DBSA e-Update September 2018 See All Issues Sign Up

DBSA’s Listening Tour Begins in New York City and Dallas, TX

Mood Disorder: Facts or Myths?

Which of the following is a fact or myth?

  • Symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder begin in late adolescence and early adulthood.
  • People experience episodes as discreet events with little or no impact on their life between episodes.
  • Depression is a problem solved.

Those of us living with mood disorders probably know whether the above statements are facts or myths. However, public policy and health care decision makers may not. That’s why we are calling on the community to set the record straight.

Last month, DBSA released the Supporting Wellness survey. Created in partnership with the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy, the survey has received an overwhelming number of responses. In just six weeks over, 4,400 of you shared with us what wellness means to you including the impact these disorders have on your life and your age when you first experienced symptoms.

Collecting the data is just the beginning. We will share the survey responses with the FDA, as well as drug and medical device manufacturers at a public meeting in November. But don’t let DBSA speak for you. Please join us at this public meeting on November 16, 2018, in Silver Spring, MD. This half-day event begins at 12:30 p.m., allowing people within driving distance of Washington, D.C., to participate in-person. Live farther out? We’ve got you covered through our live webcast.

These mental health decision makers, researchers, and manufacturers are attending because they want to hear from you. At this meeting, you will have the opportunity to personally share how depression affects your daily life, what you seek most from treatment, and what wellness tools work best for you.

Fact or myth? Preliminary results from the Supporting Wellness survey reveal:

  • 27% reported that their symptoms began before age 12
  • Nearly 66% reported their symptoms began prior to age 18
  • 80% reported their condition has had a significant impact in their life
  • 40% said that it has had a persistent and constant impact in their life

Together, we can emphasize these facts to our audience of regulators and manufacturers. Register today to attend in-person or via the live webcast. Collectively, we can shape the definition of wellness for ourselves.

Chapter leaders take advantage of our program to assist you with annual reaffiliation fees by attending the meeting in Silver Spring, MD. Learn more.

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Life Unlimited
John Budin

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: John Budin

I am a psychiatrist with a practice in New York City and I have bipolar disorder.? My story is about the voices in my head.

For years, my bipolar closet door remained firmly shut.?I think we all have such doors where we keep things that are painful, overwhelming, disturbing, and shameful.?I was living in a castle with the drawbridge pulled up, wandering around by myself behind impregnable walls.?Although I had been treating patients with depression and bipolar disorder for years, it had never occurred to me that I, too, was ill.

When I finally allowed myself to recognize this, I viewed myself as weak and pathological. My depressive periods would typically last a few months. It was a very physical illness for me, making me feel empty inside. Every aspect of my internal and external world seemed permanently dead.?Although these periods were painful, my hypomanic periods caused me much more distress and have had profound consequences for me.?When hypomanic, my brain is hijacked, taken over by a flood of neurotransmitters that transport me to places I haven't asked to go. I have thoughts I'd never have in my right mind, propelled into actions that my sane self would never do. It's like being taken, against my will, to a place of insanity where I lose my moral compass. No amount of effort, no amount of will, no amount of wishing or praying will stop this from happening, and it is deeply disturbing to be forced to surrender in this way.

And sex. I'm insatiable in my libidinous appetite.?Although I am showing up for work and functioning every day when hypomanic, I am actually on fire. With the grossly impaired judgment that accompanied my hypomanic state, I was catapulted forward with severe consequences causing me to ask soul-searching questions. How can I ever forgive myself? How can I reconcile the guy who values decency, fidelity, health, and safety with the guy who has behaved contrary to all those basic traits??Will it ever be possible to reclaim my soul?

My journey toward acceptance and reconciliation began with the recognition that my health and safety, my marriage, and my career, were all at risk. I could no longer keep my bipolar closet door sealed shut. I began to wonder what healing might look like, and realized that I had to begin with the voices in my head.?These voices give rise to two story lines: one true, one not.?For me, there had been a loud and persistent shame narrative telling me that I was weak, sick, worthy of blame and contempt, cowardly, and immoral. This narrative was harsh, cruel, unfair and untrue.?

I believe that shame only survives in the dark. When we secret our truth away, when we are silent, we are confirming that we are worthy of shame.?But what remains unspoken eventually becomes unspeakable. I have to claim a different narrative, one that is actually true. If I were treating a patient who told me a story like mine, what would I say? I think I'd be impressed that they had the bravery and strength to share it with me, and feel that they deserve understanding, kindness, respect, and decency.?Rather than viewing them as weak, I'd see them as scared; rather than cowardly, as having taken missteps; rather than worthy of contempt, as being vulnerable.?The conclusion I would draw, quite simply, is that they are human.

This narrative is both undeniable and freeing.?So, can we step forward, find our voices, tell our stories, and reclaim our healthy narratives? Can we listen to kind, fair, reasonable, understanding, and decent voices in our heads?

These days, I am more persistent than the condemning voices, but I recognize that healing requires an ongoing effort.?If we can just find our way to that fair and decent place, it's easier to find our way back when we are inevitably pulled toward secrecy and shame. If a blind man is given sight for a day and then becomes blind again, what he saw can't be unseen. Nor can we un-feel what we have felt.

I know that life can still sometimes carry me to places I'd rather not go. I now know that I hold no sway over my brain’s un-medicated neurotransmitters and the behaviors that occur when they rage. But my efforts to move in the direction of ownership, to come out of the shadows and embrace my story with compassion and respect, help me find solid footing. I'm trying hard not to be cut off from my internal emotional world and hide in the darkness. I'm no longer immersed in shame, living in silence behind castle walls.?I'm telling my story and reclaiming my healthy narrative—and, in so doing, am both a care giver and a care receiver.

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Michael Pollock, Chief Executive Officer, DBSA
Michael Pollock
Chief Executive Officer, DBSA

Note from Michael Pollock, Chief Executive Officer?

I recently enjoyed my 100th day with DBSA.? One hundred days is largely an arbitrary milestone, but one that serves as a logical reflection point for me in this role. I spent my 100th day similarly to my first days at DBSA engaging with our chapter leaders.? While I started my DBSA tenure in early June at the Dallas regional meeting, this most recent engagement was with our Tennessee state organization and chapter representatives from Memphis to Knoxville, who came together for their annual retreat. I was energized by the level of commitment this audience with a collection of lived experiences has toward taking care of themselves and supporting and encouraging one another. Their commitment to DBSA as a movement was continually reinforced, and their honesty and candor with respect to personal triumphs, trials, and tribulations along a journey that remains anything but linear felt both genuine and empowering. These are DBSA’s values in action: Community. Wisdom. Inspiration. Responsibility.

The past 100 days have been rewarding, challenging, joyful and, at times, limiting wishing that I was farther along in my learning or spending more time supporting the very dedicated and talented DBSA staff, or wanting to further engage with our committed board of directors to determine the organization’s future strategic direction.? I’ve seen and learned a lot in 100 days. I’ll undoubtedly experience even more in the months ahead as we set priorities and make decisions for 2019 with one important overarching goal in mind: improving the lives of individuals living with depression or bipolar disorder.

My sincere thanks to those of you who attended the Tennessee retreat and a special shout out to Daisy Jabas, State Director for DBSA Tennessee, for the invitation and her leadership and hospitality. My appreciation also goes out not only to those from Tennessee, but to all who participated in the DBSA chapter regional meetings in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Orlando. Your insights will help shape our future direction.

We have more to accomplish to reach our vision of creating wellness for all who live with a mood disorder. The collective passion and belief that I witnessed these past 100 days suggest that together we can and will get there.

Michael Pollock
Chief Executive Officer

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DBSA Chapters

Welcome to Our Newest Chapters!

DBSA is proud to announce two new chapters that have recently joined the DBSA family:

  • DBSA Southwest Ohio
  • DBSA West San Fernando Valley (CA)

These chapters offer free support group meetings in their cities, where peers can share their experiences, feelings, information, and strategies for living successfully with mood disorders. 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. 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, please contact Nareth Phin at (800) 826-3632 x170 or NPhin@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.

Ask the Doc

As one gets older, does bipolar depression become more prevalent than mania?

Long-term studies show that both major depression (unipolar and bipolar) and mania are most common in early adulthood and less common in older age.?The prevalence of mania tends to decrease with age even more than depression. Mood symptoms in general decline with age, and the balance does shift more to depression. It’s not that depression gets more common, it’s that mania declines even more.

It’s important to remember that those trends are averages.?Every individual is different.?Some people certainly experience more problems with depression, or more problems with mania, as they get older.?But the average story is an optimistic one.

In some cases, specific medical problems or reactions to medications can cause mood symptoms in older people.?When doctors see depression or mania for the first time in an older person—or see depression or mania getting suddenly more severe in an older person—they should look carefully for medical problems or reactions to medications that might be part of the problem.

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.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Hope for Tardive Dyskinesia

Do you know anyone with tardive dyskinesia (TD)? Would you recognize the symptoms in yourself or a loved one? This condition, while rare, is recognized by repetitive involuntary movements—often in the face, but they can also occur in the upper body, arms, legs, hands, and feet.

TD can result from the use of antipsychotics to treat depression or bipolar disorder. Because it is a condition, not a side effect, discontinuing the medication rarely eliminates the symptoms. Because the movements that occur are not controllable, people who experience TD may feel embarrassed by them or fear being in public. Many people do not know about TD and this can lead to misperceptions of what the person is experiencing. That stigma can exacerbate the feelings of isolation that people may already be experiencing as a result of their mood disorder.

Prevention is best when it comes to TD. When prescribed a new medication, ask about potential complications so you can make a personal decision about the benefits and risks. If you do decide to take medication that has the potential risk for TD, your doctor should evaluate you annually using the Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale (AIMS.)

But there is hope for those who live with TD. In 2017, the FDA approved two medications that may ease or stop symptoms of TD. Last year, to coincide with these medical advancements, DBSA created a TD awareness toolkit that can be found here.

In October, DBSA will be adding to this awareness campaign by promoting a new set of educational videos. This educational campaign targets mental health and primary care providers, as well as individuals with lived experience and their loved-ones. The hope is that if individuals have a framework for their experiences, they are more likely to bring them to the attention of their healthcare provider.

Be sure to read the October eUpdate to learn more.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

  • More than 120 people are lost to suicide every day in the U.S.
  • Over 90 percent of those who die from suicide have a diagnosable mental health disorder.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) provides hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of the over 21 million adults in the U.S. who live with mood disorders, but it takes support from people like you to make that happen.

Peer support has been clinically shown to reduce the incidence of suicide and enhance the quality of life for people who live with a range of mental health conditions. The understanding and connection that comes from peer support is a critical part of many people's wellness, especially when developed in conjunction with medication, therapy, and personal wellness strategies.

Close to 50,000 people's lives were improved by DBSA support groups in 2017. That's 50,000 people, who were feeling lonely or misunderstood, who were able to find a supportive community because of DBSA. In fact, Charity Navigator recently named DBSA as one of the top nonprofits supporting suicide prevention and mental health.

Help us celebrate the tremendous healing that comes from peer support. Make a gift today to commemorate Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and help DBSA grow our impact. Your support makes these transformative peer communities possible.

Want more facts and resources? Connect with DBSA on social media for support and education each day of September and beyond:


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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Strengthening Protective Factors Against Suicide

One important way that caring individuals can work to prevent suicide is by helping others address factors in their lives that can lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. This month—National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—DBSA recommends that you dedicate time to strengthening your skills to support the people we care about to move beyond those feelings. Whether it’s helping another person gain or regain a sense of self-worth, seek a more stable environment, develop healthy relationships, or get a better handle on their anger and impulses, there’s a lot that we all can do. Register today for the Protective Factors to Help Prevent Suicide online course through the DBSA Peer Leadership Center, or find out more about bringing this course to your location.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Grand Leaps, Crushing Steps Backwards, and Not Letting Bipolar Stop Me

Assessing yourself and remembering it’s OK to take your time can help you achieve your goals, no matter how out of reach they may seem. 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

Sleeping (Getting Good Sleep)
I will take a deep breath counting to 5, ...? hold it to the count of 5, ...? and exhale to the count of 5. I repeat these steps until I drift off.

Write It Out? (Anxiety)
One of the most helpful things to do when I am stressed and overwhelmed is to write. Being creative in any manner is helpful, though. For me, I write stories about myself—but as a character, so I can write how I feel and understand better as I write from a different perspective.

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