DBSA e-Update February 2016

Quick Links to Articles Below

DBSA Peer Leadership Center Launches!
Online Support Groups Revamped
Parent Connection: Getting Started
Ask the Doc: What is the real me?
bp Magazine: Growing Older with Bipolar
Take Our Depression Survey and Help Your Peers!
DBSA Partners with Starbucks
Why You Should Vote
News from Our Advocacy Blog: Maternal Health
Life Unlimited: Adam
Allen’s Note
Wellness Tips: Changing! Helping others! Progress!
Save the Date

DBSA Continues History of Innovation with Peer Leadership Center

For more than 30 years, DBSA has championed the peer voice, bringing hope to individuals, harnessing the power of collective voices, and illuminating the value of peers as a workforce.

It all began in 1978, when future DBSA founders Rose Kurland and Marilyn Weiss posted an ad inviting individuals to discuss their shared experience of bipolar disorder and depression. Little did they realize that they and their new friends were in the forefront of an exciting new U.S. movement which today is known as peer support. 

While a lot has changed since that first gathering in Rose’s kitchen, the forward thinking of DBSA has not. In 2004, DBSA developed and piloted the first peer specialist training in affiliation with Appalachian Consulting Group, Inc., supported under a cooperative agreement with the Center for Mental Health Services/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (Certified peer specialists have lived experience in recovery from a mental health or substance use condition and are trained to support their peers in moving forward in their own recovery journeys.) Now, a decade later, DBSA is a national leader in peer specialist training and a respected advocate for the professionalization of the peer workforce.

Yesterday we took another leap forward by launching the DBSA Peer Leadership Center (PLC), made possible in part through a generous grant from the Humana Foundation. In brief, the PLC is an impartial clearinghouse that centralizes all kinds of information of interest to peer specialists and supporters, as well as organizations with training, resources, and employment opportunities for them. It’s an online community where the peer provider workforce can find information and training about peer support services; connect with individuals working in peer service fields; learn about employment opportunities and organizations that champion peer support services; and engage in dialogue that will advance the field.

As with any emerging field, the systems and mechanisms surrounding peer specialist training are still quite fluid and, at times, ambiguous. Training requirements, which vary from state to state, can be difficult to access. Peer specialists and supporters want to find each other, share tips, and form a community but have no clear path to do so. Employers with job opportunities are often at a loss because they cannot identify potential candidates. The DBSA Peer Leadership Center has been designed to help bridge these gaps and more.

PLC membership is open to both individuals and organizations, free-of-charge. Individual members build and post a profile which details their background and experience. They then receive access to a job board; educational opportunities such as online classes and webinars; and a calendar of certification and continuing education training. And perhaps most importantly, they may use discussion boards and private messaging to support collaboration, dialogue, and personal networking. Organizations who offer mental health services and are invested in the peer workforce may also register. They will serve as resources for the membership and can post their job opportunities. 

“Our goal with the Peer Leadership Center is to help shape and grow the field, which will improve health care outcomes, reduce health care costs, and provide employment opportunities for people with lived experience of mental health conditions,” said Allen Doederlein, DBSA president. “The power of coming together as peers and a profession offers continued hope and support for recovery.”

Virginia Kelly Judd, executive director of the Humana Foundation, noted, “The Center has potential to not only grow and promote an evidence-based practice within mental health care, but also to connect people with common backgrounds and experiences so they may enhance their well-being together.”

To learn more about the PLC, go to www.peerleadershipcenter.org

Online Support Groups Revamped

DBSA has revamped our online support groups! These free, peer-run virtual meetings follow the same format as our in-person meetings to provide people living with mood disorders the opportunity to share experiences, discuss wellness skills, and offer hope to one another. We are offering two weekly mood disorder support groups and as well as one for young adults (ages 18-30).

Online meetings are a great option for people who do not have a local group or prefer to attend meetings from the comfort and privacy of their homes. These groups are also helpful for DBSA chapter participants who would like extra support.

In contrast to chat rooms and forums, our new platform uses web-conferencing so that participants can talk to real people in real time. To access meetings, participants use their computer audio system or a telephone. Tablets and smart phones can also be used.

Participants are able to talk with each other, see meeting materials on their screens, interact with others, and more. They can also see their facilitator and may choose whether or not to use a webcam so other participants can see them.  

Visit DBSAlliance.org/OSG to learn more, register, and sign up for a meeting. Registration takes just a minute to complete and all groups are free!

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: Getting Started—A Guide for Parents

Learning that your child has a mental health condition can be frightening and, at times, isolating. Parents with newly diagnosed children or those who suspect that their child may have a mood disorder may benefit from one of our new brochures, Getting Started:  A Guide for Parents of Children with Mood Disorders.

This guide was created to help parents take their first steps towards their family’s journey to wellness. There is information on

  • getting support for yourself;
  • expanding your knowledge of depression or bipolar disorder;
  • building the proper treatment team;
  • understanding potential aspects of a treatment plan;
  • talking to your child about mood disorders;
  • recognizing that the whole family is affected by mood disorders;
  • planning for safety and crises.

To learn more about DBSA’s Balanced Mind Parent Network, go to: 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

I live with bipolar disorder, and my moods are complete opposites of one another. How can I tell what is the real me?

My short answer: neither depression nor mania is the real you. Here’s my long answer: it’s certainly true that depression and mania can have a huge impact on how you see and experience the world. When depressed, you might overestimate the negative or bad outcomes of any action. When feeling manic, you might minimize or ignore possible bad outcomes to the point of doing risky or dangerous things. When depressed, you might be unreasonably self-critical and blame yourself for everything. And when feeling manic, you might be unrealistically overconfident to the point of getting yourself in trouble.

But you are still a unique person, despite that back-and-forth. The real you is defined by your abilities, your personal values, and your passions. Those are the things that will sustain you and help you stay grounded through ups and downs in your mood. Mood swings can distract you from the things that you care about most, so you may need to make a special effort to stay in touch with the real you.

DBSA’s Wellness Plan is designed to help you clarify and stay focused on the real you. As you think about your personal recovery goals, you’ll ask yourself questions like

  • What motivates me?
  • What interests me?
  • What would I do more if I could?
  • What do I want?
  • What do I care about, or what did I care about before my illness?
  • Where do I want my life to go?
  • What brings me joy?
  • What are my dreams and hopes?

Once you set some long-term goals, you can think about short-term steps to start with. Deciding on those steps will bring up questions like

  • What kinds of activities help me stay healthy and balanced?
  • What relationships help me feel secure and supported?
  • What things do I need to do every day to maintain my health?

Creating your own wellness plan is not just about avoiding symptoms. It really is about the important things that define the real you.

For more wellness resources, go to the Wellness Toolbox and FacingUs.org

See all Ask the Doc articles or submit a question.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Growing Older with Bipolar

Bipolar disorder may become easier to manage in later life, but staying alert to changes in physical health and how well your medication is working is key to your mental health. Read article

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Take Our Depression Survey and Help Your Peers!

Everyone experiences depression a little differently. Likewise, experiences with the many different components of treatments can vary as well. DBSA has created the Depression Experiences and Treatments Survey to better identify both what works best for people and new options in the treatment of depression. Please take our survey and let us know what wellness strategies, talk therapy, medications, technologies, and other treatments are working best for you. The multiple-choice survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. Your input is very important—please participate today! When results are tabulated they will be posted here.

Take the survey!

DBSA Partners with Starbucks Armed Forces Network in Pennsylvania

The importance of Veteran peer support is front and center this week in York, PA at the Starbucks York Roasting Plant and Distribution Center. DBSA is there training members of the facility’s Armed Forces Network in peer support skills that will enable them to connect with and assist their fellow Veterans. DBSA trainers will also deliver Mental Health First Aid training to both Veteran employees and facility leadership.

The Starbucks’ National Armed Forces Network was founded in 2007 to bring partners (employees) who served in the military together to bond over their shared experiences; to provide guidance for newly hired partners transitioning from military to civilian life; and to create a veteran-friendly workforce. A small group of AFN members were also instrumental in helping the company launch its commitment to hire 10,000 Veterans and military spouses by the year 2018.

Are you a Veteran that wants to prepare to join the peer specialist workforce? Learn more about our next training:

Veteran Peer Specialist Training Course
April 18–23, 2016
Chicago, Illinois
Application deadline: March 18, 2016
Download application or apply online.

Already a peer specialist?  Check out continuing education opportunities at the new DBSA Peer Leadership Center!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

“Why Should I Vote? Nothing Ever Changes.”

By Phyllis Foxworth, DBSA Advocacy Vice President

During this election season we often hear about people who are disillusioned. They believe their vote doesn’t really matter because, after all, nothing ever changes. Sound familiar? Perhaps you have played that tape in your head—I know I have.

Regardless of your political leanings—left, right or somewhere in between—there is benefit to understanding the issues that affect your day-to-day life and that of your loved ones. Simply put, the more educated you become, the more likely it is that you will work towards the change that is important to you. Salespeople know this; customers who invest time and energy towards investigating a major purchase are most likely to actually make the purchase.

The first step is to invest a little time learning about the issues. DBSA makes that easy for you as our advocacy is focused on educating decision-makers on issues that promote access to quality mental health care. Go to DBSAlliance.org/TakeAction to learn about issues DBSA believes are important for individuals living with mood disorders.

The second step is to learn how candidates feel about the issues that are meaningful to you. Two websites OnThelssues.org and VoteSmart.org provide information about the voting records of incumbents and public comments made by candidates who are challenging the incumbent. Select the health care tab to drill down into the relevant information.

“Where and how do I vote?” is the next hurdle after you’ve completed your research. Check out Vote 411.org . This site provides all the logistical information you’ll need, such as voter registration requirements, dates for elections in your area, and polling locations and times.

Stay involved. Now that you’ve invested in the election process, you may feel the urge to do more. Go for it by staying connected to the issue. Subscribe to the DBSA advocacy site to receive information on how to get involved in your local community. Armed with knowledge on the issues, schedule a meeting with your state and local elected officials. Attend town-hall meetings your national elected officials host in your town or neighborhood. Remember, systemic change begins with you.

The politicians always told us that the Cold War stand-off could only change by way of nuclear war. None of them believed that such systemic change was possible . . . – Lech Walesa

News from Our Advocacy Blog: New Series on Maternal Health

In February, DBSA’s advocacy blog Care for Your Mind examines issues around women’s depression during and after pregnancy with posts from clinicians, people with lived experience, advocates, and legislators.  This eight-part series on maternal mental health begins this week.

Adam Tewell

Life Unlimited: Meet Adam Tewell

It happened very quickly. I had just finished my sophomore year at college and was working at a summer camp. I sank into a depression which quickly turned suicidal and psychotic. Fortunately, the camp nurse sent me home to get help before I spun too far out of control.

I have limited memories of the three months after I returned home: doctors, medications, mixed states, hearing voices, not being able to tell what was real, no sleep, too much sleep. It’s all a blur. But I did emerge from this and returned to college, still shaky in my mental health but trying to move forward with my life—and it was not a linear progression. I was hospitalized twice during my senior year, but managed to graduate. Slowly I built a tool kit that has served as the foundation of my mental health stability.

I grew more adept at managing my recovery, despite my shaky start. Over the ten years post-graduation, I developed a career I love in international health and development policy. I finished graduate school, got married, and had a child. I lived abroad in China, which taught me to build a social support network in lieu of the mental health treatment facilities I had used in the United States. There were still bad days and weeks and months, but the skills I developed in therapy and group allowed me to manage them better.

I have learned that while you have to be vigilant about symptoms, you can live a full life pursuing your goals. You do not need to let the illness define you or what you can do. Don’t ignore the illness, but work around the limitations. And there will be set backs—I’ve been hospitalized a few times since college but each time I’ve bounced back faster. If I’m ever in the hospital again, I’ll know that I have bounced back before and can do it again.

Three things have turned out to be the most important to my recovery: a schedule, sleep, and medication. Having to go to work gives me a routine even when my brain is not in the mood to function. Work and taking care of my son keep my life anchored and help head off larger mood swings. Sleep is also essential to my mood stability and I know that even an hour variation in my schedule can have serious consequences.

Medications are great for managing my mood. Medications, of course, do not resolve all symptoms and can have nasty side effects, so you must tinker until you find the right levels. Therapy, mindfulness, family, and friends have also played important roles in my mental health, but the triad of schedule, sleep, and medication are what keep me functioning. 

Now, except on the worst days, I look forward to what the future will bring.

Read more inspiring stories!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

Last month, I shared the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance vision of power, articulating that We Are Powerful as individuals; as members of our communities; and as a collective, transformative force for positive change in how mood disorders are experienced, treated, and viewed.

This morning, I found myself reflecting on this idea of power.

I began by thinking about my own experience, which is how I think we all start: experiencing, exploring, and understanding what we’re going through personally. And—without kidding myself about its limits, but also without denying its real presence—I was struck by my own power. As I shared openly in many of these notes over the past two years, I experienced in 2014–2015 my first significant depression in over a decade. As I stand on “the other side” of that depression—feeling good, but not “too good;” feeling positive, but not unrealistically so—I realize that, throughout the arduous journey, I demonstrated the power to persevere when, frankly, I didn’t understand how or why I should . . . and that’s real power, as anyone who’s been through major depression will tell you.

Now, as I’m finally feeling “like myself again,” I even notice that I actually did achieve quite a bit, and learn a whole lot, as I went through the pain and inertia of a prolonged depression. Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely, without question, prefer not to have been through a depressive episode. (I’ve been depressed, and I’ve been well, and there’s no way I’d ever choose depression. There are much more pleasant ways to learn!) Yet my resilience, my strengths, could and did build a bridge from a dark time of illness and symptoms to a bright time of wellness and opportunities.

Moving outward from my own experience and thinking about the lives of my close community of friends, colleagues, and family, I see remarkable diversity, as you might expect. No matter their circumstances or feelings, though, each of these individuals has an undeniable power to inspire, support, and transform. One of my closest friends, who’s experiencing depression right now, has yet to go a single day without inspiring me or making my life better in some way (and I know I’m not alone in this among people who know her). A member of my family is dealing with significant health issues—things we call “physical” as opposed to “mental” health challenges—and is still making me laugh, still providing everyone she’s close to with insight and joy, still achieving extraordinary feats at her job. A friend, colleague, and mentor of mine is confidently and sensitively navigating her new role as a “partner in care” to a loved one who is ill, and though this is clearly challenging, she is still maintaining her own wellness and strength, and modeling that for others (including me) as she does so.

Reaching a bit further in my thoughts, I note that today marks the culmination of 10 intense months of work towards DBSA’s proud launch of the Peer Leadership Center (PLC). Thanks to a generous, leadership investment from the Humana Foundation, DBSA created the PLC as the first comprehensive online destination for all things related to peer specialists: information, continuing education, and employment and networking opportunities. In addition to providing the convenience of centralized resources, the PLC is also a vital tool for promoting the value of peer specialists, for it showcases the who, what, where, when, and why behind the peer specialist workforce—including evidence of their efficacy. The PLC brings together in a dynamic way

  • the power of the individual—the peer specialist who’s achieved her or his defined target of wellness;
  • the power of the lived experience in the lives of others—as that peer specialist works as a member of a treatment team and helps peers achieve their own wellness goals; and
  • the power of our community of peers in the world as we transform systems of care—because having peers involved in mental health care delivery leads to a person-centered approach to wellness, rather than a focus solely on “symptom reduction” and “compliance.” Peer providers focus on living a full, thriving life, rather than simply surviving.

Not solely because of the people reading this, but certainly in part because of who you are and what you do, we’re beginning to see the DBSA community’s power take hold beyond what’s traditionally been the world of mental health. A film executive-produced by Spike Lee and featuring actor Katie Holmes, writer/director Paul Dalio’s Touched with Fire, premiered on February 12. While harrowing in its depiction of bipolar disorder, it nevertheless reflects the vibrancy of those “touched with fire,” and the sustainable joy that can be found when we combine knowledge, passion, and accountability. Just today, two of the world’s most well-known individuals—Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton—began talking openly and positively about seeking help for mental health conditions, especially among young people, in posts on Huffington Post UK, where Middleton is a guest editor with a special focus on mental health in children and adolescents.

These high-profile shifts in the way we depict and discuss mental health conditions are happening because we are, truly, powerful. What will you create for yourself, for those in your life, and for the world as you acknowledge and harness your power? I’m so excited to see . . .

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

What I Control
Recovery Focus
The moment I learned I had no control over what people said or thought and how they behaved, my life began to change. The moment I learned I could control my own thoughts, my own behavior, and the way I responded to a given situation, my life changed again.

Help Others
Find ways to help others who are going through tough times. I find this takes my mind off my own problems and makes me feel useful. Being a blessing to others becomes a blessing to me.

Progress . . . not Perfection
I realized that something’s gotta give about dealing with my bipolar condition and that something is definitely me! Time to make a change because, trust me, I’m worth every penny!

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

Core Peer Specialist Training Course
March 7–11, 2016             
Chicago, Illinois

Veteran Peer Specialist Training Course
April 18–23, 2016       
Chicago, Illinois
Download application or apply online.
Application deadline: March 18, 2016