DBSA e-Update November 2017

NFL Player Uses His Feet to Support DBSA

When strong safety Tony Jefferson takes to the field December 10 for the Baltimore Ravens against the Pittsburgh Steelers (in the nationally televised NBC Sunday Night Football game, 7:00 p.m. Central Time), DBSA will be right there with him. Tony will wear specially designed shoes inspired by his commitment to support individuals living with depression and bipolar disorder. These shoes will later be auctioned off by the NFL Foundation, with all of the proceeds going to DBSA. Last year Tony’s cleats raised $305 for DBSA from the veteran player out of University of Oklahoma, but this year will be even better thanks to the support of volunteer supporters from DBSA.

Originally hailing from the San Diego, California area, Tony has a lifelong commitment to raise awareness about mental health stigma. Having learned this from family members facing mental health challenges, he now lends his strength and his very fast feet to help DBSA capture national attention during one of the most important games of the NFL season. You can help Tony and DBSA by going to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, then posting your comments in support of his #MyCauseMyCleats campaign and cheering him along.  Show Tony how much we appreciate having him as a part of the DBSA family.

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Life Unlimited
David Neuer

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 David Neuer

Is there a tipping point in a person’s life where the drive to be better, to never quit, and to throw off doubt enables that person to move forward with more momentum? To not look back in fear, to refuse discontent, to reject complacency, and to cast aside regret? To displace paranoia, to remove anxiety, and to experience life as a human being without them—or, if they do remain present, to understand the lingering distrust of a more complete identity?

I've overcome many non-physical obstacles like class, religion, even cultural differences, but it was not until I achieved my life-long goal of graduating from university that I understood the importance of taking medicine regularly, being candid with my doctor, and educating myself about mental health conditions. I saw the value of peer-reviewed journals, books, and online social media. I began to learn about “early warning symptoms” like insomnia or rapid speech, and developed support and self awareness to help me detect these signs before they occurred.

I gave a speech right before I graduated on “Fight or Flight Mechanisms.” The whole speech was about my passion for running cross country and track, of running away from problems at home or in school, of spending my healing time playing video games instead of coming to terms with emotional loss. In short, the speech was about how I choose “flight” as my instinct mechanism. “I'm a runner, I run from everything, instead of facing my fears,” I said. Looking back, I realize that I am a fighter: I fought for 10 years to complete my bachelor's degree; I fought through dropping out of schools and multiple visits to the mental health unit; I fought to reconcile my past and accept who I am as an individual; and, lastly, I fought to obtain the healing necessary to reconcile the stigma that accompanied my diagnosis. What did it for me?

It wasn't until after I was diagnosed that a sudden, severe depression accompanied my high anxiety. I felt worthless, like nothing could save me. I had neglected myself for so long that I was almost beyond repair. Then, I was gifted with a pen and a journal. I started to write down my thoughts and, when there were only fragments, I wrote songs or poems.

The process of writing is in itself the most therapeutic tool I have ever used in my life. If this writing accomplishes nothing else, it is to inspire one to pick up a writing utensil, start scribbling on paper, make notes, sketch pictures, doodle, anything. In doing so, hopefully, the process may turn into some success or grasping for a more complete identity, so that down the road one may look back and say, “When I wrote, I had some sense of belonging, of being and feeling, and that in that catharsis, it was possible to find hope to continue on through the drabness.” That is my only desire, for that is what saved me.

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Giving Tuesday

Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday

This is a season in which we express gratitude for what we have been given, as symbolized by turkeys and stuffing and feasting. It is a very good time to reflect of giving of all kinds: giving support, giving encouragement, giving money, and—yes—giving thanks.

Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to show support for DBSA, and the support it generates encourages all of us who work to change attitudes and create opportunities in the mental health space. Giving Tuesday is an especially good time to give financial support, falling near the end of the current year and the arrival of the next. It allows others to see your commitment, and your belief in the mission of DBSA.

As always, we hope each new year will be better than the one before: that we will be able to positively impact more lives and in new ways, ranging from sponsoring local groups to providing peer support to advocating for progressive legislation.

Lives need to be impacted. Mood disorders do not prevent living in wellness, but for some persons they can add a layer of complexity to the management of overall health issues. In addition, every day people managing mood disorders cope with social disapproval and workplace intolerance.

Shared knowledge and progressive legislation help counter these sad realities. However, raising awareness and advocating for change cost money, which means that we at DBSA must always be on the lookout for the next major contribution or planned giving. It is how we make a difference in the world while keeping the lights on.

So if, at this time of giving thanks, you believe you can help us in our quest, please do. Every dollar counts. So does every life we impact. These are right reasons, and Giving Tuesday is the right time, to make that difference in others’ lives.

Support DBSA on Twitter and Facebook all through the month of November using #GivingTuesday and mention your favorite aspect of the DBSA mission—#EmpowerWellness, #CultivateConnections, #InspireUnderstanding, or #CatalyzeTransformation.


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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.

DBSA Resources Support Families

We are proud to be the leading peer-directed national organization focused on depression and bipolar disorder. We offer peer-based, wellness-oriented, and empowering programs and resources that are available when people need them, where they need, and how they need to receive them.

We support individuals experiencing mood disorders who are at a variety of life stages, including children and their families. DBSA has a large array of family-focused resources to help parents whose children are living with a mood disorder. A few of those resources include:

  • Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN) Online Communities: a family-focused online peer support community that guides parents to the answers, support, and stability they seek. Learn more.
  • Getting Started: This guide provides basic information for families who suspect or have recently learned that their child may have a mood disorder. Learn more.
  • DBSA Helpline: This resource is an information line that parents can call, or to which they can email requests, in order to receive responses from peers. Learn more.
  • Child Depression and Mania Online Screeners: These new tools, made possible by the support of the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation and developed by the University of North Carolina, help parents better understand the symptoms that their child may be experiencing. These screeners do not provide a diagnosis, and we instruct all families to bring any concerns to a mental health provider. Learn more about screening tools Learn more.   

These resources, and more, can be found online at DBSAlliance.org/BMPN. Also, please feel free to download and share this flyer with anyone you know who may be interested.

American Legion Child Welfare FoundationThank you to the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation for their support of the Child Depression and Mania Screeners and the marketing of our family resources.


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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Advocacy: Keeping an Eye on Healthcare Legislation

Is this fight over or are we celebrating battles won? It’s easy to be confused and difficult to stay informed. The answer is “no,” the fight is not over. Congress at any time could decide to take up this issue again when those in favor of dismantling the Affordable Care Act believe they have enough votes.

But there is a little bright news coming out of Washington in the form of bipartisan legislation in the Senate. Known as the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017, and introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), this legislation quickly picked up bipartisan support through co-sponsorship from an additional 11 Republican and 11 Democrat Senators.

This legislation proposes to stabilize insurance markets by ensuring that the federal government continues to reimburse insurance companies for the difference between the quoted price a policy holder pays for the monthly premium and the actual cost of that premium. Currently individuals and families pay a premium based on their income. Under the ACA, the federal government made up the difference with payments to the insurance companies. Without this support from the federal government, insurance companies would be forced to raise premiums for everyone purchasing plans on the exchanges to make up for that loss of premium revenues.

Mobilizing support for this legislation is critical because the Trump administration has signaled that the federal government will no longer make these payments to insurance companies. While no current vote is planned and the legislative season is winding down, we all must be prepared to act on short notice. By asking family and friends to subscribe to the DBSA advocacy platform, they will receive notices on when it is time to contact their elected officials asking them to support this important legislation.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Launches New Awareness Campaign on Tardive Dyskinesia

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) can be a debilitating condition that is thought to impact at least 500,000 people in the US. Characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements such as tongue thrusting, lip smacking or rocking of the hips, TD is often caused by long-term use of antipsychotic medications, which are sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder and depression. This condition is little understood and is often missed by mental health care providers, as well as by the people experiencing the symptoms themselves.

The symptoms of this condition can lead to social isolation, the inability to do daily tasks and, in some cases, even to an inability to work. While the condition can sometimes be reversed, or have symptoms reduced, by a change in medication type or dose, the symptoms can persist indefinitely—even after terminating the use of the medication that caused the TD.

It was once thought that only the older type of antipsychotics (sometimes referred to as first-generation, or “typical,” antipsychotics) could cause tardive dyskinesia; however, we now know it can occur when someone is taking a newer antipsychotic (sometimes referred to as second-generation, or “atypical,” antipsychotics) even for a short a period of time.

Due to the lack of understanding around this condition, DBSA has launched an awareness campaign to help those within the mental health community, as well as the general public, learn more about TD and begin to recognize the signs of this condition. Visit our new webpage to learn the basics about this condition, watch videos of individuals who live with TD, and view results from our recent surveys.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

The Power of Partnerships in Peer Support: DBSA and VOA Collaborate to Train Veterans

My DBSA training was the first place I was able to speak about wanting to take my life which started the healing process and allowed me to be the best person I can be. Mike

Across the mental health field, peer specialist work is recognized as crucial to health, wellness, and recovery. Peer specialists utilize their lived experiences to lend others hope that they can achieve wellness and live the lives they want. Such specialists also support the peers they serve to engage meaningfully in treatment, and to be a link to resources in the community. DBSA is proud to be a part of this impactful, life-changing work through its nationally recognized peer specialist training, including its Veteran-specific training. 

During the week of November 6th‒10th in Chicago, IL, DBSA continued its partnership with the Volunteers of America to train 15 Veteran Peer Specialists, empowering them with the skills to provide peer support services to Veterans in the community. These participants are part of the Volunteers of America National Veterans Resource Squad (NVRS). Now certified as Veteran Peer Specialists, they will take their newfound skills back to their VOA affiliates and communities to enhance such programming as housing and employment services; mental health and substance use counseling; community, street, and homeless outreach; and suicide prevention.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Pictured are members of VOA NVRS Squad 3, and trainers Jean Dukarski, Michael Merrill, and Heather Morgan at November’s DBSA/VOA Veteran Peer Specialist Training

Michael Merrill, VOA NVRS Manager/Platoon Sergeant, discusses why VOA partnered with DBSA and the impact of this collaboration. He states that DBSA is “capable of training Veterans effectively, and its attitudes and beliefs align with those of VOA and its affiliates.” When asked what it means to him to be a part of this initiative as a trainer, Merrill says this: “To be a part of a program . . . that has Veterans from affiliates all over the country wanting to be a part of initiating change in their communities, one Veteran at a time, is a privilege. And to have been given the honor to lead this amazing group of individuals is humbling to say the least!”

Twenty Veterans die by suicide every day. By partnering with organizations like Volunteers of America to train peer specialists, DBSA hopes to equip Veterans with the skills to go back to their communities and serve as a critical resource for suicide prevention and coping with mental health conditions, substance use conditions, and trauma. The goal is to help each peer rebuild a positive sense of self and to lead his or her best life. Check out the full interview with Michael Merrill at this link.   

Not a Veteran but interested in learning how to become a peer specialist? Follow this link to learn more.

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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

My best friend has depression and was put on suicide watch. I'm trying my absolute best to be there for him and help him through this issue. It just seems that I don't feel like I'm helping. Any thoughts for me?

This is a challenging situation for anyonefriends, families, and mental health professionals. But there are some things that are generally helpful.

First, don’t be afraid to talk about suicidal thoughts and feelings. We often avoid talking about frightening or disturbing things like suicide, but avoiding them doesn’t make them go away—and sometimes makes them more dangerous. It is a myth that talking about suicidal thoughts will prompt suicide or increase the risk.  It is important to send a clear message that, "I want to know if and when you are in danger, and I’ll do my best to help."

Second, make the environment as safe as you can. While suicidal thoughts can be persistent, acting on those thoughts is often impulsive. People are more likely to act on those impulses if the tools or means (like pills or firearms) are easy to find. Of course, we cannot eliminate all dangerous things from the environment, but we can certainly create speed bumps to increase the time and space between impulse and action. So you can ask your friend if they think about specific means of self-harm—such as pills, firearms, or knives. Ask if they will agree to move those dangerous things out of their home—at least until this crisis passes. 

Third, encourage your friend to get treatment that works. Treatment of specific mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety, can reduce the pain that often lies behind suicidal thoughts. We now know that specific counseling or therapy approaches can help people cope with suicidal thoughts, and thus reduce the risk of suicide attempts. Those counseling approaches emphasize specific skills to cope with intense emotions and crisis situations.

Fourth, try to empathize with your friend’s suicidal thoughts—but still politely disagree with them. All feelings are "true," but not all predictions about the future are true. So you can say things like, "I know you feel that things will never improve, and that is very painful. But I don’t agree with your prediction about the future. I’ve seen you pass through really bad times before, and I believe things will improve." Or, "I know you feel like you are a burden to everyone, but I don’t think you are a burden to me."

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Food Fight: 9 Strategies To Help Maintain Your Mood & Weight

Does your diet plan match your personal metabolism? As with managing your bipolar disorder, finding a winning strategy to lose weight takes trial and error. Read the article.

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Care for Your Mind

Open enrollment for 2018 plans in the health insurance marketplace runs from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017—a much shorter period than past years. Learn what advocates are doing to get the word out. Read more.

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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

Self-Compassion (Depression)
Clothe yourself with love and self-compassion. When you make a mistake, remember that you are not the mistake.

Fill 'er Up! (Wellness Focus)
Fill up on “the Good Stuff” as it happens, every day, no matter how small or trivial it might be. It’ll end up being your subconscious “battery pack” when you need it.

Try to Remind Yourself: Don’t Let Go (Depression)
I get so caught up in the depression and self-defeating merry-go-round I am on, so I need to remember that getting better takes work. I need to keep my appointments with my therapist no matter how hard is to function.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

Webinar: Starting a DBSA Chapter 
Thursday, November 16 
6:00 p.m. Central

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