, and hospitalization. These practices discourage students from seeking the help they need and contribute to the stigmatization of mental health problems, leading to a culture of self-silencing that ultimately harms both students and universities. By creating a cross-campus coalition for mental health, All For 1 seeks to tackle these institutionalized problems with mental health policies and provide support for students.”

You can connect with All For 1 now by visiting their Facebook page. To learn more about this great coalition, check out DBSA’s podcast with the founding chairs, Jenna and Kathryn.   

I to We Weekend

Last Chance to Attend DBSA I to We Weekend

Register online on or before Sunday, September 20, to receive Advanced Rates. After that, you can register the day of the conference at Onsite Rates. 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. Whether you’re a first-time or long-time DBSA conference attendee, this is one weekend you won’t want to miss! We hope you’ll 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! Learn more about the full Weekend agenda, download the brochure, and register now at DBSAlliance.org/ItoWeWeekend.

Shifting the Focus from I to We in the Big Apple

Don’t miss DBSA’s third and final 2015 stop on our multi-city DBSA I to We Tour in New York City featuring keynote Melody Moezzi. Please join us Sunday, October 25, 2015, 1 PM–3PM at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Learn more about the event at DBSAlliance.org/ItoWeTour.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Parent Connectionappears 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.


The Balanced Mind Parent Network Saved Us

Nance, a mother of three, knows all too well the difficulties experienced by a parent of a child living with a mood disorder. At the age of 9, her son started experiencing symptoms of irritability, rage, and self-harm ideation. Knowing that he needed help, Nance sought treatment. Getting that help was difficult and, at times, terrifying. Nance’s family initially received the wrong diagnosis.

It wasn’t until speaking a with a friend and later joining the Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN) that Nance gained the knowledge that she needed to help her son receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment for pediatric bipolar disorder. Nance asserts, “I wish I had known about this website from the first day I had problems with my son. It literally saved us.”

Nance continues to use BMPN’s website for research, sharing, feedback, and most importantly, support. “I feel that parents on the support groups have become my extended family. We have a special bond with one another.” Nance’s son also lives with a co-occurring substance abuse disorder and is still working towards wellness, a journey that Nance’s family is taking together. Nance is grateful that BMPN is on that journey with her.

Nance suggests that parents who are experiencing a similar situation go to the BMPN website and join the community to gain support. She also suggests considering research and classes, such as those provided by DBSA and NAMI. “Arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can get and then you can advocate for your child’s well-being. Be an active participant in their treatment plan. It is also very important for parents to take good care of themselves. As caregivers, we must take care of ourselves if we are going to be able to help our children get better.”
To learn more about DBSA’s Balanced Mind Parent Network, go to: TheBalancedMind.org.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

We Want You! DBSA is Recruiting 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 and can help.

Although support is needed in every community, our current chapter recruitment focus areas are Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wyoming. If you or anyone you know live in these areas, DBSA would love to work with you to start a support group! No prior training is required to start a DBSA group. 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, DBSA provides chapter leadership and facilitation training opportunities and resources, connections with chapter leaders from around the country, regular informational communications, and more 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
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

I have bipolar I disorder. My depression is labeled "atypical". What does that mean? Does that require different treatment?

“Atypical depression” is a term sometimes used to describe depression with a specific pattern of symptom, including:

  • Sleeping more than normal (rather than sleeping less)
  • Increased appetite or over-eating (rather than decreased appetite)
  • Feelings of physical “heaviness”
  • Mood that is more sensitive to upsetting or stressful situations (especially feelings of rejection)

Even though this pattern is called “atypical”, it is not uncommon. And it may actually be the more typical pattern of depression in people who live with bipolar disorder (rather than just unipolar depression).

Research in the 1980s and 1990s found that people with atypical depression (compared to people with “typical” depression) were more likely to benefit from monoamine oxidase inhibitor or MAOI antidepressants (like phenelzine or Nardil) than from tricyclic antidepressants (like imipramine or Tofranil). These days, neither of those types of medication is used very often for treatment of depression. Some more recent research has examined whether that atypical depression pattern predicts better or worse results with various newer types of antidepressants. So far, that research has not found that an atypical symptom pattern is helpful when choosing one of the newer medications.

While MAOI antidepressants may be more effective for atypical depression, they can have dangerous interactions with other medications and even with some types of food. For that reason, most doctors do not think of MAOI antidepressants as a first choice for people with atypical depression. But it is reasonable to consider MAOI medications when more common (and safer) treatments have not worked.

Got a nagging question you want to ask a doc? Submit your questions online for a chance to get the answer. Check the next DBSA eUpdate to see if your question was chosen. In the meantime, take a look through our Ask the Doc feature page, a comprehensive archive of past Ask the Doc features which may already be home to the answers you seek.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Finding Lessons in Depression

Author Melody Moezzi shares, “Each depressive episode I have faced, no matter how bitter, has also taught me something new about the world and my place in it.” Read article.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA and McCormick Foundation Prepare Veterans to Support Their Peers

Last month during the dog days of summer (Sorry, we couldn’t resist!), Chicago area Veterans came together to learn key skills to support their fellow Veterans in recovery. Thanks to the generous support of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, representatives of the Foundation’s Veteran grantee organizations joined forces to share their inspiring stories and gain a solid foundation in recovery principles, peer support intervention skills, and ethical practice as peers. And sometimes support on the recovery journey comes from registered service dogs like Aura and Ranger, who accompanied trainers Gretchen Evans and Bryan Rich to Chicago and supported the entire group.

Do you want to prepare to join the growing peer specialist workforce? Learn more about our last two opportunities for peer specialist training in calendar year 2015:

November 2–7, 2015
Core Training in Roanoke, Virginia―Application deadline is October 2.
(46 hours, including 6 additional hours of content related to dual diagnosis recovery and the role of peer support services)

November 16–21, 2105
Veteran Training in Houston, Texas―Application deadline is October 15.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Mental Health Legislation Needs Your Voice

There are numerous pieces of national mental health legislation making their way through Congress. Several have an effect on broadening peer support services and maintaining access to mental health medications. Get involved in the laws that make a difference in your life by attending Hill Day, October 6, 2015.

Expansion of Peer Support Services
Bills in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2646 (in Sec. 103 (b)) and Senate (S. 1945 (in Sec. 102(a)) both support collecting research that will aid in the expansion of opportunities to train individuals as peer supporters for mental health care. Evidence-based practice has validated that peer supporters who are individuals with lived experiences and formal training, are able to facilitate an increase in engagement and promotion of an individual’s health and wellness.

Medicare Formulary Improvement Act
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires that the Part D formulary has six classes of medications under “protected status” that will be fully or extensively covered: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, antiretrovirals, antineoplastics, and immunosuppressants. In 2014 CMS proposed to limit access to these medications possibly resulting in debilitating consequences for individuals with a mental health condition. The Medicare Formulary Improvement Act of 2015 (S. 648) would permanently protect these classes of medications, ensuring that patients will have unobstructed access to lifesaving treatments.

The National Council’s Hill Day conference in Washington, D.C. begins on October 5 with dedicated sessions and workshops where you will learn how to advocate for better resources in our communities, followed by visits to your legislators on October 6. Get involved in the laws that make a difference in your life and register today for Hill Day!

News from Our CFYM Advocacy Blog: Patient-centered Care

What is patient-centered care? How can it support your wellness plan? This month CFYM addresses these questions. Two recent posts include articles:

Linda Graziano

Life Unlimited: Meet Linda Graziano

I had a happy childhood, so the first time I felt depressed, it came as quite a shock. I was 18 years old and away at college during my second semester. I felt displaced, alienated, withdrawn, and also paranoid. I didn’t have any appetite, and even easy things were difficult to do. I couldn’t concentrate. I called home a lot crying, and finally had to leave the college, interrupting my education. That was my first episode of what would be many to come. At age 21, I ended up in the hospital for six weeks because I tried to overdose. I was put on many different medications, but no meds were working. So, I was transported to a university hospital where I spent another six weeks. As a last resort, I was given ECT―electro-convulsive therapy. Finally something worked.

I have been hospitalized three times because I have been a danger to myself. For 17 years, I had the diagnosis of major depression until I had an “up” (manic episode). Then I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The up days were great! I needed almost no sleep, had tremendous energy, could read and recite several books at once . . . the world was so beautiful! But these days would follow with anger, then severe downs, where I would end up with deep self-hate. When I was 35, I tried to kill myself by overdosing on my medications, and that time I almost died. Once again, ECT was a life-saver for me because I wouldn’t respond to any meds.

Fear of rejection was difficult for me in the beginning. I feared that if people knew I had a mental illness, they would judge me. Now, I actually feel that I don’t need to be ashamed anymore . . . and it feels good being honest about where I’ve been in life. The illness is not all of who I am, but it is part of my path.

My last episode of depression was in 2011, and ECT helped me again. My regular treatment consists of taking medications, seeing my psychiatrist, and being aware of my stressors. I read positive books and I’m conscious of the thoughts I think. I release my negative feelings, keep my focus on the present moment, and rely on my inner self to calm me and guide me. These are my greatest tools for wellness.

I feel passionate about my recovery, and this passion led me to become a life coach for people with bipolar disorder. (http://www.embracetheinneryou.com) I guide them to find love for themselves and learn to process difficult feelings as they come up. I help them to live their best lives even though they are living with a mental illness. I created a support group for women with bipolar disorder, I also am a facilitator at my local chapter of DBSA, and I do some speaking in order to share my message of hope.

My experience with bipolar disorder has taught me so much. I now have a deeper connection with Spirit, a genuine acceptance of myself, and a better understanding of others. It has taught me to have an attitude of gratitude and a real trust in life. Because of all it has taught me, I know that pain really does serve a purpose. Although it was a painful experience to learn from, it led me to my purpose in life, and I’m happy to be sharing that purpose with others.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

You may notice that my photograph is different than usual on this particular edition of eUpdate. Well, that’s because I wanted to share a picture of me proudly displaying my Global Peer Supporter Celebration Day button in honor of this year’s inaugural celebration of the vital work being done in health care settings by people with lived experience of mental health conditions like depression and bipolar disorder. Founded and organized by our friends and colleagues at the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS), Global Peer Supporter Celebration Day will be observed on October 15, 2015. This day was conceived to raise awareness about the peer specialist profession and the numerous contributions made by peer supporters in a wide, and growing, array of health care delivery environments. Join iNAPS in this important endeavor—I know I will!

Indeed, to raise awareness of, and create more employment opportunities for, peer specialists are two of DBSA’s strategic objectives, so it’s a natural that we’d celebrate Global Peer Supporter Day. We’re also centralizing information, networking opportunities, and various training modules within our new Peer Leadership Center, which we’re immensely proud to be launching this year thanks to generous support from the Humana Foundation. You’ll be seeing a lot more about this new initiative over the coming months, and we’re very excited to enroll all of our colleagues—individuals, organizations, and systems—in the evidence-based, cost-effective practice that peer specialists’ interventions have proven to be.

Ensuring that peer specialists can help their “fellow travelers” who experience mental health conditions will not only require tools and resources like those to be featured within the DBSA Peer Leadership Center, it will also necessitate the advocacy of people who have experienced and can articulate the value of peer support services. So DBSA continues its participation in the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH’s) excellent Hill Day, where we come together with numerous mental health organizations to ensure that our first-person experience, as well as our DBSA vision of wellness for all people with mood disorders, are driving forces within policy conversations. So we hope you’ll join us, both for Global Peer Supporter Day and for Hill Day 2015!

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.

Permission to Feel
Recovery Focus
As soon as you allow yourself to feel feelings, even when they are uncomfortable, the sooner you will be moving through and past them.

Building Boundaries
Building and sticking to solid boundaries not only help in difficult relationships, but they help you prioritize your health.

Celebrate each and every day! No hurdle is too small for a celebration.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

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

November 16–21, 2015
DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist Training Course
Houston, Texas
Applications due October 15, 2015