DBSA e-Update February 2017

I’m Living Proof—Inspiring Teens
NEW Survey: Improving Treatment of Depression in Primary Care for Older Adults
Medicaid Update: Can We Anticipate Changes in Eligibility and Benefits?
NEW Survey: Peer Support Specialists Challenges
Parent Connection: Planning for Spring Break
Are You a Peer in South Carolina?
DBSA Wellness Tracker Featured by ABC7 Chicago
Ask the Doc: How do you cope with rapid cycling as it changes day to day?
bp Magazine: Getting a Grip on Mania
Life Unlimited: Meet Sarah Bauer Hernandez
News from Care for Your Mind
Allen’s Note
Wellness Tips from Peers
Save the Date

I’m Living Proof—Inspiring Teens

Last year, DBSA’s Young Adult Council sat down to determine what programming the group would work on throughout 2016. After much discussion, a theme began to emerge—what would these now young adults liked to have had when they were first diagnosed. The resounding response was knowledge that life would get better—hope for the future.

With this goal in mind, last fall DBSA’s Young Adult Council began collecting personal stories from young adults, aimed at providing hope and support to teens who are currently facing a mood disorder diagnosis or experiencing symptoms. We are proud to launch this new compilation of stories under the program title: I’m Living Proof .

These stories and videos from brave young adults show the fear and the struggles, but most importantly show that life does improve—they are living proof of this. We encourage you to review the stories and share them far and wide with the young people in your life—regardless of whether they live with a mood disorder. With suicide rates of pre-adolescent and adolescent girls tripling over the last 15 years, this message of hope is extraordinarily important. Source: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/04/22/474888854/suicide-rates-climb-in-u-s-especially-among-adolescent-girls

In 2017, the DBSA Young Adult Council will expand upon this program by working with a therapeutic college-prep school, the Robert Louis Stevenson School, New York, NY, to encourage students and alumni to share their important experiences while providing education on how to shape their wellness stories and on the many ways media can enhance the reach and effectiveness of their story.

If you are a young adult who is interested in sharing your story, please visit the I'm Living Proof submission page.

In addition to I’m Living Proof, DBSA’s Young Adult Council has just posted four new podcasts directed at helping young adults, including podcasts on:

Visit our Young Adult Podcast page for these and many more podcasts.

DBSA’s Young Adult Council is also proud to announce a companion piece to our popular What Helps and What Hurts brochure that is focused on the special needs of the young adult population: What Helps and What Hurts: Supporting Young Adults (PDF).


NEW Survey: Improving Treatment of Depression in Primary Care for Older Adults

Older adults are at higher risk for depression due to a wide range of factors and—with a projected population increase in this age group to 72.1 million in the U.S. by 2030—this represents a serious public health issue. Although many older adults feel most comfortable seeking depression care through their primary care doctors, a number of barriers to detecting, diagnosing, and treating depression exist in primary care settings.

To help change the face of depression care for older adults, DBSA is designing an initiative to improve clinical care and outcomes among older adults diagnosed with depression in primary care settings. To make this effort truly responsive to the real needs of both older adults and the providers who interact with them, we need your input—no matter what your age. Please visit DBSA’s Survey Center and take a moment to share your views on this important topic. DBSA thanks you sincerely for taking the time to guide our work, from the DBSA’s unique peer perspective. Take the survey!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Medicaid Update: Can we anticipate changes in eligibility and benefits?

Should you care who heads federal agencies such as Health and Human Services (HHS) or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)? What do these agencies have to do with how you access mental health care? The answers are “yes” and “a lot.”

Almost half of Medicaid beneficiaries under the age of 65 who receive benefits because of a disability access behavioral healthcare. Among this population, 18 percent have experienced a mood disorder episode in the past year.

Therefore, as we transition from one administration to the next, we should be watchful about the past or proposed policies from leaders who have the authority to make rules regarding how states receive Medicaid funding from the federal government.

Proposed recommendations include providing block grants or per-capita funding to the states. A block grant is a fixed amount of money a state receives to administer their Medicaid program. A per-capita policy awards a fixed amount of funding to the state for every individual who is enrolled in that state’s Medicaid program.

A recent report from Avalere Health asserts that block grants would save the federal government $150 billion over five years, but that the states receiving the funding from the federal government would realize a reduction in funds ranging from four to 62 percent. The same report shows that moving to a per-capita funding policy would increase federal funding in 24 states, but 26 states would need to absorb a decrease.

Other policy recommendations are to:

  • Link Medicaid benefits to work requirements, and
  • mandate that beneficiaries contribute to premiums or set aside personal funds in a health savings account (HSA).

Both the administration’s picks to lead HHS and CMS—Tom Price and Seema Verma respectively—have publicly expressed their endorsement of these policies.

DBSA will continue to keep you updated on changes regarding federal funding of Medicaid benefits. A good way to stay informed is to subscribe to the DBSA advocacy platform at DBSAlliance.org/TakeAction.

DBSA Chapters

NEW Survey: Peer Support Specialists Challenges

The DBSA Peer Leadership Center (PLC) is seeking to identify challenges experienced by peer support specialists. We will use this information to construct a peer support specialist survey to identify the prevalence of these issues, and possible areas for PLC activities and supports. Please share your perspective!

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: Planning for Spring Break

As we enter the last part of winter, families begin planning for spring break. This often includes traveling, which can be a stressful for anyone. For children living with a mood disorder, new environments and scheduled disruptions can be troubling. Here are some tips to help minimize stress:

  • Schedule Sleep: Excitement and new spaces can make sleeping difficult. Schedule enough time to have plenty of sleep and practice regular routines. Consider bringing comfort items from home.

  • Check in with Clinicians: Clinicians who know your child well may have some helpful tips and thoughts on how to manage medications, address stress, and what do if additional support is needed. Be sure to not only program clinician’s number in your phone, but also bring a written list in case your phone runs out of battery is or is lost.

  • Make of List of Stress Reducing Activities: Long trips in a car, on a plane, or other mode of transportation can provoke anxiety, and preparing soothing activities can help. Consider bringing new music, movies, and books. Simple craft projects, a deck of cards, and travel-friendly toys can also be a fun and helpful distraction. Consider bringing new items to share with your child at periodic intervals throughout your trip.

  • Plan for breaks: It’s easy to schedule a lot of traveling and fun activities, but planning for resting times can be really helpful. This can include peaceful walks, quiet time, or even short naps.

  • Know your Plan B: Planning ahead of time can be crucial, but knowing that events can change is important. Think through what to do if an event becomes overwhelming and alternatives if needed. Talk through the alternatives with your child to manage expectations.

  • Pack Early: Think through all the items you absolutely must bring with you during travel versus what you want to bring. Consider making a list of both, over time. Then, when pulling all your items together, you can see what fits and what doesn’t. Engage your child in the conversation whenever possible, perhaps even giving them the opportunity to choose the wants that will fit in the parameters that you set.  

  • Have Fun: It’s easy to be consumed with your child’s wants and needs when traveling. Think through ways to ensure that you are enjoying the trip too!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Are you a peer in south carolina?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 10 percent of adults in the US live with major depression or bipolar disorder including 470,000 residents of South Carolina. DBSA is looking to expand our chapter network to include the peer communities in South Carolina. If you are one of the individuals affected by a mood disorder and are interested in peer support, please consider establishing a DBSA chapter.

DBSA chapters offer free peer support groups to their community, as well as educational programs. Research on peer support programs has shown that participation in these services yields improvement in psychiatric symptoms, decreased hospitalization, larger social support networks, and enhanced self-esteem and social functioning.

If you or someone you know would like more information about starting a DBSA chapter, please contact Nareth Phin, Chapter Relations Coordinator, at (800) 826-3632 x170 or NPhin@DBSAlliance.org.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Wellness Tracker Featured by ABC7 Chicago

In a Stacy Baca news feature, “Smart phone therapy? Apps can help with mental health, doctors say” two individuals shared how they utilize the DBSA Wellness Tracker as part of their personal wellness strategy. DBSA Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. John Zajecka was also interviewed in the feature as quoted in the excerpt below.

"It has been a game changer in many ways," said Dr. John Zajecka, professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Zajecka has treated Sheagren for nearly 20 years. A few years ago, she started to use an app called the Wellness Tracker from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. She tracked her overall health and worked closely with Dr. Zajecka. "Because of the app she has her life back," he said.

Also highlighted in the piece were a suite of 13 free apps for depression and anxiety, collectively called Intellcare, developed by Northwesten Medicine.

Find out more about the DBSA Wellness Tracker.

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

How do you cope with rapid cycling as it changes day to day. I am working closely with my doctor as he is making changes in meds. In the meantime, how do I weather the storm until things calm?

Rapid mood changes and mixed states (depression and mania/agitation at the same time) can be very distressing and disruptive. And finding the right medication usually does involve some trial-and-error. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to reduce and manage the mood swings.
Research shows that keeping a regular daily schedule can be a “natural mood stabilizer”—reducing mood swings and making them more manageable. When you think about your daily schedule, there are some specific things to focus on:

  • Sleep Cycle: A regular sleeping schedule is one of the most important things you can do to stabilize your mood. You can’t necessarily control whether you fall asleep or stay asleep, but you can control when you get up in the morning and whether you stay out of bed during the day. If you can stay on schedule with those things, your sleeping should settle into a more regular schedule.

  • Physical Activity: Try to schedule some kind of exercise or physical activity at a regular time each day. Any type of physical activity is good, and the best type of exercise is the kind that you will actually do.

  • Social Activity: Try to schedule some contact every day (face-to-face is best) with one of the positive people in your life. It’s best to schedule something before noon (to get you active) and not schedule lots of things late in the day (to prevent getting too activated).

If you are experiencing rapid mood swings, keeping a regular schedule is much easier said than done. Sticking to a schedule often means doing the opposite of what your brain and body seem to want. On days when you feel low or slowed down, it can take a big effort to activate and motivate yourself to get out of bed, exercise, and interact with people. On days when you feel over-energized or speeded up, it can take a big effort to limit your activity to a healthy or safe level. You can use DBSA’s personal wellness tools to identify the daily routines that are healthy for you and keep track of your routines from day to day.

It’s also important to mention things NOT to do. Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs are probably at the top of the list of things to avoid. It can seem that alcohol or drugs help to slow things down when you feel speeded up—or help blunt painful feelings of depression. But we know that any “helpful” effects of alcohol or other drugs are an illusion. Using alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs when you are experiencing rapid mood shifts will not help and is likely to make things worse.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Getting a Grip on Mania

Manic episodes in bipolar I play out differently for different people, but often have scorching consequences. Learning about triggers, symptoms, and effective treatments is important. Read the article.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Sarah Bauer Hernandez

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 Sarah Bauer Hernandez

Having bipolar disorder has not made for an easy life. But within my pain and struggles there have been transformative gifts, that I honestly wouldn’t change it if I could. It has offered me the opportunity to create a meaningful life, the ability to feel compassion for others, and allowed me to discover the unshakable joy and gratitude that comes from having survived deep suffering. At 37, I am more fulfilled than I ever dreamed possible. In fact, I was certain I wouldn’t live past 30. For many years, I wondered if I was born to suffer. To be alive, healthy, hopeful, and truly happy is nothing short of a miracle for me.

Around age 13, I started to experience extreme mood swings that got worse over time. Within one day I would be giddy and supremely confident, then crash suddenly into worthlessness and despair. This split made it easy to live a double life: one was the smile I showed the world, and the other was a sharp, suffocating, secret darkness. Read Sarah's full story.

News from Care for Your Mind

Has the money spent on scientific research for treating depression netted the results it should? William Potter, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health explains some of the hurdles around brain research and how the scientific community is addressing them. Read the post.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

I’ve been thrilled that the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has expanded our work with young people, both children under 18 whose parents benefit from the wisdom of their peers through the Balanced Mind Parent Network and young adults who have been represented by our Young Adult Council.

I’m excited the DBSA Young Adult Council has taken on the challenge of inspiring teens living with mood disorders with the launch of I’m Living Proof. What a gift to give hope to teens who so desperately need to hear the message that “things will get better; you can, with the right treatments and self-care live well; and your future need not be limited by any label or diagnosis.”

And the Young Adult Council’s series of podcasts have a wealth of information and perspective for people ages 18-29. Their look at “what I wish I could have told my college self” is practical, actionable, and (if I think way back to my own experiences as an undergraduate with a mood disorder diagnosis) incredibly resonant to what college can be like if you face challenges related to depression or bipolar disorder. Given that college—and young adulthood—are plenty challenging whether or not you’re experiencing a health-related issue, to have a resource like these podcasts—and all of DBSA’s resources for young people—is especially important. Mood disorders affect us in many diverse ways across our lifespan, and DBSA is committed to addressing this diversity, always from the first-person perspective of lived experience.

With thanks to my peers of all ages,


Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

You matter. People think you matter! Remind yourself every hour (set an alarm) that you matter. Whisper it to yourself. Say it out loud. Write it down. Whatever you need to do so that you start to believe it.

I did the best I could today and that is good enough.

Keep telling yourself that you are amazing—even if you do not believe it yet. Your brain is a sophisticated organic computer—you can reprogram it.

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

“Science of Sleep” Webinar
Peer Leadership Center
March 3, 2017
11:00 a.m. Central

Core Peer Specialist Training
Chicago, IL
June 5-9, 2017
Apply Now

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