DBSA e-Update March 2018

Spotlight on Youth Mental Health and the Parents who Support Them

An important evolution in the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA’s) programming over the past five years has been our broadened, deepened focus on youth, young adult, and parent/guardian experiences of mood disorders. In January 2014, DBSA welcomed the Balanced Mind Foundation (formerly called the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation) into our suite of information, support, and resources. Their family-focused programming became a vital component of DBSA, and under a single organization, we knew we could more effectively provide consistent support to families and their children, both now and as adults.

The DBSA board—which now includes several members of the former Balanced Mind board—staff, and volunteer network are immensely proud to empower families to collaborate powerfully and transparently with clinicians and educators. We aim to inspire understanding that mood disorders among young people are very real, very complex, and very much dependent upon therapeutic alliance among families, clinicians, educators, and the children themselves. We strive to ensure that guardians can make informed decisions based on where their children are in their development—and armed with the crucial information that only parents and other caregivers can know about their own children. And we work to cultivate communities wherein parents and other family members can learn from their peers who likewise have children with depression and bipolar disorder.

Back in the early 1990s, the Balanced Mind grew out of the fact that parents of children with mood disorders needed their own community for support and guidance. Indeed, Balanced Mind co-founder Ruth Field's first message online, to anyone who might respond, was just like many sent today: "My son has just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Is there anyone out there who understands?" Responses poured in from around the country and, Ruth recalls, "The sense of isolation I felt instantly lifted." 

The Balanced Mind became a beacon in the storm offering answers, support, and connection to families raising children with mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder. Parents struggling alone can link into a network of allies, accessible anywhere, anytime. Those seeking answers can find reliable information on treatment, school accommodations, cutting-edge scientific research, and more through our online support communities and Helpline. 

Specifically, the Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN) guides families raising children with mood disorders to the answers, support, and stability they seek. It’s a rich community for discovering resources, connections, and—crucially—hope for the road ahead. Individual aspects of DBSA’s BMPN youth- and family facing programming include the following:

We celebrate this important programming—and the volunteers who give tirelessly to the BMPN online networks. We look forward to continuing to grow DBSA’s vital efforts to help young people and their families in the years to come. And, as we shared in the management team note this month, we hope you’ll vote for DBSA to win the Child Mind Institute 2018 Change Maker Community Builder Award!

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Life Unlimited
Olivia Eiler

Read more inspiring stories. If you would like to participate in our Life Unlimited feature by sharing your story, please submit your contact information.

Olivia Eiler: Life Unlimited

I was very blessed growing up: my parents were happily married, I was never abused, and I never had to worry about where my next meal would come from or if I would have shoes to wear to school. I used to think there was no good reason for me to be diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety in eighth grade, but I now realize that mental health conditions do not discriminate.

I managed well throughout high school, where I was valedictorian and captain of the soccer team. When I moved away to college, two hours from home, in the fall of 2016, my depression hit the hardest it ever has. After my first semester, a suicide attempt resulted in a six-night hospital stay. I was terrified, but it was exactly what I needed. Isolation is among my most powerful symptoms of depression, but I found people in the hospital who could understand and relate to me. I returned to college for the spring semester with a new outlook. I had come out of my rock bottom; now I could survive anything.

In the summer of 2017, I started attending a DBSA Louisville support group, and I felt the same sense of connection I had felt in the hospital. I was afraid to leave my support system behind when I returned to school again in the fall, so I decided my best option was to start a chapter in my college town. This is how DBSA Bowling Green became the second DBSA chapter in the state of Kentucky.

I also discovered a passion for publicly speaking about mental health. Currently, I speak to members of college classes and Greek chapters about mental health issues, the potential consequences of not seeking treatment, and the resources available to them on campus.

Before my first few presentations, I was trembling at the podium; however, I soon realized that my message was much bigger than myself. If I could help just one person, my experience and efforts would be more than worthwhile. After my presentations, I’m often approached by individuals who are struggling or who have friends or family living with a mental health condition. These conversations continually reaffirm my belief in the power of both education and open, honest discussion. Besides, if I don’t share my story out of fear, I’m perpetuating the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.

My recovery hasn’t been a straight line, but it’s trending upwards. There are still days when I struggle, but the support of my chapter carries me through. As a sophomore in college, I have no idea what my future holds. My career goals evolve every week, and I don’t know what city I’ll settle down in. I do know one thing for sure: no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’ll continue to speak out against stigma and fear of treatment. I believe these are the biggest barriers to wellness, and I want to be a part of the group that finally knocks them down.

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Note from the Management Team

Allen Doederlein, Executive Vice President of External Affairs

From among hundreds of organizations, DBSA has been selected to be one of five finalists for the Child Mind Institute 2018 Change Maker Community Builder Award, an important part of its annual Change Maker Awards program.

The Child Mind Institute is a national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families affected by mental health and learning disorders. Their annual Change Maker Awards celebrate individuals and organizations raising awareness and dispelling stereotypes, helping children and families directly, and/or working to transform the understanding and treatment of mental health and learning disorders.

The winner from the group of five will be decided by online voting open through March 23 You can vote at this link. We’d appreciate your votes for DBSA!

The winner will be announced in early April, then receive the award at a ceremony hosted by NBC’s Cynthia McFadden in New York on May 7. Other honorees include Activist Award-winner Glenn Close, founder of Bring Change 2 Mind, and Champion Award-winner, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, whose platform includes prioritizing mental health research and early intervention.

On May 7, Carnegie Hall will be filled with mental health leaders. We would love to be recognized by them as the winner of the 2018 Community Builder Award. Please show your support. Vote for DBSA!

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DBSA Chapters

Starting a DBSA Chapter

Have you ever wanted to run your own nonprofit to help people living with mood disorders? Join us on April 2, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time for our Starting a DBSA Chapter webinar. Hundreds of people all over the country have successfully established DBSA chapters, offering peer support groups and educational programs in their local communities—and you can too. Click here to register!

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Unlock Access to Your Mental Health Insurance Benefits

Simply put, mental health parity laws state that your health insurance plan must offer the same level of benefits for mental health as for physical health. Understanding your mental health parity rights is crucial for maximizing the benefits available to you and your family.

That is why DBSA has developed several programs to educate our community. In California, New Jersey, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, we offer in-person workshops that provide easy-to-understand information about mental health parity rights, how to determine if you have been improperly denied a benefit claim, and how to file an appeal. To have DBSA bring this workshop to your organization, email us at Advocacy@DBSAliance.org.

If you do not live in one of the areas where we currently offer in-person workshops, you can attend a virtual workshop by clicking here. By being educated, you can do more than simply help yourself and a loved one before a crisis: you can make a difference in someone else’s life by sharing this information.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Parent Corner: Introducing Your Child to Mindfulness

Developing an effective wellness strategy for your child often requires feedback and observations from many individuals who know them well. Parents, family members, medical professionals, and teachers can all offer helpful perspectives when evaluating how a child may be affected by changes in their routine or treatment. Equally valuable are observations and feelings reported by the children themselves.

For this reason, many parents have already found it helpful to daily review and track their children’s feelings to monitor progress. (DBSA offers both a printonline, and phone app mood tracker.) As time goes on, parents may encourage their children to take ownership of this activity and track moods by themselves.

As your child takes on the responsibility of assessing their mood throughout the day, mindfulness (or awareness) can be an especially helpful skill for them to add to their wellness toolbox. Mindfulness is being present in the moment, taking time to note the thoughts, sensations, feelings, and surroundings as they are being experienced. Eventually, your child may use these moments to articulate their moods, ground themselves throughout the day, and assess their emotions in an accepting and judgment-free way. Below are some activities and thoughts to help incorporate mindfulness into your family’s daily routine:

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Want to Create a Better Working Relationship with Your Health Care Providers?

DBSA and NeuroCare have partnered to make a free video program about working with your health care providers. Hear from top doctors and other people living with mood disorders to learn what you can do to play an active role in treatment.Click here 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

I've been on an antidepressant drug for 30 years. Is it even effective after all this time? I feel so-so, but always tired and unmotivated.

When you have been taking an antidepressant medication for many years, it can be hard to tell how much it is helping.  For some people, one antidepressant continues to be very effective for years or even decades; for others, antidepressants can gradually lose their effectiveness. 

You know that you are feeling “so-so” taking the current medication. What you don’t know is how you would feel without it. Another way of phrasing the question would be: “Have my depression problems improved after all these years? Or is severe depression still lurking behind this medication?”

We can point to some general guidelines to help answer this question. Severe depression symptoms are more likely to return despite medication if:

  • Your previous episodes of depression were severe.
  • Your previous episodes were more frequent and longer-lasting.
  • You have had significant depression in the last year or two.
  • In the past, depression came back quickly after stopping medication.
Depending on your history, you and your doctor might decide to experiment with tapering off of the medication. If you do so, you’ll want to go slowly (two or three steps over at least two or three months). Plan to monitor your depression to determine if it is, in fact, getting worse. I often tell my patients: “Lots of people experiment with their medications. If you are going to experiment, let’s do that together so we will be sure to learn something useful!”

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

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.  —Angela (past training participant)

DBSA Peer Specialist Training is a 40-hour training curriculum that teaches participants to utilize their lived experiences to support and give hope to others during their recovery journeys. Courses are facilitated by nationally recognized trainers, are highly interactive, and are designed to be comprehensive. They deliver a solid foundation in recovery principles, peer support intervention skills, and ethical practices. They also incorporate small-group coaching sessions and can be used to meet many state and VA peer training and certification requirements.

Earlier this month, DBSA traveled to Long Beach, California, to train employees of the County Department of Mental Health, and DBSA will return to the state in April to train another group of employees. It is all part of DBSA’s strategic focus on broadening the availability of quality peer support, promoting development of the peer workforce, and catalyzing health care transformation.

Do you have employees who need training and certification? Is your agency having difficulty securing spots in existing training courses due to demand? DBSA will work with you and your certifying body to explore bringing a contracted DBSA Peer Specialist Training course to your area. Click here to learn more or email Training@DBSAlliance.org. Tell us about your location, the size of the group to be trained, and other pertinent details.

If you are an individual looking to take training, we will offer it again in Chicago on Sept 24‒28. To register for this, click here.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Practically Positive: Transforming Your Negative Thinking

These simple, yet, surprisingly powerful strategies to break free of the loop that links bipolar depression, anxiety, and negative thinking may just transform your life.

There’s a well-established loop between dreary outlook and depressed mood—so learning to shift out of negative modes such as pessimism, catastrophic escalation, and destructive self-talk can improve your mental health.

It’s not always easy, of course, and there’s no magic solution. In fact, many people use more than one strategy.

Rudy, a mental health advocate from Los Angeles who was diagnosed with bipolar I two years ago, jokingly refers to one newfound coping tool as existentialist.

“For me, bipolar is mostly depression,” he explains. “I have learned recently to just train myself to think in the end, it doesn’t really matter.”

Although this approach may come across as defeatist, he finds it liberating: “It’s not letting things be the end of the world. … I just think, “In five hours or five days is anyone really going to care?’ ”

He has another go-to technique when anxiety takes his thoughts down a dark path. When he worries that something will happen to his car—a necessity in Southern California—he goes through an escalating series of logic statements to reassure himself.

“I tell myself it’s probably not going to happen unless I do something stupid like leaving the keys in the door,” explains Rudy.

Next, “I tell myself I can do what I can to prevent something bad from happening to my car. I can learn the basics such as how to change my tire and how to change my oil.”

Finally, he reminds himself that even if his fear comes true, it won’t be the end of the world.

“If those things happen, it’s going to be a bad day [but] it will be OK. I am going to be alive still after all is said and done.” 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

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

Time Is Suspended: Depression
While doing something you love, time passes without notice. Before you know it, an hour has gone by. Playing the piano is that thing for me. Time is suspended. I feel no depression, at least for an hour.

Exercise at Night: Bipolar Disorder
I exercise on the treadmill at night when nobody is awake, then I take a hot shower. This helps recharge and settle me if I know the next day will be a hard one.

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