DBSA e-Update August 2016

On Tour with I to We 2016
Chapter Spotlight: Free Webinar on Starting a Chapter
Parent Connection: Parent Programming at DBSA Leadership Forum
Young Adults, We Need Your Stories!
eUpdate Survey: Help Us Improve!
Ask the Doc: Can marijuana cause mood disorders? 
bp Magazine: Keeping Your Relationship Healthy
Training: Peer Discussion Opportunity
Advocacy: Make a Difference!
News from Our Advocacy Blog: Shared Decision-Making
We Are Powerful: I Can Forgive
Life Unlimited: James
Allen’s Note
Wellness Tips: Passion! Rethink Relationships! Love Yourself!
Save the Date

DBSA Tours I to We Mental Wellness Event this Fall

All too often, people with mental health conditions are marginalized as having little to contribute to society. It’s not widely understood that these conditions, for the most part, present only episodic challenges and that the people who live with them can and do live rich, fulfilling lives.

To counter these negative stereotypes, DBSA launched the I to We mental wellness tour in 2015. Its intent was to call for a shift of focus away from just eliminating illness to actually building wellness; a transformation of individuals’ isolation and fear to the embrace of a supportive community; and harnessing the power of collective voices. It invited attendees to celebrate the accomplishments of people living with mental health conditions and dialogue about how we as a group—rather than as individuals—can work toward changing public perception of mental health conditions and the people who live with them. 

Last year, we visited Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, Chicagoland, and New York City with I to We. This fall we’re on the road again, bringing the message of wellness and community strength to Baltimore (September 17), Seattle (October 2), and Akron (November 11-12). Our keynote speaker will be United Nations Global Expert and mental and civil rights advocate Melody Moezzi. We’ll also be joined by community health organizations in each locale who will be on site to pass out information and answer questions. All I to We events are free but we ask that you register at DBSAlliance.org/ItoWe to facilitate our planning.

While Baltimore and Seattle are afternoon-only sessions, our event in Akron is two full days—an entire wellness weekend! The expanded I to We event on November 11 will be followed the next day by the annual DBSA Leadership Forum. And to best serve DBSA’s multiple audiences, we’ve created five separate program tracks that are designed for parents, young adults, grassroots mental health advocates, peer specialists, and DBSA chapter leaders and support group members.

The Forum sessions will build on the momentum of the previous day’s I to We activities by showing participants how to advocate for change in mental health, how to best support people living with mood disorders, and much more. Keynoters will discuss building our resilience and the power of storytelling—a personal story is just about unmatched in its ability to create understanding in others, whether they’re family members or U.S. senators! For more information about the Akron I to We wellness weekend, go to DBSAlliance.org/Akron2016

“Those of us who live with depression or bipolar disorder know firsthand that they can be isolating, debilitating conditions,” said DBSA President Allen Doederlein. “That’s why transforming from I to We is so important. Together, as a community of peers, we exponentially increase our power to turn illness to wellness and public fear to understanding.”

We are extremely grateful to our community partners in each location who are helping make this year’s I to We Tour possible. They include the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation and Cleveland Clinic for Akron; DBSA Eastern Shore Maryland, DBSA Emmitsburg, DBSA MDSG Falls Church, DBSA National Capital Area, DBSA Roland Park, Goucher College, Johns Hopkins Mood Disorder Center, and Sheppard Pratt Health System for Baltimore; and in Seattle, DBSA Greater Seattle, DBSA Snohomish County, Navos, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences‒UW Medicine, and VA Puget Sound Health Care System‒Seattle Division for Seattle.

Please join us this fall as we change the conversation from I to We!

Free Webinar on Starting a Chapter

Are you curious about starting a DBSA chapter and support group in your community? DBSA chapters provide people living with depression and bipolar disorder the opportunity to find comfort and direction in a confidential and supportive setting. In addition to free, open-to-the-public support groups, chapters often develop other initiatives, including educational programs, newsletters, lending libraries, and advocacy projects.

If you would like to learn more about starting a chapter, join us at 5 p.m. CDT on Thursday, September 29, for a complimentary webinar. You’ll get an in-depth look at what DBSA chapters do, how they are run by peers like you, and what kind of training, resources, and support DBSA provides. Register today!

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 Helpline and other family-focused programming.

DBSA’s Leadership Forum offers Parent-Specific Programming

Join DBSA on November 12 for its Leadership Forum in Akron, Ohio. In addition to opening and closing keynotes, the day will offer five special tracks, including two sessions for parents and caregivers of children living with mood disorders.

Session 1: Making Mistakes and Moving Forward
Presenter: Christine Walker
Parenting is an incredibly rewarding and difficult task. For parents of children living with a mood disorder, parenting can be even more demanding. When making decisions in a high stress situation, parents may feel as if they have made mistakes or regret their decisions. This session will talk about embracing the idea that you are doing your very best and show you how to recognize/manage mistakes while still continuing to move forward.

Session 2: Lifestyle Management
Presenter: Geralyn Dexter
Lifestyle management can often help with managing mood symptoms. This session will talk about ways that you can help minimize your child’s mood symptoms through sleep, exercise, keeping a routine, and self-care. We’ll also talk about ways to involve your child in this process while making it fun, too!

Learn more and register today!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Young Adults, We Need Your Stories for Our New Program!

Being diagnosed with a mood disorder as a teen can feel like a life sentence. Perhaps you remember this feeling when you were first diagnosed. To help teens envision a life beyond their diagnosis, DBSA is assembling an array of stories by young adults who have successfully made their way into adulthood. These stories will be made available to teens under the program banner I’m Living Proof.

If you are between 18 to 35 years of age, experienced a mood disorder as a teenager, and are willing to tell us how your life has improved since then, please share your journey by submitting it at DBSAlliance.org/ImLivingProof. Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis, but there are some great incentives to get your story in early! The first five people to submit stories will receive a $100 Amazon gift card and everyone who submits a story by September 30, 2016, will be entered to win one of ten $50 Amazon gift cards. To qualify for any of these prizes, you must carefully follow the submission guidelines. Winners will be notified by email on or before October 15, 2016.

Share your journey with teens experiencing mood disorders to give them hope for the future—you’re living proof!

DBSA would like to thank Rebecca’s Dream for their support of the I'm Living Proof program. Rebecca’s Dream’s ongoing mission is to promote awareness and compassion of depression and bipolar disorder as real diseases.

Take a Survey and Improve DBSA’s eUpdate!

DBSA is always looking to improve the resources, programs, and tools we offer you. We’d like to hear your thoughts on our eUpdate newsletter—what you’re reading right here! Tell us how we’re doing, what you’d like to see more (or less) of, new topics we should cover, and more. Help us serve you better by taking our brief survey!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Dr. Ryan Caldeiro is an addiction psychiatrist. He is the Chief of Chemical Dependency Services and Consultative Psychiatry at Group Health in Seattle, Washington.

Ask the Doc

Ask the Doc: My 32-year-old son has had a mood disorder since he was 18. He and so many other people I see use marijuana chronically. Is it possible that the heavy marijuana use is the cause of mood disorders and not just the way some individuals choose to cope?

Claims made by supporters of medical marijuana and the legal changes in many states suggest that marijuana could be good for your health. But marijuana is very different from prescription medications. It contains over 70 known cannabinoid chemicals and we do not understand the effects of many of them. Varying types and amounts of these chemicals are found in the marijuana products sold in recreational marijuana stores and medical marijuana dispensaries, unlike prescription medications whose makeup is uniform no matter where you buy them. Additionally, medical researchers typically conduct studies comparing prescription medications to a placebo or other active medications to determine whether or not they are effective in treating a health condition. There is no comparable information that tells us whether or not marijuana products are effective.

Is marijuana ever an effective or appropriate treatment for a mood disorder?
What we know about marijuana use and its effects on depression and bipolar disorder comes mostly from studies where people were interviewed several times over a number of years about their health, including mental health and substance use. No studies of marijuana or its components have shown them to be helpful for depression or bipolar disorder.

Can marijuana cause or exacerbate a mood disorder?
Some studies show that marijuana use has no effect on depression while others have found depression to be worse when marijuana is used. A review of these studies indicates that more frequent and heavier marijuana use is associated with worse depression. For example, a 13-year study in Norway found that people using marijuana once a month or more had a greater likelihood of suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts. Similarly, studies about bipolar disorder showed that marijuana use is associated with worse symptoms, including duration and severity of manic episodes. A study of adults with bipolar disorder indicated that those who reported using marijuana had developed bipolar disorder at an earlier age and had had more manic episodes, hospitalizations, and suicide attempts. Stopping marijuana use appeared to reverse these effects.

How could I know if marijuana is contributing to my mood symptoms?
In addition to worsening mood, marijuana use may also be associated with worsening memory problems and motivation, such as worse attention and short-term memory. People who use marijuana may also experience lower energy and motivation which can impact school and work performance.

Got a nagging question? Submit your questions to Ask the Doc online. Also, take a look through our Ask the Doc feature page, a comprehensive archive of past columns which may already have the answer to your questions.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Bipolar and How to Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Building a strong relationship takes work. When one partner has bipolar disorder, thriving together takes a more focused effort. Here is what helps couples cope. Read article.

Live Discussion Chat: Dreaming of the Future of Peers

August 24 at 11 a.m. CDT
Open to certified peer specialist members and peer supporters
(Not a member? Register Today!)

Chat live with your peers about possibilities for the peer workforce. Join us on the Discussion Boards via the Member Portal here. Members must be logged in to access.

Join forces with the leading community of peer support! The Peer Leadership Center is dedicated to advancing the field of peer support and the peer provider workforce. Memberships are available for both individuals and organizations. Sign up now for a free membership and take advantage of resources, networking, education, and employment.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Make a Difference: Develop your Advocacy Leadership Skills at the DBSA Leadership Forum!

How has DBSA advocated to increase access to mental health care, broaden peer support, strengthen the peer specialist workforce, and end discrimination? Through you! On both the national and state level, DBSA has multiple advocacy programs and resources that fit a variety of personalities and passions. Discover your own calling by joining other DBSA participants who have made the decision to get involved.

If you live in Ohio or the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and Michigan—or really anywhere—you’re in luck! Attend the Leadership Forum during the DBSA I to We wellness weekend in Akron on November 12 and you’ll have the opportunity to participate in two different advocacy workshops.

In the first workshop, you’ll learn how to maximize access to mental health care via mental health parity laws which state that mental health benefits offered by your insurance plan must be the same as the physical health benefits offered. You’ll also learn how to advocate for yourself if your plan is not providing equal benefits. For those of you living in Ohio and Pennsylvania, we’ll also provide information about legislation gaining momentum in your states that will strengthen your rights. You’ll learn in several easy steps how to educate your state representatives and senators and ask them to support mental health parity legislation.

The second workshop will show you that when we act as one voice, we become a powerful force for change—it’s training very similar to that of our grassroots organization members. We’ll be discussing community outreach programs that support positive conversations about mental health. You’ll also get tools for educating elected officials on how to improve access to quality mental health care.

Getting involved is easy. Simply register for the November weekend and select the Grassroots Advocacy track. Take that first step today and start to make a difference!

News from Our Advocacy Blog

Shared decision-making helps both individuals and their providers agree on a treatment plan. Tom Lane, DBSA board member, shares how incorporating peer specialists into a treatment team can enhance this component of patient-centered care. Read more.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

We Are Powerful 

In January, DBSA launched a year-long campaign, We Are Powerful, exploring the tremendous personal power we each have but may have forgotten or not yet discovered. Peers, parents, and families are encouraged to embrace or reclaim this personal strength in their own lives, the lives of others, and the world. 

As part of the campaign, we are looking at a different aspect of personal power each month; August’s theme is I Can Forgive. All of us have been hurt by someone we care about. Forgiveness can bring peace and helps us regain our power. How does forgiveness fit into your life?

To see what’s happening with We Are Powerful, check out the DBSA Facebook page where you will find several powerful posts each week.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
James Benton

Meet James Benton

To put it mildly, my upbringing was pretty tempestuous. As a result, I developed woefully low self-esteem—I was inherently not good enough, no matter the situation—and grew from a reclusive young boy to an adult who struggled for a solid identity. I did not have meaningful relationships because I was never fully there. I could not accept love because if someone loved me, there had to be something wrong with them.

In spite of the vicious voice that had set up shop in my brain, somehow, somewhere, deep in my soul, I had a sense that I was good. This slight glimmer of hope gave me the strength to contact a psychologist and it was a crucial moment in my life. Through sessions with my therapist, I learned that I had clinical depression and that I was not an unlovable loser.

It’s said that knowledge is power. Now that I know about depression, I perceive it as Enemy No. 1. I have learned that the depression and the depressive voice constantly talking in my head are NOT ME. Fundamentally, I am optimistic and, at my core, a happy person. It’s just the crippling thoughts that cloud my perspective.

Throughout my life, and in spite of my depression, I have maintained a strong commitment to a fulfilling life. I knew there was more to it than the ugly thoughts that ran rampant in my mind—I knew it. I also knew I had a fight on my hands, a fight for a happy, purposeful, goal-achieving life.

Today I am ready to prosper and take on life’s challenges. I have been blessed with the love of my girlfriend for nine years. For me, this is monumental—a loving relationship is something I have never, ever had in my life. She provides a view that is opposite to my depressive thoughts. She encourages me and reminds me that my depression is not me. It is a blessing to be loved and accepted; from this place we can grow.

As I have moved forward in my life, I have developed tools to combat my mental enemy. First of all, it takes constant vigilance to overcome the negative voices. I frequently check my thoughts, asking myself “Is this thought congruent with the healthy goals I pursue”, and I build my resolve by meditating and writing in a journal. I cannot say enough about how effective meditation has been in my life. The practice of stilling the mind goes a very long way in identifying who you truly are. Meditation, coupled with journal writing, has given me clarity and hope for the future.

I will need this clarity, as I have been diagnosed with stage four cancer. Now, more than ever before, I need my meditation. I cannot afford to have my precious days clouded by depressive voices. I am a survivor and I know I will overcome the challenges that this cancer will bring. I know this to be fact because I am able to still my mind and move forward with dignity and grace.

Read more inspiring stories here.

If you would like to participate in our Life Unlimited feature by sharing your story, please submit your contact information.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

A Note from Allen

One of the most beautiful and important ideas I’ve ever encountered comes from the afterward to the play Angels in America, Part II: Perestroika by Tony Kushner: “The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction. From such nets of souls societies, the social world, human life springs.” This idea is fundamental to my concept of the world and who I want to be in it.

This idea is one of the most impossible for me to grasp when I experience depression. Loneliness and isolation—borne of my self-imposed removal from all painful or potentially painful experiences (which, by the way, is all experiences)—become a self-perpetuating, self-sustaining norm. And this bleak “new normal” erodes the soul and withers the body. Any possibility of vitality—of health—is eventually eclipsed by darkness.

The great good fortune of my personal journey from illness to wellness (a circuitous, multi-stop roundtrip, to be sure) has consistently been a “net of souls” like Kushner describes. This net is not the kind that captures or coerces; it’s a net that catches and uplifts. It’s the end of isolation in the presence of another. This person is often someone I dearly love, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s someone I don’t know, or barely know. Sometimes it’s someone quite consciously attempting to be helpful; other times a person unwittingly helps by just doing a kindness unexpectedly.

As you can perhaps see, this net is in some ways a happy accident. But it doesn’t have to be. Such “nets of souls” are rescuing people in the form of DBSA support groups. These groups can catch you when you’re falling and, moreover, they allow you to become part of their fabric so that you, with them, become safety for another soul.

If I visualize what we’re creating with our alliance of support, empowerment, and inspiration, I see DBSA as a net of souls stretching across the globe, holding people up to better lives, greater health, and deeper connections. When I speak of bringing DBSA to scale, I envision our net interweaving even more souls, protecting and saving more people from freefall—individuals transformed by their interweaving and their trip from I to We. It’s a powerful journey—please join us.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.

The Four R’s
Retreat, regroup, rethink, re-enter.

Love Yourself Enough
Learn to love yourself enough so that when someone enters your life and treats you poorly, you can stand up for yourself and have the strength to let them go. Have the courage to walk away from anything that does not serve you well.

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

Veteran Peers Navigating Moral Paradoxes Training
Blue Bell, PA 
August 25, 2016

International Association of Peer Supporters Annual Conference
Philadelphia, PA
August 26, 2016

DBSA I to We Tour
Goucher College
Baltimore, MD 
September 17, 2016

DBSA Core Peer Specialist Training
Richmond, VA
September 19-23, 2016

DBSA I to We Tour
University of Washington
Seattle, WA
October 2, 2016

Destination Dignity March
Washington DC and virtual
October 10, 2016

Global Peer Supporters Day
October 20, 2016

DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist Training
Los Angeles, CA
October 24-29, 2016

DBSA Leadership Weekend
Sheraton Suites Akron/Cuyahoga Falls
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
November 11-12, 2016