DBSA e-Update April 2017

Thank You DBSA Volunteers
Sneak Peek into May Mental Health Month Activities
Parent Connection: The Facing Us Clubhouse
Welcome to Our Newest Chapters!
DBSA PLC Online Courses are FREE in May!
Ask the Doc: Can an Antidepressant Stop Working?
Don’t miss out on DBSA Core Specialist Training this June!
DBSA and Volunteers of America Partner to Train Veterans
Fight to Keep Affordable Care Act Continues
Care for Your Mind: WHO World Health Day
Life Unlimited: Meet Rachael Reed
Allen’s Note
bp Magazine: Bipolar & Setting Personal Boundaries
Wellness Tips from Peers
Save the Date

Thank You DBSA Volunteers

Each organization has something special that makes it unique—that allows it to stand out, to fulfill its mission, and to make a difference. At DBSA, that “something special” is the people who make up our community, particularly the volunteers who work tirelessly to fulfill our mission in their communities, across our country, and even in some international locations. DBSA’s volunteers fill a wide array of crucial positions:

  • Office Volunteers
  • Chapter and State Organization Leaders
  • Support Group Facilitators
  • Balanced Mind Parent Network Moderators
  • Helpline Volunteers
  • Grassroots Advocates
  • Young Adult Council
  • Scientific Advisory Board Members
  • Board of Directors

Each volunteer fills a particular role with their time, talent, and area of expertise. They use their life experiences to complete imperative tasks, support and empower those on similar paths, provide education, reduce stigma, and ensure that DBSA’s mission is constantly moving forward. DBSA’s volunteers positively affect the lives of individuals living with or affected by mood disorders every day.

DBSA’s mission is to provide hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders. Our volunteers help do this and so much more.

In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 23-29, 2017), DBSA would like to thank each volunteer who has participated in our work. We also acknowledge our volunteers’ contributions throughout the entire year. DBSA is incredibly grateful, humbled, and inspired by this generosity.

To each person who has given of their time—Thank you!

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Sneak Peek at May Mental Health Activities

In celebration of Mental Health Month, we invite you to join us during May to connect with a community of people who know the challenges and victories of life with a mood disorder—their own, or those of a child, family member, or friend. Whether you’re helping a fellow peer who lives with a mood disorder, or are the parent, family member, or friend of someone who does, support from others is a critical component of wellness—not only for the person you’re helping, but you! A community of support magnifies our ability to share concerns, learn new wellness strategies, lend a friendly ear, discover ways to advocate, celebrate our successes, and turn feelings of isolation and exclusion to feelings of belonging to a community of people doing good in the world—for ourselves and others.

Starting May 1, look for #MoodVillage posts on DBSA’s social media accounts and at DBSAlliance.org/MoodVillage throughout the month of May!

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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: The Facing Us Clubhouse

DBSA believes that each person’s path to wellness is uniquely his or her own, and that finding that path can often require both trial and error and meaningful, active planning. As you and your child work to discover what is most useful on your own paths to wellness, it may be helpful to record your experiences in a way that is meaningful for the both of you.

The Facing Us Clubhouse is an online home that provides support and inspiration for a life of health and well-being. With rooms dedicated to different wellness strategies, the Clubhouse can be an easy and accessible way for your child to visualize and record different aspects of maintaining wellness.

  • The Living Room offers a personal online journal to reflect, acknowledge worries and fears, practice gratitude, or work on creative writing in a safe and private setting.
  • The Study is designated as a place to create a personal wellness plan, and includes a step-by-step program to help individuals create an action plan that puts wellness, balance, and health at the forefront of every day.
  • In The Kitchen, you and your child can work on his or her wellness book—a place to record tips, reminders, and advice to help your child be mindful of ways to live better each day.
  • Other areas of the Clubhouse, such as the Creativity Center or the Media Room, provide podcasts, online courses, workshops, and additional resources to help you further develop wellness strategies for your child.

Learn more at FacingUs.org

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DBSA Chapters

Welcome to Our Newest Chapters!

DBSA is proud to recognize four new chapters that have joined the DBSA family in 2017:

  • DBSA Hendersonville (TN)
  • DBSA Los Angeles California (CA)
  • DBSA Sauk Valley (IL)
  • DBSA Aloha Honolulu (HI)

These chapters offer free support group meetings in their city, where peers can share their experiences, feelings, information, and strategies for living successfully with a mood disorder. If you are interested in attending a DBSA support group, you can find the contact information for these chapters or the one nearest to you by using our online support group locater at DBSAlliance.org/FindSupport.

If there is not a support group near you, consider starting one! Peers without any prior experience start the majority of DBSA chapters—DBSA provides facilitator training! For more information, please request our Chapter Start-Up Guide which will provide you with an overview of DBSA chapters and all that they do, as well as the step-by-step process of becoming affiliated. If you have any questions, contact Nareth Phin at (800) 826-3632 x170 or NPhin@DBSAlliance.org.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA PLC Online Courses are FREE in May!

Please join us in celebrating Mental Health Month this May. The Peer Leadership Center is dedicated to advancing the field of peer support and the peer provider workforce. In this free online community for peers, you can access webinars, discussion boards and live chats, continuing educations courses, networking, event calendars, and a job board. Membership is available for peer supporters, peer specialists, and organizations.

In honor of Mental Health Month, all DBSA online courses on the PLC will be free during the month of May with the coupon code: MAY2017. This coupon code will be valid to use beginning May 1, 2017 through May 31, 2017.

Currently, there are five courses available:

  • Conflict Resolution
  • Employment Literacy
  • Living Successfully with a Mood Disorder
  • Recovery Goal-setting with Peers
  • Veteran Peers Navigating Moral Paradoxes

As a reminder, members can always access the recorded webinars for free. If you aren’t already a member, celebrate Mental Health Month by becoming a member of the DBSA Peer Leadership Center! Membership is free, and in May, so are all the courses. If you have any questions, please contact PeerLeadershipCenter@DBSAlliance.org.

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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.

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.

Ask the Doc

I have been on the same antidepressant since I was 18 years old, and I am now 31. Within the past couple of years, I have been having lots of numbness, dizziness, and stomach issues. My doctor believed it was from the antidepressant, so we reduced the dose. Now, when I am stressed or overwhelmed, I tend to get thoughts of harming myself. But I'm reluctant to try any other medicine or to even continue this one due to the side effects.

If you have been taking a medication for many years, it can be hard to know for sure how much it is really helping and whether it is causing side effects. Sometimes, the only way to know is to experiment by lowering the dose to see whether things get better or worse. If you do that experiment, you want to pay attention to both side effects and effects on your mood.

Most side effects of antidepressants are related to the actual level of medication in your bloodstream, so they change within a few days of decreasing or increasing the dose.  If nausea gets better within a few days of decreasing or stopping an antidepressant, then the medication was probably the cause. But if nausea doesn’t get better in a few days, then it is probably not due to the antidepressant. Some possible side effects (like weight gain or hair loss) take longer to change.

Antidepressant effects on your mood take longer to come on if you start or increase medication, or fade out if you decrease or stop medication. So it would take a few weeks after decreasing medication to see if mood symptoms get worse—and to decide if the medication was really helping.

In your situation, it does sound like the antidepressant was helping since you noticed more thoughts about self-harm after decreasing it. It is not clear from your question whether those other problems—dizziness, numbness, and nausea—actually got better when you decreased the dose. If they did not change, that makes it less likely they are caused by the antidepressant.

Trying a different medication is never easy, since you just cannot know in advance how any medication will affect you. Every individual is different, but research on changing antidepressants does tell us some useful things in general:

  • If one antidepressant medication did not work or stopped working that does not necessarily mean that another similar medication will not work.
  • Getting side effects from one medication does not necessarily mean you would have similar side effects from some other antidepressant, even one that we think of as similar.
  • If an antidepressant medication did help you but you had to stop it because of side effects, that is a hopeful sign about a different medication being helpful. 

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Don’t miss out on DBSA Core Peer Specialist Training!

DBSA is excited to be holding its Core Peer Specialist Training in June, and we would love for you to join us. Be sure to act soon because the registration deadline is April 24!

Every year, DBSA trains and certifies peers from across the country using nationally recognized trainers. These trainers have lived experience with a mental health or substance use disorder, are certified peer specialists, and have extensive experience supporting others on their recovery journey. The mental health field recognizes and respects the integral role that peer specialists play in improving mental health outcomes and decreasing stigma through the support, perspective, and hope that they lend to their peers. Many peer specialists pursue employment in the community, while others choose to focus on volunteer and advocacy roles—but whatever you do, this is a chance to make a difference.

Being a peer specialist has been the single most important part of my own recovery. Matt, VA Peer Support Specialist

Many of us who make up the DBSA community know firsthand what it is like to experience a challenge, and what a life-changing difference peer support makes in moving forward. Becoming a peer specialist is an opportunity to use your knowledge, expertise, and experience to make a difference in the lives of others, and spread hope, decrease stigma, and support your peers on their paths to wellness.

Register now, or for more information about DBSA’s Peer Specialist Training, visit DBSAlliance.org/Training.

Questions? Contact Training@DBSAlliance.org.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA and Volunteers of America Partner to Train Veterans

Pictured above are members of VOA National Veterans Resource Squad 2. Trainers Jean Dukarski, Ramon Gonzales, Lisa Goodale, and Lucy Ingram, and Caroline Meehan of Volunteers of America. Thank you to all of the Veterans who attended for a fantastic training!

During the week of March 6, DBSA and Volunteers of America held a Veteran Peer Specialist Training in San Antonio, TX. The training brought together fifteen Veterans, from Volunteers of America that make up the National Veterans Resource Squad, to gain certification to serve Veterans at the VA and in the community.

Caroline Meehan, of Volunteers of America, noted “Through our partnership with DBSA over the past several years, Volunteers of America has been able to unleash the talents and passion of the many Veterans who work in our programs across the country. DBSA has been a key partner in the development of our National Veterans Resource Squad, a group of VOA employees who are providing critical services such as peer support and suicide alertness and intervention to their fellow Veterans and other community partners.”  

During the weeklong training, participants learned the skills, competencies, and ethics necessary to carry out peer specialist work with a focus on supporting other Veterans. A core part of the training was learning how to share one’s story about recovery and wellness in a way that can inspire hope and motivate peers to move forward in their own recovery.

One participant shared that differentiating between the recovery and illness stories was one of the most meaningful aspects of the training, adding that, “It’s hard to remember sometimes that I am in recovery and also to focus on the how I got here story and not the how I got broken story.”

Each Veteran brought with them a diversity of experience, both in their recoveries and their reasons for wanting to pursue peer specialist certification. In the words of one Veteran, “The reason I wanted to take this opportunity is because of my passion for Veterans. I saw this certification as not only an opportunity to advance my knowledge on Veteran’s behaviors/addictions, but to reach new heights in my fight against Veteran suicide and depression.”

Culture was another area explored in the training, particularly how aspects of military culture can support Veterans’ recovery. Participants hoped to advocate increasing acceptance of mental health conditions, including trauma in the military, and decreasing stigma for seeking treatment for mental health and substance use conditions in the Veteran community.  Many noted that they wanted to provide to other Veterans with hope that recovery is possible.

Jean Dukarski, a nationally recognized trainer who co-facilitated the training, stated that these trainings, “Allow a person to rewrite the narrative of their lives. The things they may have felt shame about or the trauma they may have experienced, can now have a noble purpose. Becoming a peer specialist gives a person a sense of meaning and purpose that takes recovery to an even greater level.”

At the end of the training, fifteen Veterans went out into the community with the skills necessary to be peer specialists, integrate these skills into their work, and share a sense of purpose and community. As one participant shared, “The training provided me with a sense of belonging, validation, companionship, and education of reminders of where I was, where I am, and where I am going by mentoring others.”

DBSA and Volunteers of America look forward to continued collaboration to, as Meehan notes, “Significantly enhance the services and resources Volunteers of America offer to the roughly 40,000 Veterans and family members we reach each year.” The DBSA training team and family is proud and honored to be a part of this process and values each and every Veteran that we have had the privilege of training over the years.

Interested in DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist Training? Our next course is in September! For information and to register, visit: DBSAlliance.org/Veterans. Questions? Contact Training@DBSAlliance.org or 312-988-1164.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Fight to Keep the Affordable Care Act Continues

On Friday, March 24, the U.S. House of Representatives pulled the bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Hard-won benefits that are now retained include:

  • Requirement to include mental health coverage in insurance plans
  • Coverage without annual and lifetime financial restrictions
  • Mental health parity (equal coverage for physical and mental health)

Your advocacy and engagement—responding to requests to call or write your U.S. Representative—have paid off.  Congratulate yourself. Pat yourself on the back. And get back to work!

These and other issues are addressed every day by those same tireless advocates who made sure you still have health insurance as provided by the Affordable Care Act. So take a moment. Celebrate the victory and then get back in the game. DBSA makes it easy for you to be engaged. Simply subscribe to the DBSA advocacy platform at DBSAlliance.org/TakeAction.

When you subscribe, you will receive communications updating you on activities at both the state and federal level. You will receive alerts asking you to contact your elected officials at the most advantageous times. Most importantly, you will receive the satisfaction of knowing you are making a difference.  

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News from DBSA’s Advocacy Blog Care for Your Mind

To celebrate World Health Day on April 7, the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health launched: WHO World Health Day. Depression: Let’s Talk, which focuses on the current refugee crisis and refugee’s access to mental health. Read more.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Rachael Reed

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

Life Unlimited: Meet Rachael Reed

Ever since I was a child, I felt different, too emotional for my own good. When I was fourteen, the feelings became too much, and my doctor prescribed an antidepressant. At seventeen, I was hospitalized for having delusional thoughts and hurting myself. It felt like I hadn’t slept in weeks, and the most terrifying thing in the world was happening. I was watching myself go crazy; snapping in and out of it like my brain was pulling some sort of cruel joke on me. Bipolar disorder was so difficult to understand. What did this mean? Was I going to be this way forever? I felt branded; ashamed of who I was, unable to picture a successful future for myself.

After I accepted my diagnosis, I suddenly found bipolar disorder to be part of my identity, even as a well-kept secret hidden from most friends and family. However, it made me creative and artistic. It made me see the world from a million different perspectives, depending on whatever mood decided to take control. In that process, I lost myself, or at least the person I wanted to be. I gave my mental health condition all the power and decided to use, “I’m bipolar,” as an explanation to myself.

My dream of becoming a scientist had fallen by the wayside, but this time I recognized I needed help. As soon as I worked up the courage to try to get better, I realized life did not have to be so hard. At twenty years old, I’ve confided in others and, to my surprise, have received immense support and acceptance. I’ve learned to never underestimate the love and selflessness of people. I’ve found the gumption to go back to school for biology with a neuroscience concentration. Maybe I can become an expert on the brain, and someday find a better treatment, or even a cure for bipolar disorder.

Another thing that helps me immensely is writing everything down. Now, when I feel an episode coming on, when I feel like I am going down the wrong path, I try to recognize those feelings, know that they are only feelings, and write them down. It helps me think more logically, even when my body is screaming at me to think otherwise. Also, I try not to let my health fall by the wayside. Therapy, effective medications, exercise, pets, and healthy eating have been important factors in my recovery.

Lastly, I try not to describe myself as a bipolar person. I have bipolar disorder—a chemical imbalance in my brain. It doesn’t make me who I am. I am who I choose to be. I keep on the right path by remembering that the most important things in life are not fleeting, and also by the support of friends and family. Being honest about the way I feel, accepting and loving myself, living healthily, and being determined to get help have gotten me this far.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

Among the people in my life, whether family and loved ones, colleagues, or the many friends I've made during my journey with DBSA and mental health advocacy, I've found that the active—sometimes busiest or even most overwhelmed!—volunteers seem to have a perspective and a resilience that's quite inspiring. This observation strikes me as we approach National Volunteer Week, an annual celebration of volunteers and opportunity to explore ways in which we might want to join in the efforts to give back and make a difference in the world. 

Indeed, so many of the volunteers I know embody the evidence gathered in a 2013 review of scientific literature about volunteerism, which demonstrated reduced depression, greater sense of wellbeing, and even improved longevity among those who regularly volunteered for a cause in which they believe. 

There's a member of my family, who just last night texted me about her stress over pronouncing all of the names within an awards presentation she's hosting as part of a volunteer role, but who nevertheless has extraordinary hope and resilience in the face of numerous health challenges. Could essentially signing on for some stress—but stress that benefits and celebrates others—be almost a kind of health intervention?

Each Tuesday, a DBSA friend and colleague departs for her volunteer commitment with a DBSA chapter's suuport group—about two hours more in the vein she's been working all day. Yet she never misses it, and she has more energy, drive, and positivity than just about anyone I know. Is working more and harder in this instance an energy boost of sorts?

A longtime friend, whom I came to know thanks to her leadership on the DBSA board of directors, is on the board of not only DBSA, but at least three other organizations, and she must volunteer for another five or six organizations over top of that. Even as she and her husband have faced family and health issues over the past few years, she has remarkably consistent energy and an optimistic outlook on life. I have to suspect that helping so many others is helpful to her, in many respects.

Another friend I'm so fortunate to have met through DBSA, a DBSA chapter leader and support group facilitator for many years and a volunteer leader for DRADA prior to that, looks at least 15 years younger than she is and—despite working countless hours (and certainly enduring stress and frustration at times) to ensure free, in-person peer support for her community—describes her life being as content and depression-free as it has ever been. Another inspiration and example of why we may all want to think about how we can support others and, in so doing, feel better and stronger ourselves.

I'm grateful to each of these people, just as I'm so thankful for the thousands of individuals who, through their passion and kindness as DBSA volunteers, make our mission to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders a reality.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Bipolar & Setting Boundaries

Establishing boundaries is a challenge for me. Maybe if I understood this better, I would be more successful at work and in my relationships. Read the article.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Facing Us Clubhouse

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.

Wellness Tips from Peers

I remember a time when I liked to do this thing. I don’t lately, but I’ll try it again because maybe the motivation will come back.

Bipolar Disorder
Finding quotes on Pinterest that I can either relate to or that make me feel validated in my emotions can really bring me to a balanced state of mind.

Maybe it won’t work out, but maybe seeing if it does will be the best adventure ever.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

PLC Discussion Chat—Facilitating Support Groups
April 20 (Thursday)
1 p.m. Central Time

Core Peer Specialist Training
Chicago, IL
June 5-9, 2017
Apply Now Deadline is April 24!

Veteran Peer Specialist Training
Chicago, IL
September 11-16, 2017
Apply Now

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