DBSA e-Update December 2017

Tony Jefferson Intercepts Depression and Bipolar for DBSA

By Jake Appleman

Baltimore, MD -- Not many professional athletes choose to raise awareness for depression and bipolar disorder, but for the second straight year Baltimore Ravens strong safety Tony Jefferson is doing just that.

With the words “beat depression” on his right cleat and “treat bipolar” on his left, Jefferson brought attention to mood disorders through the #MyCauseMyCleats campaign on Sunday. The Ravens beat the Lions, 44-20, and Jefferson, who came to the cause because of family members dealing with mental health challenges, made five tackles in his specialized kicks. Jefferson’s purple, green and gold Nikes will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to DBSA. Last year, Jefferson’s cleats raised $305. Jefferson’s shoes are currently available for auction by the NFL Foundation online until December 24.

Read full story...

Back ↑

Life Unlimited
Bryan Rich

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 Bryan Rich

Adapt. Improvise. Overcome....  This saying was powerful while I was serving in the United States Army, and it still is. I continue to live by this saying, and it has gotten me through some tough challenges.

Having grown up a country boy in Oklahoma, I was transplanted to the city―a typical kid enjoying my youth, hanging out with my friends, and playing sports. Of course, I knew everything and was untouchable, though actually I was probably a pain in the rear for my parents! I had an older brother and my parents are still together, so life was good, except for the part where I got my General Education Diploma. That’s right, I never graduated high school―and still would not change that. In October of 2000, I joined the United States Army and graduated Soldier Leader in my cycle out of Basic Training.

I deployed to Iraq in 2003 and served my country with pride. However, when I came home, I was different. I began to push people away, avoided situations that reminded me of being in Iraq, and began to isolate myself. I was always on-guard. I had been injured in combat and was Honorably Discharged in 2004. I didn’t want this: I wanted to continue to excel and become the perfect soldier, which is what I had been trained for. 

I was sinking and didn’t even care that all those around me were suffering too. My marriage was failing, and I was even pushing my kids away. I had lost all hope and was planning my own suicide. I had reached my all-time low and just wanted the memories, pain, and depression to go away.  

In 2007, I walked into the VA and for two weeks I wandered the halls. I was lost, and the only people I could find to lean on were my fellow battle buddies. We knew sometimes, without even talking, what each other was going through. I was diagnosed with PTSD and depression, and a laundry list of other things both mental and physical.

I found a Marine who guided me and helped me get the help I needed. I started treatment that day―actually, I started my RECOVERY that day. I started medications and classes, and began to spend time in the world outside. I found that spending time with fellow Veterans is the most powerful thing in my recovery, and I have spent time educating later generations of soldiers on PTSD and depression. I spend my time with others, giving back, living by the creed of selfless service I was taught in the military and growing up.

With my family’s support, I was able to graduate from college in 2010 with my Associate’s Degree. I worked hard and, in 2013, became a Peer Support Specialist for the VA, which has helped me become the person I am today. I learned that I am resilient and able to get through hard times. I am a loving person and enjoy time with my family. I am passionate about giving back to my fellow Veterans and my community.

I am Bryan Rich. I adapt, improvise, and overcome. This is how I meet the challenges that life throws at me.

Back ↑


Note from the Management Team

Nancy Heffernan, Vice President Finance and Administration

The end of the year often brings a time of reflection. The holidays may be joyous for some, distracting for others, and stressful for many. The quiet of winter allows one time to pause and consider what matters. Our wellness is perhaps the most important of those considerations. Finding ways to be positive and steady during the busy holiday season is a gift we can give ourselves.

DBSA offers a variety of resources to help you weather this potential seasonal storm. Whether it is a local support group hosted by a chapter, an advocacy update, an online support group, or a peer connection, DBSA is your partner in wellness.

As you reflect on what matters to you, we hope you will consider a gift to DBSA so we can continue the work as the peer voice in the mental health arena. Remember, because DBSA is a 501 c (3) organization, your donation is tax-deductible from 2017 taxes if you make your gift by December 31, 2017.

May peace and wellness be yours.

Back ↑

DBSA Chapters

Chapter Spotlight: DBSA Shenandoah Valley (VA)

This month, DBSA Shenandoah Valley (VA) will celebrate is first anniversary as a DBSA chapter. Founded by U.S. Air Force Veteran and peer, Victor Parker, the chapter grew out of a need for support in the rural Shenandoah Valley near the Virginia/West Virginia border. The chapter promotes peer support as a way to turn “negatives into positives.” Having experienced the difficulties of living with bipolar mood disorder, Victor wanted a way to give back to the community that helped him live with wellness.

The chapter also sponsors their local youth basketball team, trying to reach the next generation in the fight against stigma. The chapter believes that making children aware of depression and bipolar mood disorders as health conditions will help them recognize symptoms and encourage them to seek support, should they or someone they love ever need it.

We thank DBSA Shenandoah Valley for their incredible work, and look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries together. To see what some of our other affiliates are up to, visit the Chapter Spotlights section of our website.

Back ↑

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Advocacy: DBSA is advocating to ensure peer support specialists are engaged at the VA

Two years ago DBSA began working with Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) on legislation to broaden the use of peer support specialists at the Department of Veteran Affairs’ medical centers. An Executive Order in 2013 mandated that peer specialists be employed at all VA facilities offering mental health services, but this mandate did not extend to patient-aligned care team settings. Working with Senator Blumenthal, DBSA lent its expertise to supporting language that resulted in the Veteran Partners Efforts to Enhance Reintegration Act (the Veteran PEER Act).

In October of 2017, Senator Blumenthal and Senator Blunt (R-MO) introduced the bill on the floor of the Senate; since then, additional Senators have signed-on as co-sponsors. More importantly, in November the PEER Act was included in the larger Veterans Affairs Community Care Reform Proposal, which passed out of committee and now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

DBSA is honored to be instrumental in ensuring that Veterans will have broader access to peer support specialists, regardless of their entry point. We are currently educating members on the House side to gain support for a companion bill. Your support is crucial in ensuring that both the Senate and the House pass this important legislation. When you subscribe to the DBSA advocacy platform, you’ll receive both the monthly newsletter providing updates and timely action alerts informing you as to when it is most advantageous to contact your Representative and Senators.

Back ↑

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

Can you explain the difference between situational depression and clinical depression? How would treatment be different?

Those terms can have different meaning to different people. 

To some people “situational depression” means depression that comes on after a stressful or traumatic event―for example, ending a relationship or losing a job. Other people use the term “situational depression” to refer to depression that is milder or shorter in duration. 

The first definition of “situational depression” doesn’t tell us much about a recommended treatment. There is a traditional belief that depression following a stressful or traumatic event is more “psychological” than “biological,” in which case psychotherapy would be recommended over medication. But the evidence does not support that belief: both psychotherapy and medication are effective for the treatment of depression, whether it follows a specific event or not.

The second definition of “situational depression,” meaning milder or more transient depression, would be important in recommending treatment. Any specific treatment―medication or psychotherapy―is most clearly helpful when depression is more severe and longer-lasting. Depression that is mild or brief will often improve with time and good self-care. For milder or shorter-term depression, treatment with medication or psychotherapy is often not necessary; however, depression that is more severe and longer in duration is less likely to improve without specific treatment. We usually recommend psychotherapy and antidepressant medication for depression that is especially severe or long-lasting.

“Clinical depression” is not an official diagnosis, so it too can mean different things to different people. For some, “clinical depression” is another way of referring to the official diagnosis of major depression:  at least moderately severe and lasting longer than two weeks. As described above, depression that is more severe and longer-lasting is less likely to get better without specific treatment. If “clinical depression” means “major depression,” then it is the kind of depression for which antidepressant medications and/or psychotherapy are likely to be helpful. 

Back ↑

Care For Your Mind

Prior authorization and step therapy policies can restrict access to medications. The Alliance for Patients Access is taking steps to fight back. To learn more, click here.

Back ↑

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.

Prepare for the Holidays!

Seasonal celebrations can by a joyful time.  Changes to your routine, even the most fun ones, can bring on stress. Here are a few tips to manage stress with your family:

  1. Maintain a routine! Keep sleep and meal schedules the same as much as possible.
  2. Limit unhealthy treats and create nourishing snacks together.
  3. Discuss expectations with your children prior to events, but know that flexibility may be needed.
  4. Before celebrations, plan a signal between you and your child to indicate if a break is needed. Consider packing a book or other small activity that they can focus on if they need some alone time.
  5. Create a list of small indoor activities for your child on days when there is no school and the weather may not allow outdoor time. Consider simple crafts, building projects, writing, or other options. 
  6. Take time for yourself. Preparing for any holiday is a lot of work, and you may forget to relax and seek your own support.

Find support online. DBSA’s Balanced Mind Parent Network is an online community of individuals who share and want to support your experience. Learn more at a www.dbsalliance.org/BMPN.

Back ↑

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Ask the Doctor: Holiday Stress Strategies

Enjoy the gift of peace and health through careful planning ahead, avoiding triggers, and monitoring your mood before, during, and after this year’s holiday season. Read article.

Back ↑

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

Self-Love Is Essential (Bipolar Mood Disorder)
Learning to love myself is new to me. I’ve always looked for acceptance and approval from people apart from myself. I’ve realized that self-love is essential to feeling good about myself and facing problems that come up. I know now that when I feel lonely, it is my emotional signal to put love and care into myself. Doing something I enjoy makes me feel good and builds self-love.

The Mantra (Bipolar Mood Disorder)
Consistent effort, every day.

Step Outside (Bipolar Mood Disorder)
After my diagnosis, my big brother told me to step outside, close my eyes, and take several deep breaths, then to open my eyes and look around. Why? Because I was so caught in my own head and my own feelings, I needed a moment to reconnect to the world―to the knowledge thatI am just one part of this great universe to which I belong. That helped me to escape my problems, if only for a moment.

Back ↑

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

Happy New Year! Stay tuned for more events.

Back ↑