DBSA e-Update October 2016

Feature: Two New DBSA Surveys on Bipolar Disorder
Chapter Spotlight: DBSA Portland Maine
Parent Connection: DBSA’s Family Resources
I to We Leadership Weekend November 11-12
Join the Young Adult Council!
I’m Here… for Mental Health this October
Global Peer Supporter Celebration Day
Ask the Doc: I struggle with self-harm. How can I stop?
bp Magazine: Comic Maria Bamford
Peer Leadership Center: Share Your Thoughts on Programming
Advocacy: DBSA and the Presidential Debates
News from Our Advocacy Blog: Politics and Mental Health
We Are Powerful: I Make a Difference in the Lives of Others
Life Unlimited: Meet Bryan
Nominations for DBSA’s Life Unlimited Award Close October 21
Allen’s Note
Wellness Tips: Overcoming Shame! Getting Things Done! Jam Out!
Save the Date

Take DBSA Surveys on Uncommon Side Effects and Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

An oft-heard expression is “Nothing about us without us!” DBSA wholeheartedly agrees, and would like to expand that to “Everything about us with us!” This statement is particularly true when it comes to establishing which treatments (medical, therapeutic, and self-driven) are most helpful in achieving mental health.

DBSA works to ensure that the voices of people living with or affected by depression or bipolar disorder are heard. This is reflected in our advocacy work, our communications, our support of the peer workforce, and our work on multiple long-term research grants funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The Institute “works to determine which of the many healthcare options available to patients and those who care for them work best in particular circumstances . . . by conducting research that addresses the questions and concerns most relevant to patients, caregivers, clinicians, and other healthcare stakeholders, along with researchers, throughout the process.”

While we’re excited about the movement towards patient-centered research and DBSA’s representation of the lived experience of mood disorders in PCORI studies, the results of these studies will take years to quantify. We believe your experience—as peers navigating to wellness, as parents seeking ways to build a better future for your children, and as family members looking for ways to support your loved ones—can play a critical role in how researchers, practicing clinicians, and industry focus their efforts today.

DBSA conducts a variety of surveys each year to collect your feedback on issues impacting the treatment of mood disorders. This month, we hope you’ll lend your voice to two surveys on bipolar disorder.

NEW SURVEY: 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. The survey explores preferences related to talk therapy, education, and research. Knowing what people value most in these areas will help mental health providers determine the most appropriate treatments and help individuals and their families understand the options available. The deadline for survey participation is December 1, 2016. Take survey now.

NEW SURVEY: 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. It covers areas such as side effects you may have experienced and your level of distress with them; strategies you’ve used to deal with side effects; whether you’ve been diagnosed with tardive dyskinesia and if so, the timing of onset; and any support systems you are using. The deadline for survey participation is November 18, 2016. Take survey now.

Chapter Spotlight: DBSA Portland Maine

DBSA Portland Maine is committed to outreach and serving the needs of its community. Through support groups, educational workshops, and group activities, the chapter ensures that peer support is available and accessible to all.

The chapter recently hosted an information booth at the Westbrook Together Days festival which has typically been attended by as many as 20,000 people. With DBSA literature and chapter information, the chapter’s board and support group participants spoke to people who may benefit from attending a DBSA support group as well as their friends and family members. Members of the local police attending the event made it clear that they were very pleased to have DBSA’s presence in the community. The chapter has also expanded its services by adding an additional support group, and looking to the future, the chapter leader has trained two new group facilitators.

In November, DBSA Portland Maine is hosting a three-hour workshop, "What's In Your Recovery Basket?" They’ve secured a dynamic keynote speaker and members of the support groups will share their stories of recovery and strength. There will also be a Q&A hour with the help of a panel knowledgeable in peer support principles as well as information tables hosted by local mental health service providers. The workshop has been a wonderful opportunity for the community to work together.

In addition to all their great work, the chapter offers opportunities to socialize. Potluck outings have been a great way to have fun and just sit and share with one another. The bonds they’ve created with each other are a shining example of how peer support can improve lives!

To see what some of our other affiliates are up to, visit the Chapter Spotlights section of our website!

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: DBSA’s Family Resources

DBSA has many helpful resources for families.

Getting Started
This information-packed brochure was created for parents or guardians of newly diagnosed children and those who suspect their child may have a mood disorder. 

Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN) Community  
BMPN is a great way to connect with other families and develop mutually beneficial friendships. It’s an online support community that provides 24/7 access to information and support which can be ideal for individuals who want frequent interaction and/or are unable to attend in-person meetings.

In-Person Support Groups
At support group meetings, peers share experiences, personal feelings, information, and strategies for living successfully with a mood disorder. While most support groups focus on the peer experience, family and friends groups may also be available. 

Online Support Groups
Support groups are also offered online in the same format as in-person groups.

For Teens
A special section of the DBSA website is targeted to this age group, offering information on depression and bipolar disorder, treatment options, and DBSA resources.

Family Library and Resources
BMPN has an online family library with resources that include helpful articles, external support organizations, educational information, and more.

Parent Connection News
“Parent Connection” is a column that appears each month in the DBSA eUpdate. Parents and guardians can find up-to-date information and resources about parenting children and adolescents with depression and bipolar disorder. News about the BMPN online support communities, the Helpline, and other family-focused programming is also featured.

DBSA’s Helpline is for individuals living with depression or bipolar disorder and their friends and family who are looking for resources specific to their situation and/or want to connect to a community of support.

Educational Library
Education is often the first step toward understanding a diagnosis, symptoms, and creating a path to wellness. DBSA offers educational materials that include brochures, podcasts, publications, videos, and webinars targeted to people living with mood disorders, their friends and family, and mental health professionals.

Resource highlights

Wellness Tracker
Wellness involves your whole health—emotional and mental as well as physical. The DBSA Wellness Tracker is a free, innovative, and user-friendly online tool that allows you to keep track of all three aspects of health.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA I to We Leadership Weekend November 11-12

If you missed our Baltimore and Seattle I to We events, you’ve got one more chance! The jam-packed I to We Leadership Weekend takes place on Friday and Saturday, November 11 and 12 in Akron, Ohio. It’s free of charge but we ask that you register.

We open on Friday with a dialogue about changing public perception of mental health disorders and celebrating the contributions of people living with these conditions. Our keynotes, including activist Melody Moezzi, will examine new findings in depression and bipolar disorder as well as how to utilize positive psychology to build and maintain wellness.

Day Two is DBSA’s Leadership Forum, designed for parents, young adults, grassroots mental health advocates, peer specialists, and DBSA chapter leaders or support group members. You’ll learn how to provide support to people living with mood disorders and how to advocate for change in mental health. Keynote speakers will talk about the power of storytelling and building resilience.

DBSA is proud to partner for this event with DBSA Akron Area, DBSA Pathways to Healthy Families, DBSA Solon, DBSA Wayne & Holmes Counties, Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center at NEOMED, Cleveland Clinic Akron General, Community Support Services, Portage Path Behavioral Health, and University Hospitals Case Medical Center‒Mood Disorders Program.

See you in Akron!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Are you 18-29? DBSA’s Young Adult Council Needs You!

Young adults with mood disorders between the ages of 18 to 29 face unique challenges as they transition from high school to entering the workforce or college to starting a career and/or a family of their own. To meet these needs, we founded a Young Adult Council to advise DBSA on outreach and specialized programming designed specifically to help young adults as they transition from family support to independence.

The Council recently completed a series of informational podcasts and with several new projects underway, they are looking to expand their ranks. Are you interested in becoming a member? For more information, contact the Council here.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

I’m here… for Mental Health this October

Each October, DBSA joins many other organizations in drawing attention to mental health. Be part of the movement! Reach out to someone in need or begin the conversation about your own condition with our program, I’m here….

One out of ten people live with a mood disorder which makes it likely that you or someone you know has to manage the day-to-day—sometimes minute-to-minute—challenges that living with a mood disorder poses. Learning to navigate in an ever-changing world that is still relatively new to mental health treatment can be overwhelming and sometimes isolating, not only for those who live with a mood disorder, but also for their friends and loved ones. I’m here... is a way for people living with a mood disorder and those who support them to open up a channel for communication and say, “I’m here...”  

Knowing that you’re not alone on your journey is an important part of wellness, but reaching out to others can be difficult and sometimes may seem impossible. On the flip side, it can be challenging for someone to watch a friend or family member struggle with mood disorder symptoms and not know what to say or do. The goal of I’m here... isn’t to “fix” anyone or be a counselor; it’s to connect with another person and build awareness. Get started!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Global Peer Supporter Celebration Day

Congratulation to INAPS on their second Global Peer Supporter Celebration Day! Observed around the world on October 20, the day’s intent is to increase awareness of peer supporters, what they do, and the many valuable contributions they make to human services. Peer supporters and others in the behavioral health field join the celebration by initiating events in their local communities, such as asking state and local governments to pass formal resolutions recognizing peer supporters, offering presentations for local civic groups and schools, and hosting information booths in public venues. Learn more.  

“Recovery from mental health and addictions is now an expectation and peer support is an important part of that recovery,” said Steve Harrington, founder and advisor for INAPS. “Years of research has shown that individuals with lived experience can inspire hope and support to those still struggling with the effects of these often devastating disorders.”

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: I have struggled with self-harm since I was in my early teens. Although the type of self-harm has changed, it has gotten steadily worse. How can I stop this behavior?

For some people, urges to self-harm (like cutting) are related to suicidal thoughts or a wish to die. For others, it is not about wanting to die. In either case, self-harm is often a response to painful or overwhelming feelings or thoughts.

While medications can help reduce mood or anxiety symptoms, they do not help with urges to self-harm. There are, however, specific kinds of psychotherapy that help. Effective psychotherapy for self-harm focuses on specific skills to manage the painful or overwhelming emotions that can trigger self-harm urges and behavior.

The best-known psychotherapy specific for self-harm is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT. DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan, a clinical psychologist who has lived with suicidal thoughts and self-harm urges since she was a teenager. Dr. Linehan’s program includes skills you can practice every day to build your resilience, like learning to observe strong emotions without either ignoring them or being overwhelmed by them. It also includes skills to help in crisis when self-harm urges are strong—like breathing exercises and “opposite action.”

If you are seeing a counselor or therapist, it’s important to speak openly about urges to self-harm and ask directly for help in managing them. Ask specifically about skills-based treatments like DBT. When you do, expect your therapist to focus on teaching. You’ll practice specific skills and work on actual homework assignments between sessions.

If you are looking for a new counselor or therapist, be sure to talk about self-harm as a problem you want help with and ask them about skills-based treatments like DBT.

You can learn more about DBT skills at NowMattersNow.org or DBTSelfHelp.com.

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: Maria Bamford Turns Bipolar into Funny Business

In both her standup routines and now in her Netflix series Lady Dynamite, aka comedian Maria Bamford, normalizes topics like bipolar depression, hospitalization, and obsessive thoughts. Read article.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

We Need Your Feedback!

Do you have topic ideas for PLC courses, webinars, and discussion chats? Share your thoughts by completing this survey.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Asks Presidential Candidates to Address Mental Health

The discrimination surrounding mental health conditions is exacerbated by silence. When people don’t talk about mental health in a positive and open manner, this vacuum in the dialogue can be filled by misinformation and bias. That’s why DBSA recently joined other mental health and disability organizations in asking the presidential candidates to discuss mental health during the presidential debates.

Under the direction of the Partnership to Improve Patient Care (PIPC), DBSA signed an open letter that was published in the newspapers of Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, and St. Louis—all major markets—during the weekend of the second presidential debate. Titled “We Deserve a Voice,” the letter stated that “we reject the notion that we should be bundled into a one-size-fits-all care model” and called for a “health care system that rewards outcomes that matter to us as patients and participants in this nation’s health system.”

As an active member of the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG), DBSA also signed a letter to Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, moderators of the second debate. It referenced mental health issues and called on Cooper and Raddatz “to raise the issue of the candidates’ plans for addressing this life-threatening and life-saving topic.” Outreach through MHLG also included a social media campaign with a poll; visitors were asked to vote for the questions moderators should ask candidates during the second debate. Almost 17,000 votes were cast for “fixing the broken mental health system.”

The goal of these campaigns is to raise our voices collectively. As a voting block, we represent a powerful constituency and as such, we must know and understand the candidates’ position on mental health issues. Please make sure to vote on or before November 8, not just for national representation but for your state and local representatives as well. Together we can and do make a difference.

News from Our Advocacy Blog: Politics and Mental Health

We’re counting down to the election on November 8. Do you know the Democratic and Republican candidates’ positions on mental health care? Read more.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

We Are Powerful: I Make a Difference in the Lives of Others

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; October’s theme is I Make a Difference in the Lives of Others. One of the best ways to find happiness, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose and belonging in your own life is to help change the lives of other people. This month, can you harness your power on behalf of someone else?

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
Bryan Barks

Life Unlimited: Meet Bryan Barks

One of the most emotional moments of my life was when I decided I was staying—when I took suicide off the table. I was stable for the first time in years, and as I stood in the shower in complete darkness, hot water and shampoo running down my back, I had a moment of clarity. I realized I was going to fully experience life with all its difficulties, heartache, monotony, delight, joy, and excitement. I committed to keep myself here, and in that moment, I cried tears of sadness and relief and strength.

I was 18 years old—a freshman in college—when I was hospitalized for the first time. For a year I had been taking different antidepressants which sent me into what my doctors recognize now as a mixed state. The on-call doctor spent about 15 minutes with me, told me I had major depression, switched me to a different antidepressant, and released me after 72 hours. A year later, after several more medication changes, I was back in a different hospital.

By this time, my life had almost completely collapsed. One month I felt like the most brilliant, productive, successful person on earth. The next month I was suicidal, convinced I was worthless and pathetic. I dropped out of college and moved back home. I slept most of the day and was suicidal during my few waking hours. All of the big dreams I once had for myself seemed completely unattainable. My mom would watch me sleep and cry, wondering if I would ever recover.

Unlike the first time I was hospitalized, the doctor at the second hospital spent several hours with me. At the end of my evaluation, I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. I learned that the antidepressants I was taking had likely made my moods more erratic and that my desire to do everything was not just a personality trait—it was hypomania. I spent the next few days talking with other patients—some of the strongest, most resilient people I have ever met— about their experiences.

Now, after years of therapy and the right combination of medications, I have my bachelor’s degree, live in Washington, DC, and have been able to pursue a fulfilling career. I am married to my high school sweetheart, who has been with me since the beginning of this journey and has loved me even when I felt unlovable. I lead a normal life, though I am aware of my bipolar disorder every day and often struggle with my moods, even in periods of relative stability. I am hyper-vigilant about changes in my sleep patterns, which often foreshadow a change in my mood. I am not the same person I was before bipolar disorder; the ongoing journey of recovery has made me stronger than I ever could have been without this illness.

Many people don’t like the word recovery to describe relief from the symptoms of a mood disorder; they prefer remission. I understand that. Even after diagnosis, I have changed medications too many times to count. When I’m depressed or overly energized, my doctor will add a medication, and when I’ve leveled out, I’ll go back to my baseline routine.

My doctors have always celebrated my successes with an asterisk. When you live with a mood disorder, there is always the possibility of relapse in the back of your mind. There is no cure for this condition, and I will struggle with it for the rest of my life. But to me, recovery means being able to live a normal life without the weight of the asterisk attached to my chest.

One of the most important concepts I have taken from treatment is that of self-efficacy—a belief in one’s own ability to overcome challenges and succeed in the face of adversity. Managing bipolar disorder—learning to take the positive things it has to offer and succeeding in spite of the negatives—has given me more pride, strength, and self-efficacy than any other accomplishment. I have weathered the most violent storms, and I’ve seen they always pass. When darkness comes again, I will keep hanging on for that inevitable shimmering light.

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

There’s Still Time—Nominate a Peer for the Life Unlimited Award!

Nominations are still open for DBSA’s Life Unlimited Award! To nominate a peer, fill out this application by October 21, 2016. The winner will be notified on or before October 27, 2016, and receives the award on November 12, 2016, in Akron, Ohio.

Established in 2012, the Life Unlimited Award honors individuals who exemplify a life unlimited by depression or bipolar disorder and who are actively working to help others do the same. Each year, one winner is chosen and flown to the DBSA Leadership Forum where they receive their award. DBSA covers all transportation, hotel, and food costs associated with attending the event. 

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

If there’s one thing I’ve noted time and again during my work as a mental health advocate—and  in many respects even during my time addressing my own mental health condition—it’s that people in our community work very hard. We have an abundance of dedicated and tireless champions with whom DBSA is immensely proud to stand. Indeed, to take on mental health as an area of focus for volunteering, advocacy, and community education and engagement is a challenging endeavor, with high stakes, huge unmet need, and numerous important potential areas of focus that all urgently need to be addressed. (And to have a mental health condition is an often challenging journey in the first place for those of us who approach our advocacy from the perspective of lived experience.)
So it’s no wonder that as advocates of all kinds, our attention can be pulled in many directions at once, and that we can feel fatigue as we consider the many competing requests for our time and attention. I’m sensitive to this, even as we at DBSA ask our colleagues and collaborators to participate in various initiatives. We know there’s only so much that can be put on one plate—and we make no request lightly, nor with anything but appreciation for your consideration.

As we enter the home stretch of an—I’ll just say, complicated—election season, I know I’m personally feeling some exhaustion and I’m sure I’m not alone. I offer my thanks and my esteem to all of you who make mental health—and creating the right conditions for everyone to attain and sustain it—your cause.

And if you’re not too exhausted, I hope you’ll consider lending your voice to one or both of the surveys we’re conducting this fall. One is through the DBSA Consumer and Family Survey Center and seeks to understand what treatments are most helpful for maintaining wellness and preventing symptom recurrence or relapse: Preferences for the Treatment of Bipolar Disorder. The other survey, Less Common Side Effects of Bipolar Disorder, looks at the effect of psychiatric medications, including some side effects we don’t talk about much anymore but that are still present for many people, like tardive dyskinesia.

Another option to consider, but available only tomorrow, is to help celebrate Global Peer Supporter Day! Visit the Global Peer Supporter Day Facebook page or you can just e-mail your celebratory photos and ideas.

Whether you can take part in any of these initiatives or not, we at DBSA thank you for your energy and dedication during this season, and all seasons. We need it, and we recognize the extraordinary commitment you have made to DBSA and to the mental health community. We couldn’t do it without you!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

Recovery Focus
I accept, embrace, and love my shame of my mood disorder. I am ok now.

Give each task one hour to complete. If you finish before the hour is up, do something you like. Also try alternating a task you like with one you don’t like. For me it has been extremely productive and keeps me busy while doing everything I should or want to do.

Jam out
Music is a powerful thing. Whenever I feel particularly stressed, anxious, or upset, listening to my favorite songs helps to calm my mind and lets me take a break from the strain of life.

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

Global Peer Supporter Celebration 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