DBSA e-Update March 2016

Quick Links to Articles Below

Start Your Journey to Wellness with Our Living Successfully Course!
Balanced Mind Parent Network: Support and Community for Parents
Start a New Chapter with DBSA’s Help!
Ask the Doc: ?How do I transition between medications?
bp Magazine: Understanding Bipolar Depression
Peer Specialist and Provider Survey
Peer Leadership Center Webinar: Peer Specialist Compensation
Supporting Mental Health Parity
News from Our Advocacy Blog: Maternal Health
Demi Lovato Releases Advocacy Video
We Are Powerful!
Life Unlimited: Adrian
Allen’s Note
Wellness Tips: Learn! Persevere! Celebrate the new day!
Save the Date

Start Your Journey to Wellness with Our Living Successfully Course! ?

Living with a mood disorder can sometimes seem like walking the deck of a rolling ship—you just can’t quite seem to get a firm footing. You may wonder if you will ever get back on track, whether employment is out of reach, and if marriage and the many other things that define a purposeful and meaningful life are possible. Perhaps others—friends, family members, or a clinician—have told you to lower your expectations of what you want your life to look like.

DBSA believes that that each of us can live in wellness. The World Health Organization defines wellness as a state of physical, mental, and social well-being, not just the absence of disease or disability. It’s a dynamic process of change and growth that is self-directed and defined by each individual. Your expectations for your own wellness may be very different than those of anyone else. You get to decide!

To help you determine what wellness means to you and how to achieve it, DBSA offers a number of resources in addition to our award-winning tools at FacingUs.org. This month we’re very pleased to announce that our Living Successfully with a Mood Disorder online course has been totally revamped and is now available. It’s designed to help people living with mood disorders, as well as their friends and family, learn more about depression and bipolar disorder; explore effective treatment strategies; and create a plan for living well.

In addition to updated information and overall expansion, Living Successfully with a Mood Disorder includes a revised wellness plan and opportunities to try out new wellness strategies. It’s available 24/7 and you can work at your own pace—start it and then complete the different sections as you have time. “There is a lot of work involved in recovery,” said one peer who recently completed Living Successfully with a Mood Disorder. “This course showed me that the end result makes it worthwhile. It was very inspirational.”

Living Successfully with a Mood Disorder can help you discover what is most important to you and guide you toward building the life you truly want. Get started now!


Balanced Mind Parent Network: Support and Community for Parents

The Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN), a program of DBSA, provides online, family-focused support and information for parents of children living with a mood disorder. Parents can turn to the Parent Network for reliable information about mood disorders and their child’s needs.?

Parents may also join BMPN’s online community that offers resources, connection, and hope. There they can connect to a network of allies that is accessible anywhere, anytime through 12 support communities made up for parents of children living with depression or bipolar disorder, ranging from toddler to transition age (late teens and young adults).

BMPN’s online communities are hosted on a brand-new website. Parents who sign up by March 31, 2016 will be given the first month free, a $5 value that is also deducted from annual subscriptions.

Learn more: DBSAlliance.org/BMPN

Start a New Chapter with Assistance from DBSA!

Have you ever thought about starting a support group for peers living with depression or bipolar disorder? The best time to start is now! DBSA wants to help you start a face-to-face peer support group and will be reducing the affiliation fee by 50 percent for new chapters affiliating in August. Because it can take a few months to gather your leadership team, make plans, and incorporate as a nonprofit prior to affiliation with DBSA, request a start-up guide today to give you plenty of time to prepare.

What do chapters do? DBSA’s local affiliate chapters offer free, peer-led, in-person support groups for people living with mood disorders. In addition, many chapters offer groups for friends and family members as well as educational programs that are open to the public. These services give attendees a sense of community and the type of support that can only come from someone who has been there.

How do you start a DBSA chapter? 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, and regular informational communications to support chapter growth and effectiveness.

The first step is to learn more about becoming a chapter leader by requesting a complimentary copy of DBSA’s guide, Starting a DBSA Chapter, or contacting us at StartUp@DBSAlliance.org. We may be able to put you in touch with local peers who are also interested in starting a group. To find a DBSA chapter in your community, visit DBSAlliance.org/FindSupport.

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

Any tips on how to make the transition from one medication to another? I've been through many changes in 27 years and every time it's a struggle.

Your experience is, unfortunately, very common. Changing medication is difficult, and our ability to predict which medication is right for which person is really not much better than it was 27 years ago. Personalized medicine, or choosing the right medication for any individual, is our hope, but currently there is still a lot of trial and error.?

There are some specific things you can do to reduce errors and make more informed decisions. The key is making sure that you and your doctor are on the same page about a few simple things, such as:

Why are you making a change? The most common reason is to reduce or prevent mood symptoms. But you might also change medication to reduce side effects or avoid a health risk like rising blood sugar or cholesterol. And sometimes there may be more than one reason, such as the medication isn’t working that well and is causing side effects. Or you may want to increase the dose to get more benefit or reduce it to see if it will be just as effective. These changes are all reasonable, but they have different goals. Before you can answer the question “are we getting anywhere” you’ll want to make sure you and your doctor are on the same page about what you are trying to accomplish.

When and how will you decide if the change is a good idea? The indicators of success will depend on your answer to the first question. Ideally, you’ll have a clear understanding of what you are looking for and how you will measure it. For instance, if the goal of changing medication is to reduce symptoms of depression, you could use the DBSA Wellness Tracker to see if you are really better off. Also be sure that you and your doctor agree on when you will really know if a change is helpful. Some medications might have a positive effect after only a few days, while others may take four weeks or more.

What problems should you be looking out for? All medications can have side effects or risks. But the official warning label may not help you understand which problems are common and which are important. The specific things you’ll want to know include what the common side effects are and when they are likely to occur; what side affects you should try to ride out and which ones would be a reason for stopping the new medication; and what problems or side effects could be dangerous and what you should do if you notice them.

Someday we may have more accurate tools for predicting which medication will work for which person. Those tools might include genetic tests or scans or online tests of how different areas of your brain are functioning. In the meantime, your own experience is the most accurate tool we have. If you and your doctor decide make a medication change, just make sure you have answers to the questions raised here.?

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: Understanding Bipolar Depression

What is the difference between bipolar depression and regular depression and what are the most effective treatment strategies? Read article

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Peer Specialists and Providers, We Need Your Help!

The Peer Leadership Center is currently running a survey about what peer specialists and providers consider to be their biggest employment challenge. Your input would be greatly appreciated and we will share the results. Please take the survey today.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Peer Leadership Center Webinar:Peer Specialist Compensation”

March 22, 2016
3 p.m. Central Time
Register now

The peer support specialist workforce has been growing since Medicaid established funding for these services in 2007. Absent from much of the research on this workforce has been a national review of wages and compensation. This information is now available through a recent study and shows the diversity among the current national structure for the wages of peer specialists, including significant differences in average compensation rates. The implications for the findings of the study will be discussed during this webinar as well as the need for greater attention and focus on the wages of the peer specialist workforce. Please join us for this important session. Register now

Check out other continuing education opportunities for peer specialists at the DBSA Peer Leadership Center!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Supports Mental Health Parity

Legislation passed by the US Congress in 2008 mandates that commercial health insurance plans must provide equal or similar coverage benefits for mental health when compared to a plan’s coverage for physical health conditions. Referred to as mental health parity, this legislation has increased access to care by eliminating a separate annual deductible for mental health conditions above and beyond the deductible for physical health benefits. Further, it mandates that access to mental health care cannot be more restrictive than access to care for a physical condition under a plan’s benefits.

It is encouraging to note that many health insurance plans have embraced the spirit of the law—it has been easier for individuals to access affordable mental health benefits. But what happens when the wait to see a psychiatrist is too long because the network of providers in the plan is too small to accommodate the demand? Or when access to treatment has been denied because the plan’s administrator decides that the treatment requested is not medically necessary?

DBSA is concerned about this is as well. That is why we will be launching a program to collect your stories. We want to hear from you. We want to know how long it has taken to obtain an appointment to see a psychiatrist using your plan’s preferred list of providers. We want to know if you have been forced to discontinue treatment before you felt you were well because the plan determined the care was no longer medically necessary.

DBSA will kick off this campaign in the coming weeks, working in partnership with other advocacy organizations. We will inform DBSA participants of the launch by sending out an email to subscribers of the DBSA advocacy platform. Be sure to subscribe to the platform and opt in to receive emails from us. This simple step taken today will ensure that you will receive timely updates about this program and other advocacy activities.

News from Our Advocacy Blog: Maternal Mental Health

CareForYourMind.org is running a series about perinatal depression and innovative programs, published with the support of multiple maternal health advocacy organizations. The latest post discusses how MCPAP for Moms supports maternal mental health with solutions such as increased provider training and support.

Demi Lovato and Be Vocal Release Mental Health Advocacy Video

Last year, platinum-selling recording artist Demi Lovato teamed up with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the Jed Foundation, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Council for Behavior Health, and Sunovion to encourage those living with or affected by mental health conditions to speak up for themselves and their community. Last fall Ms. Lovato asked all Americans to speak up by submitting their stories to BeVocalSpeakUp.com. Statements were also taped during Hill Day in Washington DC. The resulting video makes a powerful statement, showing that, together, we can make a difference in the conversation around mental health. For more information, visit BeVocalSpeakUp.com.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

We Are Powerful!

DBSA launched in January a year-long campaign, We Are Powerful, exploring the tremendous person 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; March’s theme is I Take Action. Planning is terrific and time well spent but only if we act on our goals! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often spoke of “the fierce urgency of now.”  What could be more fiercely urgent now than pursuing what is most important to you? 

What steps will you take this month toward one or more of your goals? Tell us about it on March 25, Power Points Friday, on our Facebook page.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Adrian Cunanan

Life Unlimited: Meet Adrian Cunanan

I have always loved technology. I even go as far as saying, “My mind (aka my CPU) is my favorite and most powerful muscle.” But sometimes the source of our greatest strength can also be that of our greatest weakness.

Shortly after I graduated from college, my CPU overheated for the first time and I was admitted to the hospital. I thought I was there because I was having trouble sleeping and eating. What I had not realized was that I hadn’t eaten or slept in over 72 hours.

While in the hospital, I got a long distance phone call from my cousin who was stationed in Japan. He said one thing that helped to calm my panic: “Please listen to the doctors because they are really doing their best to help you." And it was my trust in my cousin that got me to take my first dose of medication.

I spent the next 13 years resisting the idea that medication was very important in managing my bipolar disorder. I could never come up with anything better than “there has to be a way other than medication to beat this condition!" I had many conversations with my therapist and psychiatrist. Multiple times, I rolled the dice by stopping the medication without telling them. I would be fine for a while and then, like clockwork, I would be back in the hospital.

Later I came to realize that every time I took my medication, I felt like I was admitting that there was something wrong with me. I had never had this same feeling with taking cold medicine or using my asthma inhaler. So why with my mental health? My therapist told me, “The medication is used to help us have a productive conversation on how to best be able to learn the skills to manage the condition.”

In hindsight, I realized I would always stop taking the medication when it was working best. I thought it was degrading and hindering—even killing—my potential. I now realize that it enables me to realize my potential and push my limits in a healthy way.

It took me over a decade to find the right support plan and team. I now have a healthy relationship with my therapist, psychiatrist, and my medication. Meditation, exercise, and journaling helps to complete my self-care plan.

The New York Times wrote an article on the importance of family support in the treatment of bipolar disorder and featured my family’s story of dropping everything to help me. This article was written at one of my lowest points. Six years later CNET, a website that tracks consumer technology breakthroughs, wrote an article about how I combined my experience with technology with my lived experience of bipolar disorder to start a company called ThriveStreams. Our driving mission is to use technology to improve mental wellness.?

I hope my story will help those struggling with mental health challenges to be patient with the process of designing a healthy support plan to monitor, manage, and accept their condition. This is how I am now able to Thrive!

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

Note from Allen

The first time I heard it was DBSA’s 2013 conference in Miami. One of the participants said to me, “No one ever told me that I could be well.”

I’ve heard it countless times since: again, and memorably, at our 2015 DBSA I to We Tour stop in Colorado Springs, when a couple approached me and said, “This is so much more in line with what we know to be true thanks to our daughter: people can be well. It can take a lot of work, even luck, but people can be well.”

All too often, the idea embodied within DBSA’s vision—wellness for people who have mood disorders—is absent from the conversation. In media, medicine, policy, politics, we hear so much more about danger, drain, and weakness than community, contribution, thriving, or power. And for the vision of wellness to become manifest, it has to be an option on the table. Someone, or thousands of someones, have to declare that wellness is possible, and we are as individuals and a community powerful enough to demand, achieve, and sustain it.

Where do we begin, at the personal level? We all have different needs and different paths, and these can vary over different parts of our life, too. Yet once we are out of acute suffering, symptoms, or crisis, we can take steps to continue our progress and then sustain our gains on the way to whatever wellness looks like for us. One powerful way to step forward is with DBSA’s wonderful tool of Living Successfully with a Mood Disorder. Not “Getting Better with a Mood Disorder,” or “Surviving a Mood Disorder,” the very name of this practical course puts it right out there in plain language that people with mood disorders can and do live with great success. Our plans and paths, activities and accommodations may be different, and that’s okay. No matter whether we have a health issue or not, we all do well to plan for what will set us up for success. Living Successfully with a Mood Disorder provides a framework for the planning that will make those of us with depression and bipolar disorder most likely to succeed.

How do we make wellness real for our communities, showing others that success is possible, and sustaining it for ourselves? Here is where peer support groups come in. By helping others—both in terms of the strength gained on our own journeys and with the vulnerability to let others in turn help us—we model the kind of consistency, collaboration, and communication that are essential for attaining and then sustaining successful achievement of wellness. We can also take the next leap towards work as peer specialists and present wellness and success as real options for people in treatment: individuals who may not have any concept at that moment of illness that there is anything else possible for them. Our presence for, belief in, and activation of our peers sets them up for success.

If there is to be investment in wellness in the broader world, though, we have to use our voices. That’s where commenting on DBSA’s Care for Your Mind blog, learning more and taking action in the form of advocacy, and even being part of the 2016 Hill Day allow us to join our individual voices with those of our peers.

Let’s work together to put wellness on the table and create success for ourselves, our peers, and our world.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

Recovery Focus
Learning all I can about my illness gives me a sense of control. At first, everything I learned scared me. Now, knowing more helps me to be in control of my treatment, instead of just letting someone else tell me what is best for me.

99% perspiration
Bipolar Disorder
If at first you don’t succeed, do it again—give it a try!

It is a new day
What happened yesterday is not an indicator of what will happen today. It is a new day, and I have every intention of making it a great one.

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

DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist Training Course
April 18–23
Chicago, IL

DBSA Core Peer Specialist Training Course
September 19–23
Chicago, Illinois

DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist Training Course
October 24–29
Los Angeles, CA