DBSA e-Update November 2016

2016 Life Unlimited Award Winner
Support DBSA on Giving Tuesday! Your Gift is Matched!
Parent Connection: Setting Goals
I to We in Akron
There’s still time to take our surveys on bipolar disorder!
Ask the Doc: Is bipolar disorder the same in adults and children?
bp Magazine: Practically Positive
Advocacy: Kick into High Gear!
News from Our Advocacy Blog: Mental Health and Older Adults
We Are Powerful: I am an upstander for mental health
Allen’s Note
Wellness Tips: Reaching Destinations! Good Enough! Self-Monitor!
Save the Date

DBSA 2016 Life Unlimited Award Winner Announced

Each year DBSA presents the Life Unlimited Award to an individual who has exemplified a life unlimited by depression or bipolar disorder and is actively working to help others do the same. Through this award we honor and celebrate the strengths, inspiration, and accomplishments of our peers.

There were many worthy nominations this year—more than 80! Our deepest thanks to all our nominators who told us of so many wonderful people doing extraordinary things. After careful deliberation, we are very pleased to announce that the 2016 Life Unlimited Award winner is Miguel Garcia. Here is his story.

Miguel Garcia was born in Detroit to a family of hard-working Mexican immigrants. Despite his family not speaking English or having formal education, he graduated as valedictorian of Cass Technical High School, a college preparatory school in midtown Detroit. He had completed internships with General Motors and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and secured full scholarships to all 12 colleges to which he had applied, including Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia Universities, and the University of Michigan. He decided on Harvard.

During his junior year, Miguel experienced a severe onset of bipolar disorder that crippled him and forced him to leave school. For two years he all but disappeared. Medication was not helping and with all of his friends graduating and moving on, he felt left behind and a failure—life was not worth living. But those who loved him were sure Miguel would eventually overcome his diagnosis and defy the expectations his doctor laid out for him. His disability would not define him and his hospitalizations would not hinder his ability to make an impact in the world.

Slowly, with the help of friends and family, Miguel began the recovery process. He searched out better mental health treatment and slowly picked up the pieces of the life he had all but given up on. While it was the most challenging experience of his life, it was also what grew in him a tremendous compassion and a very special ability to relate to others.

Miguel began working as a peer mental health specialist at a community health center in Detroit that focuses on the mental health needs of poor and disadvantaged communities. Part of his work involved outreach to LGBTQ, transgender, and sex-worker populations. He was able to use his recovery story to connect with people who had given up on living a healthy and fulfilling life because of what a doctor had told them or due to a label of disability—all things that Miguel had experienced.  

Miguel also served as a patient advocate at the clinic for individuals who were seeing psychiatrists and needed support in voicing their concerns about their treatment. He routinely helped people find their own voice and take control of their treatment, giving them a sense of agency and dignity. Talented as well in connecting with youth, he was asked to facilitate a grief support group at a local LGBTQ center in Michigan following the mass shooting in Orlando. 

After all of these experiences Miguel took a huge leap of faith, one he thought he would never do: return to Harvard to finish his studies. His goal is to become a mental health worker, either in social work or public health so he can continue to de-stigmatize the discussion around mental health and raise awareness about mental health conditions. And in addition to taking classes, he works for a Mental Health/HIV Care and Prevention Clinic, helping to develop an informed, psycho-educational support group curriculum for transgender women of color that is intended for national adoption (Trans-TREM). He is also starting a support group for LGBTQ students to discuss mental health issues.

“Miguel Garcia is a true inspiration,” declared his nominator. “He is open and honest about his struggles and his recovery process and I know that he will make a huge impact in the field of mental health and de-stigmatizing mental illness and other forms of intolerance. His life has not been easy, but in the end, it is what has allowed him to connect with others in a way that is special.”

Rather than limit his career and ambitions, Miguel believes his bipolar diagnosis has instilled in him a hard-earned ability to express compassion and empathy. He also knows personally of the disappointment of an interrupted life and the pain of discrimination as both a Latino gay male and as a person living with bipolar disorder. Using these qualities and experiences, he has become a tremendous advocate for marginalized people—LGBTQ, individuals with mental health issues, homeless people, individuals at risk for HIV infections, and other sidelined populations—believing that at the root of many disadvantaged communities lies untreated and ignored mental health issues.

"I am honored and humbled,” said Garcia, “to receive the 2016 DBSA Life Unlimited Award from an organization that emphasizes the power of individuals with mental illness to take control of their lives, contribute to the recovery of others, and create a community of resilient survivors and advocates. I intend to share these lessons as a student leader at Harvard and hopefully one day as a mental health clinician. I am inspired to move forward in honor of Michelle Lee Shirley and our other peers who have lost their lives because of discrimination and misunderstanding. Thank you DBSA for this immense honor."

Miguel’s friends and family were right. His diagnosis has not defined him. He has defied expectations and by living a life unlimited, he is already having a real impact on the world. Congratulations Miguel!

For National Latino Aids Awareness Month, Miguel contributed a piece to www.thebody.com regarding healing, mental health, and HIV prevention. Read article.

Read more inspiring stories.

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

Double the impact of a gift to DBSA on Giving Tuesday, November 29!

Step back from the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and celebrate the true spirit of the season. Consider a gift to DBSA on Giving Tuesday, November 29, a day when people throughout the world give to the causes closest to their heart.

This year, your Giving Tuesday gift to DBSA will have double the impact! DBSA’s board and staff will match, dollar for dollar, all individual donations up to $50,000 between now and November 29. A $25 donation becomes $50, $150 becomes $300, and $500 becomes $1,000, all working toward connecting people with mood disorders to a welcoming community of peer support, information, and resources to help them achieve and maintain wellness.

Please give the gift of wellness x2 on November 29 here. Your generosity may even save a life.

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.

Parent Connection: Setting Goals

Individuals living with or affected by mood disorders can often feel powerless. So, in 2016, DBSA launched the We are Powerful campaign. Throughout the year, we have talked about the many ways that individuals, parents, and families can embrace or reclaim power in their lives. One way to do this is by identifying what is important to you and setting the goals that will help turn that vision into a reality.

When you have a child with a mood disorder, this exercise can seem beyond your control. But creating goals, both short and long term, can actually help create power. A goal, for example, can be about finding the most accurate diagnosis or treatment plan that is best suited to your child. This type of goal, though, can take time so it is often helpful to create some shorter term goals, such as

  • creating a list of questions to ask your child’s clinicians
  • identifying the top three items that you’d like to focus on for your child and/or family
  • creating a wellness plan for you or your family
  • incorporating fun activities into your family’s schedule
  • finding peer support for yourself
  • researching pediatric mood disorders
  • completing a household task

Some individuals find that daily tasks can be incredibly helpful, while others prefer to set weekly, monthly, and/or annual goals.

Setting goals with your child can also be a rewarding experience. It is important to shape them to meet children where they are at in terms of age and the pressure of what is occurring in their lives. Goals might be as simple as completing chores, taking agreed-upon steps in a treatment plan, finishing homework, or doing something fun.

Consider focusing on the process of setting goals if a goal feels difficult. For example, if your child struggles with remembering or finishing homework, the first goal might be to remember to write down assignments in a planner.

Remember to celebrate achievements—no matter how small—as they occur for you and your child. Acknowledging a success helps build confidence and pride. When a goal isn’t met, it can be helpful to reflect on how or why this occurred and to consider it a learning and growth opportunity, rather than a failure.

Learn more about DBSA’s We are Powerful Campaign.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Concludes I to We Fall Tour with Leadership Weekend in Akron

This past weekend in Akron, Ohio, DBSA welcomed more than 225 very enthusiastic individuals for the DBSA I to We Leadership Weekend, the final stop on this year’s I to We Tour. These public events celebrate the many contributions of individuals living with mental health conditions; promote dialogue and action towards changing public perception about mental health conditions; and connect individuals seeking wellness to DBSA chapter and community resources. 

Our Akron weekend included an expanded I to We session, followed by the DBSA Leadership Forum which offered activities targeted to parents, young adults, grassroots mental health advocates, peer and DBSA chapter leaders, and support group members. Especially inspiring were keynote presentations by activist Melody Moezzi, Harvard Medical School Professor of Psychiatry Mark Bauer, MD, and Tim Bono, PhD, assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Washington University as well as remarks by our 2016 Life Unlimited Award winner, Miguel Garcia.

In addition to our many wonderful speakers at this I to We event and those in Baltimore (September 17) and Seattle (October 2)—Melody joined us for all three!—we are very grateful to our many community partners in each city. They contributed a great deal to the success of these events and we thank them for helping us shift the focus this year from I to We.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

There’s still time to take our surveys on bipolar disorder!

Please lend your voice to these surveys and help your peers.

Less Common Side Effects of Bipolar Disorder 
This survey was designed to measure the effect of psychiatric medications—including anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressants—on people with bipolar disorder. Deadline for survey participation is November 18, 2016Take survey now.

Preferences for the Treatment of Bipolar Disorder  
This survey seeks the opinions of people living with bipolar disorder and their family members on what treatments are most helpful in preventing recurrences or staying well. Deadline for survey participation is December 1, 2016. Take survey now.

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

Ask the Doc: An adult family member has bipolar disorder so I’m pretty familiar with the condition. Now my daughter has been diagnosed. Can you tell me if her disorder will “look” the same as her uncle’s? Is bipolar disorder in children the same thing as bipolar disorder in adults?

Bipolar disorder certainly runs in families. Studies of twins suggest that genetics accounts for about half of the risk of developing bipolar disorder. And some specific aspects of bipolar disorder run in families. For example, whether or not someone with bipolar disorder experiences symptoms of psychosis (hallucinations and delusions) during mood episodes is also influenced by genetics.

But bipolar disorder is also highly variable—not just within families, but even within the same person across different stages of life. And that variation is not very predictable—by genetics or anything else. So we would not necessarily expect that patterns of mood symptoms (slow cycles vs. rapid, predominant depression vs. predominant mixed or manic) would be consistent within families.

We believe that responses to specific treatments, especially medication treatments, is influenced by genetics. If that is true, then we would expect that responses to treatments (like a good or bad response to lithium) would be similar among family members. But the research on this question so far has not produced any clear answers. Most doctors will still ask about family members’ responses to treatments and consider that information when recommending treatment. But we should acknowledge that the scientific evidence for that practice is pretty weak.

Finally, bipolar disorder is probably even more variable and less predictable among children and teens. Follow-up studies show that patterns of mood symptoms often change significantly between adolescence and adulthood. So we should be cautious making any long-term predictions about how symptoms of bipolar disorder will change (or even resolve) over that time.

So I certainly would not tell your child, “You have bipolar disorder, so you’ll grow up to be like Uncle Ken.”  But I might say, “People used to be ashamed of things like this. Your Uncle Ken had to learn on his own how to stay healthy and avoid mood swings. Maybe some of the things he learned could help you.”

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.

bp Magazine: Practically Positive: Transforming Your Negative Thinking

These simple yet surprisingly powerful strategies to break free of the loop that links bipolar depression, anxiety and negative thinking may just transform your life. Read article.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

The close of the election cycle means kicking advocacy into high gear!

We’ve just ended one of the most polarizing elections in US history. Maybe your candidates won—perhaps they lost. Maybe you had the opportunity to vote in favor of ballot initiatives that support access to quality mental health care or end discrimination for people living with mental health conditions.

Win or lose, once the votes have been counted the opportunity for an effective advocacy strategy could not be better. Whether your legislators are incumbents who won their race or first-time candidates who will be sworn into office, now is the time to educate them about the value of supporting positive mental health policies. DBSA provides several resources to help you. Our Legislative Fact Sheet, for example, provides statistics on the economic and human costs of untreated or under-treated mental health conditions. Once you have your legislators’ attention, use the fact sheet to show them positive choices that can be part of the solution, including support groups. You can also educate your legislators about the value of peer support services and peer specialists with the DBSA Peer Support Fact Sheet and FAQs.

In 2017 DBSA will be offering legislative workshops in states with a DBSA Grassroots Organization. At this workshop attendees will

  • learn about relevant issues in their states;
  • gain insights into how to tell their story as it relates to those issues; and
  • be given an opportunity to role play a meeting with a legislator.

The first workshop will take place in January in New Jersey (register now), with others being planned for Texas, Florida, and Illinois in early 2017. Subscribe to the DBSA advocacy newsletter Making Mental Health Matter to receive updated information as it becomes available on these workshops.

Another way to get involved in advocacy is to participate in a mental health day as part of a state mental health coalition. DBSA is once again supporting Texas Capital Day as part of the Texas Mental Health Awareness Coalition. This is a biannual event, so don’t miss it! You can register now.

Be sure to subscribe to the DBSA advocacy platform to stay informed about national issues, respond to action alerts, and receive the monthly advocacy newsletter. Remember, whether your preferred candidate won or lost, you still have a voice. Now is the time to use it.

News from Our Advocacy Blog: Mental Health and Older Adults

Is depression experienced, witnessed, and treated differently in older adults? Daniel Sewell reviews the benefits of receiving mental health care at the primary care provider’s office on our blog CareForYourMind.org. Read article.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

We Are Powerful: I am an upstander for mental health.

DBSA launched in January 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; November’s theme is I am an upstander for mental health. The late Elie Wiesel once said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” If we are to end discrimination against people living with mental health conditions, we cannot be passive bystanders. Learn more about becoming an upstander for mental health at DBSA’s Advocacy Center.

How will you raise your voice this month on behalf of mental health and your peers? Share your experiences on our Facebook page November 25, Point Points Friday.

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

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

I don’t know many people—no matter their political views or background—who haven’t found 2016 and its elections to be a dizzying, often stomach-turning rollercoaster ride. Now that we know the results, some found that their rollercoasters terminated in a soft, reassuring return; others had the rollercoaster lurch and race further, plummeting and spiraling in frightening free-fall. Among the former, we see some who are strident or brash: people could call these folks “sore winners,” I suppose. Others pleased with the election results claim defensiveness or a pervasive misunderstanding about who they really are. Among those terrified by the outcome, there is acute anxiety and numbing hopelessness. There is also something else among those who wanted, even anticipated, a different outcome than we have: a potent rage. I know there are people from both groups reading this note. I also know that people from both groups experience depression and bipolar disorder—and so all of these individuals, no matter how we compare on the carnival ride, are my peers.

The effects of a divisive 2016 and a polarizing election are felt not only by us, but by our children, too, as several media outlets have noted. Indeed, I received this note that illustrates the uncertainty—and the need for support and education: “It's likely that support for people who are struggling is going to be more important than ever in the upcoming years. My son, who is 8, has a tremendous amount of anxiety and it manifests in ways that baffle me. His difficult behaviors have really spiked this last week, and it's hard to know whether or how much the election has to do with that. Last year was a rough one, but this school year had been going pretty well thus far . . . No doubt about it, his struggles (and my struggles to understand him) have given me great appreciation for the mental health support we've received as a family.”

With chaos, uncertainty, and a painful sense of rupture as our backdrop, we entered our DBSA I to We Leadership Weekend last Friday and Saturday. While I well know, appreciate, and admire so many of the speakers, participants, and of course the staff, I still didn’t know what to expect. I was scared that our microcosm of 225 people could mirror our national fracture and that we’d have as much hurting as helping at this particular event. Instead, it was quite the opposite. The two-day event, which received leadership support and significant on-the-ground assistance from the excellent Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation, was an immensely healing and galvanizing experience for most everyone who attended. Hearing from a diverse array of keynotes, including Dr. Mark Bauer, Dr. Tim Bono, Melody Moezzi, Gayathri Ramprasad, and our very own Beth Egge, we had the opportunity to explore the ways in which we can help ourselves to be healthier and ultimately well; how to understand and listen to others who are struggling; and how to take what we’ve found for ourselves and learned from one another out into a world that so desperately needs it. We were inspired by this year’s Life Unlimited Award recipient, Miguel Garcia. His decision to help others and ultimately embrace mental health advocacy were a huge part of his recovery and ultimate return to Harvard, where he’d had to discontinue studies after a crisis with bipolar disorder. And very importantly, we at the I to We Leadership Weekend found that we could engage, and even disagree, while maintaining our own dignity and allowing for the humanity of our peers.

Depression and bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions, have been around as long as people have been on earth; these conditions don’t favor a particular gender or race or political party. They are experienced by and all too often are debilitating or even deadly for a diverse spectrum of individuals. People coped with depression and bipolar disorder before November 9, 2016, and they are coping now and will into the future, far after that complicated day. Mental health was too low a national priority before the election, and it will also be after the election unless we continue our work as advocates. And there’s every indication that this nation will need much more—not less—of the information, empowerment, support, and inspiration that DBSA provides. We need support groups and online support groups and parent-and-youth-focused resources so that we can address mental health challenges, and we need education and tools and resources to allow for achieving and maintaining wellness.

To do this, DBSA needs you. Please support our Giving Tuesday campaign once again this year and help us raise $100,000 or more! Every dollar contributed on Tuesday, November 29, 2016, will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000, by the DBSA Board of Directors and staff. You can make a gift and instantly double its impact on Giving Tuesday. We need your support now more than ever because our nation needs it—and as far as we can tell, it always will.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

Adjust your sails to reach your destination
"I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination." ‒Jimmy Dean.

Good enough
I only have to be good enough for myself. Everyone else’s opinion is irrelevant.

Recovery focus
Give meds 30 weeks. If they aren’t working, change them.  It took me 20 years to find the right one one‒don’t make the same mistake.

Visit the FacingUs.org 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

Giving Tuesday
November 29