DBSA e-Update April 2018 See All Issues Sign Up

Verily and DBSA Partner on Study of Virtual Peer Support Services

This April, Verily Life Sciences launched a new peer-to-peer digital platform study, whose purpose is to explore whether individuals experience improvements in their mood and overall well-being after tracking goals and receiving support from a peer specialist. DBSA is partnering with Verily to provide the services of trained peer specialists who will deliver virtual peer support services to up to 100 study participants. Research participants will have direct access to:

  • Video-based and chat tools to interact directly with trained, certified peer specialists
  • Surveys to help track their mental health
  • A web portal to help visualize their progress
  • Additional useful resources

Over 14 weeks, participants will engage in weekly, smartphone-based conversations with their assigned peer specialists. Participants will also work on achieving personal goals and improving their overall quality of life through activities, surveys, and opportunities to share progress with others. The study is enrolling individuals (age 18 or older) who experience symptoms of depression and low mood, live in California, and use an Android smartphone.

Danielle Schlosser, PhD, Verily’s principal investigator for this study, describes the challenge this way: “Finding new ways to improve the lives of those who are struggling with depression, the most disabling disease in the world, is a chief priority for us. We hope this study will help us learn how we might develop a holistic and personalized approach to improving the well-being of the millions of people affected by depression.”

Launched in 2015, Verily is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. focused on life sciences and health care. Verily’s mission is to increase the usefulness of health data so that people can enjoy longer, healthier lives. The company develops tools and devices to collect, organize, and activate health data, and creates interventions to prevent and manage disease.

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Life Unlimited
Aurita Apodaca

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: Aurita Apodaca

Even as a young child, I lacked impulse control and fear of consequences. If I wasn’t engaged and feeling like I was learning something new, I’d get bored very easily; I would start and quit things once I “mastered” them. I did this with the piano, the violin, acting, singing, writing, and as an adult college student. I dropped out of, then returned to, college more times than I care to admit. Jobs became an issue as well: I’m 45, and have had well over 30 jobs since I was 16.

As a teen, I was sexually promiscuous and engaged in other dangerous behaviors. I met my partner at the age of 14 and we are still together, despite the many separations I have caused. I have had many financial setbacks and done inexplicable things (waking people up at 2:00 a.m., making cookies and shoveling snow in the middle of the night, even disappearing for several days without telling anyone where I was).

After my diagnosis at 22, I started taking medications (due to a court order), then abruptly stopped the minute I completed my sentence. I remember being so sick that someone close to me said, “See, you are addicted. Bipolar isn’t real, it’s in your head. You’re fine, and the drugs make you weak.  You are a strong Latina woman.”

Twenty years later, I entered a manic state that almost led to a divorce. We were separated when my worst depression started. I somehow managed to get up and care for the kids, get them to school, and even go to work. I was in bed every night right after dinner, and often skipped showers to allow extra time for sleep. I lost my job and, as with past behavior, told no one. A year later I attempted suicide.

I talked myself out of a 72-hour hold when those close to me said it was an “accidental overdose” and that I’d be fine. For five more months I fought off the worsening depression, isolating myself and planning my next attempt. I became tired and admitted myself into an inpatient program. When I wrote about my experiences, I felt they were a family embarrassment that should not be shared outside the family.

Today I understand my boundaries and I maintain them. The people closest to me now accept my diagnosis, and I respect the boundaries of what they are comfortable discussing. I work in a mental health clinic as a peer specialist, and my clients keep me grounded. I have the best job in the world, a job I can retire from. At last I found a place where I can have a mental health condition and be accepted.

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Note from the Management Team: A Step Forward for Peer Support Services 

Lisa Goodale, Consulting Services Vice President

DBSA was founded on a bedrock belief in the power of peer support, and everything we do reflects that commitment to the power of the peer-to-peer connection to promote true wellness. In addition to the support given by our vibrant nationwide network of community-based chapters and support groups, DBSA is dedicated to broadening access to quality peer support and peer support services—both for people living with those conditions as well as family and friends who support them. Our unique movement also seeks to foster access to quality treatments and services, and to promote the adoption of personal wellness strategies that help people living with depression to create or regain strong, healthy, and happy lives.

It is my honor as a member of the national staff to help advance our commitment to all those aims, and specifically to advance peer support services and the peer specialist workforce. This month, DBSA’s peer support work takes a new and exciting step forward through our partnership with Verily Life Sciences on its recently announced peer-to-peer clinical study, which is intended to pilot the use of virtual peer-delivered services and tools by people experiencing depression and to study their impact on participants’ mood and overall well-being.

DBSA always seeks to create collaborative partnerships with clinicians and researchers, and our work with Verily is no exception. It has been a true pleasure for DBSA to work with principal investigator Dr. Danielle Schlosser and others at Verily, innovators who authentically seek to learn from people living with depression and respond to their expressed needs.

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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.

Parent Corner: Thank You to Our Online Volunteers

April is Volunteer Month, and at DBSA you can see the dedication, heart, and life-changing impact that volunteers have onthe communities they serve. Throughout all of DBSA’s peer networks, volunteers dedicate their time (and, at times, stories of their own lived experiences) to help individuals seeking support, education, and hope in lives affected by mood disorders.

This is apparent in DBSA online support communities like the Balanced Mind Parent Network, which joined DBSA’s programming in 2014. Across the country, the parents of children with mood disorders have turned to BMPN to learn from, support, and connect with other families working towards wellness.

This network of parents, according to BMPN members, is invaluable, providing them with allies who understand the victories and setbacks involved in raising children with mood disorders. It provides them with caring, empathetic, knowledgeable partners who are available and willing to support each other whenever needed. It also provides them with a sense of hope through an experience that can otherwise feel isolating and exhausting.  Through it all, the BMPN volunteers are there, quietly maintaining the online communities, encouraging thoughtful discussions, and contributing their own advice and experience to anyone who needs it.

Additional online support for peers can also be found through DBSA’s Helpline, an online resource run and maintained by volunteers dedicated to providing guidance to individuals with questions about living with a mood disorder.

Regardless of which DBSA program an individual turns to on their wellness journey, the hope, help, support, and education they receive is in large part due to the dedication of the volunteers within those programs. From DBSA, and those who use BPMN and the Helpline, “Thank You” to these volunteers for working to bring wellness and support to anyone who seeks it.

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DBSA Chapters

DBSA Chapters

Did you know that more than 95% of DBSA chapters are run by volunteers? As part of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, the Chapter Relations Department would like to thank each and every one of our chapter volunteers, who take on important roles ranging from board member to support group greeter. People become volunteers for various reasons, but the one we hear most often is that they want to give back to the community that gave them so much hope and inspiration to live a full life—regardless of their diagnosis.

If you, too, would like to be a volunteer and create a community of support, consider starting a DBSA chapter. The first step is simply to sign up for our informational Start-Up Email Series at DBSAlliance.org/StartUp. If you have any questions, please contact us at StartUp@DBSAlliance.org.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance


Effective advocacy doesn’t address the experience of people living with a mood disorder in a vacuum. There are many systems and moving parts which affect access to an individual’s treatment option of choice.

One such system is the process by which a prescriber must request prior authorization from insurers for medication. Typically, each insurance company has its own prior-authorization form, and many insurers have different forms for specific medications. Navigating this complex web of forms takes unnecessary time away from the prescriber—time which could otherwise be used to dialogue with the patient.

Some state legislatures are addressing this problem with laws requiring that a single prior-authorization form be used by all prescribers, and all insurance companies, for all psychiatric medications. The time savings realized by using only one form helps facilitate more face time between prescribers and patients.

The DBSA national organization advocates on behalf of people living with mood disorders by supporting this type of legislation, and by educating our participants. Learn about legislation in Illinois.

Regardless of where you live, we want to hear from you. If your treatment has been adversely affected by overly complex prior authorization requirements, step-therapy, or non-medical medication switching, please click here to take our survey. Your input will help DBSA advocate for more reasonable access to care.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Experts Answer Your Questions about Major Depressive Disorder

If you have questions about major depressive disorder (MDD), you are not alone. That is why we created a free video education program featuring leading depression experts answering the many questions people asked before the live session.

There were so many good questions submitted by the audience that the experts ran out of time to answer them during the live broadcast, so they stayed afterwards to answer more. Thus, new audience questions and expert answers are now available on our website. To access them, insert your name and email address, then scroll to the second video on the page.

Learn more about how to talk to your doctor, be active in your treatment, choose between different treatment options, and stick with treatments over time.

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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 son recently went through a depressive episode. Treatment and a new prescription are helping, but he finds he still has trouble staying asleep. He will often have dreams that will wake him up, and he will not be able to get back to sleep. What are some things to try to help him better regulate his sleep cycle?

People who live with mood disorders often experience sleeping problems, which can be an early sign of a mood episode and the last problem to get better when other symptoms improve. Your son’s sleep problems will probably sort themselves out over time, but there are some practical things he can do to recover more quickly.

The most important step is to keep a regular sleep schedule—especially a regular time to get up in the morning. If you are sleeping poorly, it’s very tempting to sleep later to try to make up for lost sleep. But that can throw off your biological clock and interfere with sleep the next night. It’s best to set a regular waking time, not let it vary by more than an hour, and avoid naps during the day (which also interferes with sleeping the next night).

Don’t spend more than eight hours per day in bed. If you are having trouble sleeping, spending more hours in bed won’t actually lead to sleeping more.  It will actually lead to more sleep interruptions: more time spent in bed not sleeping.

Lying awake at night can also be self-reinforcing. If you lie in bed tossing and turning and feeling miserable, that can lead to more anxiety about sleeping—which leads to more tossing and turning and feeling miserable.  Some simple steps to break that cycle:

  • Don’t have a clock or watch (or phone with a clock) where you can see it. Checking to see how little you slept or how long you’ve been awake, or how soon you have to get up, will just make you feel worse.
  • If you’re lying in bed and feeling more restless and awake, get out of bed and sit somewhere else. Do something relaxing (or even boring) until you feel sleepy. And then get back into bed.

I realize that advice is sort of like advising your child to eat more vegetables. It doesn’t sound too appealing or tasty.  But—just like eating more vegetables—it really does work!

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Bipolar & Setting Boundaries

Establishing boundaries is a challenge for me. Maybe if I understood this better, I would be more successful at work and in my relationships. Read the article.

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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

ConfidenceInspirational Quote
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it, and eventually the confidence will follow.” ~ Carrie Fisher

Having a Support PersonDepression
Whether it’s a counselor, a friend, a neighbor, or maybe a support group, it’s helpful to have a number to call when life feels overwhelming. I have found that it’s been essential for me. It’s been my reset button to be able to continue my day when my depression clouds my thoughts.

Feel Your FeelingsDepression
When I am really upset, I give myself permission to feel my feelings. However, I give myself a timeframe in which to do so: three hours of sadness, then I need to move on and try to do something I enjoy. This has been really helpful for me.

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