DBSA e-Update June 2017

Putting Your Passion for Peer Support to Work
Life Unlimited: Meet Sara Mushegian
DBSA and Support Group Central Launch Support 4 Peer Workers
Nominate Your Chapter to Be Featured in eUpdate
bp Magazine: Ending Bipolar Depression Isolation
Register Now for July 19 Building Family Bonds Webinar
Ask the Doc: How can I help my bipolar son seek treatment?
Keep Fighting for Mental Health Coverage
Personal Insights on the Value of Peer Support
Top Researchers Honored with Klerman Awards
Allen’s Note
Wellness Tips from Peers
Save the Date

DBSA Peer Specialist Training: Putting Your Passion for Peer Support to Work

Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself? Thomas Jefferson

During the week of June 5-9, DBSA held its Core Peer Specialist Training in Chicago, IL. The training brought together people seeking to pursue peer specialist work from across the country, as well as from as far as Hong Kong. At the training, participants learned how to utilize their lived experience with mental health and substance use conditions, and trauma, to support and give hope to others’ recovery journeys. Participants reported gaining a sense of purpose, community, and a newfound dedication to advocate for change in mental health.  

For many, a motivation to attend the course was a desire to take their own experiences and challenges and use them to give hope to others―so they know they are not alone and can lead the life they want. Angela, a participant, shared, “I came to a point in my recovery journey where I wanted to be able to help people like me . . . I realized that I could take what I’ve been through, and turn it into a positive.” She added that the peer specialist role will allow her to be “living, breathing proof that recovery and wellness are a real possibility.”

Lisa Goodale, DBSA’s Consulting Services Vice President and an experienced trainer stated, “It’s always a privilege to be in the presence of a diverse group of individuals with a passion for using their experiences to support others on their journeys to wellness.”

One of the most meaningful parts of the training was the personal growth and relationships formed. Lucy Ingram, DBSA Training and Program Manager and course trainer, noted that this is what makes peer specialist work unique, stating, “As a peer specialist, the tools, skills, and competencies gained through training are essential. Equally important is learning to build authentic relationships that are at the core of peer support, and realizing we have the power to turn our struggles, shame, and self-stigma into sources of strength, inspiration, and hope.” Gina, a participant, shared, “The training made me realize how far I’ve come, how many worries I’ve shed, and how much weight I’ve lifted.”

At DBSA’s peer specialist trainings, a central focus is to create a safe space where people feel comfortable sharing their challenges, dreams, and unique paths to wellness. Vulnerability and open discussion are viewed as essential to the learning process.

Gina explained, “I loved that I was challenged but allowed to make mistakes. There is something so powerful about a room full of people who will understand you, who are not just sympathetic but empathetic.”

Angela added, “The different worldviews and experiences that we all shared was invaluable. It was a safe space to practice getting to the root of issues.”

When asked what she would say to those considering becoming a peer specialist, Angela stated that she was motivated to attend because she realized she would be surrounded by people who “have seen the depths of the lowest lows, and risen from the ashes, just like I have. I was in a room full of people who appreciated what I had to say, and vice versa. In other words: DO IT! You really won’t regret it.”

Questions about DBSA Peer Specialist Training? Contact Training@DBSAlliance.org or call (312) 988-1164.

Are you a peer specialist? Have you been served by a peer specialist? DBSA wants to hear your story! Let’s shine a spotlight on peer support work! For more information, contact Lucy Ingram at LIngram@DBSAlliance.org or 312-988-1164.

Back ↑

Eric Horner
Sara S. Mushegian

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: Sara S. Mushegian

I’m 61. And, I have really only discovered in the past nine years what it means to live Life Unlimited by mental pain.

Here is my story.

Over thirty years ago when our family was young, my husband, Dan, and I sought mental health help for one of our children. For years we tried various psychiatrists and psychologists and with them came drug prescriptions and talk therapy but nothing helped. In fact, our child worsened. As weeks and months became years, there was no doubt that our child’s depression and anxiety created a heavy burden on our entire family so much so that our quest to find help for one person became a quest for six. There were countless times when we felt we might never lift up our family to feel joy again because, unfortunately, it took many years (yes, years) to find the help we needed. Remarkably, it was right in our own backyard, so to speak. In my attempt to exhaust all possibilities near and far, I found a DBSA chapter in Greenwich, CT. The Group I discovered was founded by Dr. John Tamerin. There is so much to share about the blessing that this Group was and still is to my husband and me, our child, and our family as a whole but there is another part of the story I need to tell.

Throughout all of those years of searching for and finding help for our child and our family, there was another person among us who suffered silently but severely from depression and anxiety—for many years, in fact, dating back to her twenties. She remained quiet about her plight until one day when she could not suffer in silence any longer, she broke. I reference myself. I had one “breakdown” in the midst of my search for help for our child and then another several years later, a more severe one. I hid the first one. (Those of us in mental pain are masters of isolation.) But, the second one which was far more debilitating―I could not hide it. The difference between the two?  Amidst the second one, I wanted to die. I never had those thoughts before.  As painful and debilitating as the first episode was, the pain of anxiety during the second one was so severe that I felt hopeless that I would ever feel any bit of peace again. I thought that dying must be the only way I might know relief.

In those early days and weeks of this second collapse, I did not attend Group nor do much of anything except try to lift my head and find my place in the world. I was literally an anxiety-ridden mound on the floor and I wanted to flee from my own skin. I could not eat nor sleep. I could barely sit still from the anxiety coursing through every fiber of my being. But, in my therapy with Dr. Tamerin, I worked to try to rally―relentlessly trying to realign the out-of-synch gears of my brain. It was difficult and painful work, but through ongoing talk therapy with Dr. Tamerin combined with my own determination to recover, plus some medicine, I managed to thrust myself toward an attitude of hopefulness about life once again. 

Along the way, I returned to Group and despite my head still hung low from utter mental and physical pain, I could be present among my fellow Group members in a way I could not yet with others—because I knew they would understand my story and what I had endured. No longer did I attend my DBSA Group for our child or for my family—I was there for myself.

And just as it was when I sought help for my child, the Group performed for me. Their outpouring of understanding, empathy, and advice based upon lived experience guided me to help myself to recover. Honesty and human connection are never so deeply present, generously offered, and easily felt as within my Group. We share a deep human connection that is based upon our willingness to be vulnerable to our own truth and the truths of others in ways that not only aid recovery but empower us to thrive, to live robustly, and yes, to live life unlimited.

Read the rest of Sara’s journey here.

Back ↑

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA and Support Group Central Launch Support 4 Peer Workers

Where can you let your hair down as a peer worker? Who really understands the personal and organizational stressors that peer workers experience? If you are an employer of peer workers, how can you support their wellness and recovery?

The Peer Leadership Center has partnered with Support Groups Central to offer video conference-based support groups that are just for peer workers. The groups are accessible via computer, tablet or smartphone. The 90-minute meetings bring together peer workers from all over the U.S. and beyond. The meetings are scheduled in off hours and on weekends so peer workers can participate from the privacy of their homes. Each meeting also includes tips to help peer workers address both professional and personal wellness challenges they may be dealing with.

In the recently completed pilot program:

  • 86% of the participants agreed that the meetings were helpful to them.
  • 86% said they liked the meeting process, topics and discussion time.
  • Participants shared that the meetings:
    • Helped me to remember things I should be doing to take care of myself.
    • Made me feel safe to discuss issues that I wouldn’t talk with a coworker about.
    • Inspired me to take the time to care for myself better.

The Support 4 Peer Workers meetings are now available via the Peer Leadership Center website, www.PeerLeadershipCenter.org. These ninety-minute drop-in support and development meetings are limited to 12 peer workers and include personal and work-related material as well as ample time for open discussion. All the sessions are facilitated by experienced Certified Peer Specialists. The cost for each 90-minute meeting is $7 to $10 depending on the number of meetings that you or your organization purchase at one time. Learn more

Back ↑

DBSA Chapters

Nominate Your DBSA Chapter!

We appreciate each and every one of our chapters and never pass up the opportunity to express our gratitude. While they love to hear from us, it simply doesn’t compare to hearing from their own participants. If you participate in a DBSA chapter and want to see them featured in a future eUpdate, please consider filling out a brief survey highlighting your chapter at DBSAlliance.org/Spotlight. If your submission is selected, your chapter will receive a $50 gift card. All submissions will be considered for inclusion in eUpdate and other DBSA publications.

Back ↑

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Ending Bipolar Depression Isolation

There’s a difference between learning to be alone, and feeling isolated and unlovable. Human contact can help with the isolation that bipolar depression can create. Read the article

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.

Parent Connection: Parental Mental Health Webinar

Join us for Building Family Bonds webinar on July 19, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. Central Standard Time. The webinar, featuring Evan Kaplan, Executive Director of Child and Family Connections, will teach you how to talk to your children about your mental healthcondition. We will also touch upon ways a parent can communicate with a child who has a mental health condition as well. Register now

About Child and Family Connections
At Child and Family Connections, we are parents who live with a mental health challenge. Despite our best intentions, our mental health affects our family and our children. Due to feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy we are afraid to or don’t know what to say, so we rarely, if ever, talk about it. When we remain silent, our children may be fearful, resentful, and self-blaming. Talking about parental mental health with our children strengthens family relationships and builds trust and resiliency.

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

My son is 29 years old and was diagnosed with bipolar 12 years ago. He has not functioned much at all during the past 12 years. He lives in a rented room that his father pays for and is on Medicaid. He does nothing all day except self-medicate with marijuana. He takes medicine, but never consistently. How can I convince him to get the help he needs? I feel he needs to go away to a program for at least 60 days, but he refuses. He says he can make himself better by going to therapy. He has been going to therapy on and off for at least 10 years, but he never keeps up with it.

We do know that confrontation or strong criticism is usually not helpful in getting people living with bipolar the help they need. Dramatic “interventions” are only effective on daytime TV talk shows. Research shows that confrontation or emotion-charged criticism increase risk of decompensation in young people with bipolar disorder.

I’d recommend some specific things you might try:

First, express your concerns about marijuana use. You can try saying something like, “I am concerned that you are not getting out much or enjoying yourself. And I worry that using marijuana contributes to that. Do you think that using marijuana is holding you back from doing things you would like?”

Your goal is to raise the question rather than insist that you know the answer. In the end, cutting down on marijuana is the only way to answer that question.

Second, express your concerns about the medication plan. You can try saying something like, “I am concerned this medication is not helping you as much as it should. Could I come along with you next time you see your doctor to let him/her know what I see?”

Third, try to identify some specific goals you can support. You can try saying something like, “Are there specific things you and your therapist are working on—things you want to try doing or doing more often? How can I help you to get going on those things?”

Back ↑

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Keep Fighting for Mental Health Coverage Inclusion in the AHCA

While a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act titled: the American Health Care Act (AHCA), narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives, advocates should not be discouraged. In fact, signals coming out of the U.S. Senate indicate that your advocacy is working. So now is not the time to let up on advocacy efforts. Your senators want to hear from you.

Did you respond to the action alert sent out by DBSA on June 1? This editable email asks your Senators to retain essential health benefits, pre-existing condition benefits, and current Medicaid funding levels. All of these provisions support greater access to mental health care for people living with mood disorders.

Please do your part to ensure that all people with mental health conditions have access to quality mental health care. You can learn more about DBSA’s position on the AHCA legislation at the DBSA Advocacy Platform.

Back ↑


Care for Your Mind

Advocates recently shared with Congressional supporters their personal experiences and insights about the value of peer support in mental health care. Read more

Back ↑


Pictured top: Constance Guille, M.D., M.S.C.R.
Pictured bottom: Greg Simon, M.D. and Martha Sajatovic, M.D.

DBSA 2016 Klerman Awards Presented

On May 6, DBSA presented two exceptional researchers with Gerald L. Klerman Awards―the highest honor DBSA extends to members of the scientific community. The Award recognizes researchers whose work contributes to understanding the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of depression and bipolar disorder.

During this year’s annual DBSA Scientific Advisory Board reception, Martha Sajatovic, M.D. was honored with the 2016 Gerald L. Klerman Senior Investigator Award for her career-long contributions to mental health research. Dr. Sajatovic is currently Professor of Psychiatry and of Neurology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Her work has been committed to conducting interventional research, research training, and dissemination of best treatment practices in the areas of late-life bipolar disorder, treatment adherence in bipolar disorder, and in the management of psychiatrically ill elders with comorbid neurologic and general medical conditions that complicate their clinical status and long-term management. Over the past two decades, she has been principal investigator on multiple externally funded research grants including projects from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institute on Aging (NIA), National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ohio Department of Mental Health, multiple charitable foundations, and industry. 

Much of Dr. Sajatovic’s work has focused on hard-to-study “real world” psychiatric populations with mood disorders and her research projects often include individuals who are historically under-represented in standard clinical trials because of complex medical burden, poor treatment adherence, or sub-optimal engagement in care.  She is Co-Chair of the International Society of Bipolar Disorder (ISBD) task force on older-age bipolar disorder, and helped lead an international consensus summary on older-age bipolar disorder as well as a series of reports that have called to attention the need for additional research and clinical focus on the topic of aging and bipolar disorder.

Dr. Sajatovic has been recognized previously by DBSA with the 2006 Gerald L. Klerman Young Investigator Award; by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) with the 2003 Exemplary Psychiatrist Award; and by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation with the 2013 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Faculty Award, which recognized her commitment to medical education and training the next generation of researchers.

A productive author with 20 books, 24 book chapters, and over 200 peer-reviewed articles representing a body of work which is thematically linked, Dr. Sajatovic’s articles have appeared in prominent, peer-reviewed journals. Her strong professional citizenship is evident from her activities in the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP), American Psychiatric Association (APA), and a number of other psychiatry organizations. She has served on the DBSA Scientific Advisory Board for the last 10 years.

The 2016 Gerald L. Klerman Young Investigator Award was presented to Constance Guille, M.D., M.S.C.R. Unable to attend the reception, Dr. Guille, shared her acceptance remarks via video. Dr. Guille is currently Director, Women’s Reproductive Behavioral Health Program at the Medical University of South Carolina. Her research is focused on conditions temporally associated with high risk for onset of depression, the postpartum period and the period of medical training. In collaboration with a colleague, Dr. Guille developed the Intern Health Study during her residency training. The Study has shown that rates of depression and suicidal ideation increase dramatically, from 4% and 3% prior to internship to on average 26% and 8% during internship, respectively. In a randomized controlled trial, Dr. Guille and her colleagues demonstrated that interns assigned to a web-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program prior to the start of internship year were 60% less likely to endorse suicidal ideation during internship year, compared to those assigned to the control group. Similarly, they have identified high rates of depression in pregnant and postpartum women as well as modifiable risk factors early in pregnancy that predict the development of a depressive episode later in pregnancy or postpartum. Current efforts are underway to design interventions to reduce the risk of peripartum depression.

Dr Guille’s work has been recognized from the earliest stage of her career. She won the NIMH New investigator Award in 1999, two years before she was admitted to medical school.  She received a career development (K award) grant for biomarkers related to postpartum depression and has contributed 34 peer reviewed publications including 12 as first author.

Dr. Guille has shown herself to be an excellent teacher and a superb clinician as well as a productive researcher. She also participates as an advisor to Postpartum Support Charleston, a local advocacy group supporting women with postpartum depression.

Back ↑

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

Each month, DBSA celebrates a Life Unlimited―our story-sharing program that focuses on contribution and community rather than the more pervasive mental health conversations on danger and drain. When we do this, we in no way deny or denigrate the fact that people often struggle to get to that limitless point; indeed, it's a far-off, seemingly unattainable goal, for all too many people. Until a Life Unlimited is the expectation and reasonably attainable destination for everyone with a mood disorder, DBSA will continue to provide education, support, empowerment, and inspiration. And DBSA will persist in its advocacy for access to and quality of mental health care as a vital civil right.

I'm immensely inspired by this month's Life Unlimited feature: Sara Mushegian of Greenwich, Connecticut. Her story shows that our paths with mood disorders are as diverse as we are, with Sara's discovery of her own struggles with a mood disorder actually surfacing while she worked to support a loved one with depression. Sara also highlights beautifully the benefit of DBSA support groups as antidotes to isolation and fortifiers of positive self-esteem and resilience.

DBSA Greenwich also had a great idea: to ask their community to make contributions to DBSA in celebration of Sara! By supporting DBSA, they contend (and I agree!), individual investors can make a difference and help more people to feel unlimited in their lives. I think it's a model that any chapter could adopt as a fundraiser, whether for the chapter itself or for national, as in the case of DBSA Greenwich.

Whether through a tribute page in celebration of a peer, or simply in your ongoing belief in DBSA and the importance of total wellness for people with depression and bipolar disorder, your connection with this organization is so important. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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

Bipolar Disorder
Let us try once a day to “Look Up” for if we keep looking down—all we’ll see is our stinky feet.

Recovery Focus
Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.

Some of us are born confident; some learn it from the love and care they experience when they’re growing up; and some have to seek it for themselves. Not knowing where we may find it, but have faith that we will.

Back ↑

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

Building Family Bonds Webinar
July 19, 2017 at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time
Register Now

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

Back ↑