DBSA e-Update May 2018 See All Issues Sign Up

DBSA Appoints New Chief Executive Officer

Michael Pollock has been named the chief executive officer for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), the nation’s leading peer-directed national organization focusing on the two most prevalent mental health conditions, depression and bipolar disorder. Pollock, currently Vice President of Workplace Strategies & Partner Engagement at the National Safety Council, has more than 20 years' experience leading nonprofit organizations. The appointment is effective June 1, 2018.

“We are delighted to welcome Michael Pollock, who is a strategic, business-minded executive with a strong commitment to our mission. He is a communicator and leader, with a track record of working effectively with affiliate organizations like our chapters,” said Mike Kuhl, DBSA’s board chair.

“I am honored for this opportunity to build on the success of the organization’s 33-year history and to help deliver on its vision to influence positive change across the mental health landscape and, ultimately, to empower people with mood disorders to lead full, meaningful lives,” stated Pollock.

Members of Michael’s family have been impacted by depression, bipolar, and other related diagnoses, so he understands on a personal level the impact DBSA can have on the lives of people with a mood disorder. Pollock also spent 14 years at United Way, mostly in metropolitan Chicago, where he was responsible for increasing corporate, individual, and major gifts, and was part of the leadership team instrumental in implementing the merger of separate organizations into a single United Way. In addition, he previously was responsible for external affairs at Thresholds, a well-known Chicago organization that provides healthcare, housing, and support for people with mental health conditions and substance use disorders.

Pollock holds a BS in Business Administration and an MS in Organizational Development from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio.

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Life Unlimited
Dave Asher

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: Dave Asher

I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2006 after three years of psychotic behavior and multiple hospitalizations.  Drug use and manic behavior had been an issue, as in 2002 - 2005 when I lived in Amsterdam and then got fired, became depressed, and moved back to North Carolina to live with my parents.  In 2006, I finally accepted my bipolar diagnosis and got on the right medication. I began working full-time as a piano player and was able to maintain my position as musical director and teacher at a Chicago theater.

Music and improvisation have always played an important part in my personal discovery and healing. My song I'm Listening to You,” is a song about rediscovering life and “letting people in” after being hospitalized.

I was episode-free for about eight years until a few months ago.  Things were starting to get… well… TOO good. I began to decrease my medication and stopped sleeping.  Soon I was hearing voices again and behaving psychotically around my friends and coworkers.

Back to the hospital, but this time felt different. When I was released, I “came out” as bipolar to my friends on Facebook and shared with them my experiences around hospitalizations and learning more about myself and my path. My friends are now able to be supportive because they understand.

Below is are excerpts from messages I wrote on Facebook.

"When you show up at the hospital,” I wrote on Facebook, “the people admitting you are confused about what is going on. Furthermore, as a result of THEIR confusion, [you believe] they are trying to attack you: with needles, commands, instructions, and pills. As you first encounter the other patients, YOU believe that YOU shall save THEM too. YOU are the doctor, and the doctors/nurses/counselors have it wrong. But, over time, you start to feel that the hospital staff is starting to get it.... You start to have more normal conversations with the staff, who now seem genuinely interested in getting to know you.

Eventually, during meals and groups, you have a bird’s eye view of folks who are struggling inside their own minds and recognize that condition in yourself. By the time you are discharged, you get the sense that everyone, both inside and outside the hospital, inside or outside of a conversation, is playing both roles: doctor and patient.

No one has all the answers, but people do try to help others find their way.

My experience of readjusting, of getting my head and medications to a better place, has reminded me of the importance of listening, and of staying in touch with those who want to listen to you."

Now, I am determined to see my psychiatrist regularly, to stay on a better sleep schedule, and to NOT PLAY GAMES with my medication. That, and music, is my path to wellness.

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Bringing Mental Health Awareness to Those Who Live with Chronic Physical Health Conditions 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and DBSA is taking this opportunity to help build awareness of mental health by connecting with individuals living with other chronic health conditions, which often co-occur with mental health diagnoses.

Mental health and physical health are intrinsically linked. People who have been diagnosed with a physical health condition are more likely to experience poor mental health. The opposite is also true: a person who experiences poor mental health is much more likely to develop physical health conditions, especially chronic ones. Studies show that people who experience severe mental health conditions tend to live, on average, about 25 years less than the general population, often due to chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.

Why is there such a strong link? There are likely many reasons, but it is often thought that people who experience significant mental health issues are less likely to participate in routine health care which could identify the warning signs of chronic conditions. Symptoms of mental health conditions may also result in a person becoming inactive, eating poorly, and self-medicating with tobacco and alcohol, all of which are known to increase the risk of many chronic health conditions. Likewise, chronic physical health conditions can increase stress, make self-care more difficult, and lead to isolation—all of which are known triggers for mental health conditions.

Throughout May and for the remainder of this year, DBSA will work with other chronic health condition organizations to spread awareness of the connection between physical health and mental health through a series of social media posts, articles, and new website content. Help us spread the word by sharing this information with your community!

Download and share the infographic (PDF)

Link between physical and mental health infographic

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Veterans: Get the Tools to Support Other Veterans

Being a Peer Specialist has allowed me to reconnect with other peers and to gain tools to add to my toolbox in my own recovery. It takes me back to when I was in the service and it has saved me from self-destruction. Bryan, VA Peer Support Specialist

The shared experiences of military service and a commitment to overcoming the impact of mental health and substance use conditions create a bond like no other between Veteran peers. To ensure that quality Veteran peer support services are available to all who have served, DBSA has been training Veterans who live with mental health conditions to support the recovery of their peers since 2005. Many of these individuals now offer peer support services to other Veterans at VA facilities and community-based organizations throughout the country. 

Register today for DBSA’s Sept. 24-28 Peer Specialist training course in Chicago. Successful completion of this five-day course and the post-course examination meets national VA training and certification requirements for individuals employed as Peer Support Specialists. You may be able to use G.I. Bill and/or vocational rehabilitation benefits to support your participation.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA Opposes Proposed Rule to Allow States to Issue Short-Term Health Plans

Earlier this year, the federal Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and the Treasury proposed a rule allowing states to reduce hard-won health protections with issuance of short-term health insurance plans. These low-cost plans would strip away many of the protections available in the Affordable Care Act, and consumers risk being caught without adequate coverage when a crisis hits.

The advocacy team has been monitoring this situation and the DBSA Grassroots Organizations (GO) are ready to take appropriate action. For example, the DBSA IL GO lent its support to legislation advancing through the Illinois General Assembly. This legislation ensures that short-term plans offered in Illinois are equitable for people living with mood disorders by limiting the coverage period to 90 days in any given year; requiring that all existing health insurance protections are written into these new plans; and eliminating consumer confusion by requiring clear, plan language disclosures on all sales and marketing materials. To show our support DBSA, advocates in Illinois responded to an action alert sent by the DBSA IL GO and helped to ensure that the bill passed out of the Insurance: Health and Life Committee.

What’s happening in your state? DBSA needs to hear from our front-line advocates. When you subscribe to the DBSA advocacy platform, you participate in a community that shares legislative and policy updates and has access to timely information as to the best time to reach out to your legislators.

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DBSA Chapters

Congratulations to Our 2017 Chapter and State Organization Award Winners!

DBSA is delighted to announce our 2017 Service Award winners:

DBSA Tennessee State Organization Service Award
DBSA Succasunna (NJ) Chapter Service Award
DBSA Bowling Green (KY) Rookie Chapter Service Award
Barb Stephens, LCSW, of DBSA Knoxville (TN) Outstanding Professional Advisor Award

These award recipients have worked incredibly hard to provide hope, help, support, and education to peers in their communities. Read more about their accomplishments in 2017 on our Chapter Spotlights page.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

New Publication from the Young Adult Council

The DBSA Young Adult Council is proud to announce its newest publication, a wellness resource guide(PDF). This poster helps to identify the symptoms of mental health issues and to reinforce mental wellness in yourself and others! It contains useful advice for supporting positive habits and addressing concerns, and calls attention to accessible resources for general and specialized care for individuals. As always, if you have a specific concern or question that is not addressed, feel free to explore our Young Adults page for more information and resources.

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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 have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD. I have been taking diazepam for as long as I can remember. My psychiatrist states that she wants to take me off of it. She says it doesn't really help PTSD. I have never had a problem with it and it's the only drug I've found to ever help with my anxiety. Why take away something that is working when nothing else ever has?

Long-term use of benzodiazepines (like diazepam, clonazepam, or lorazepam) has always been controversial. And we now know more about the risks, especially for older people. Because benzodiazepines can affect reaction time and coordination, they increase the risk of falls and motor vehicle accidents. Both of those are already concerns for older people. More recent studies show that benzodiazepines increase the risk of developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s Disease. We also now know that combining benzodiazepines and opioid pain medications is especially dangerous. Your doctor knows more now about the risks of diazepam than when she (or another doctor) first prescribed it.

We have always known that benzodiazepines are addictive. When we say that, we are not passing judgment on people who take them; instead, we are talking about a biological effect. Long-term use of benzodiazepines causes brain changes that make the medication less effective over time. And most people experience a rebound or withdrawal reaction if they try to stop or cut down.

We know that benzodiazepines reduce anxiety in the short run; it is less clear if they are really helpful in the long run. Increasing anxiety if you stop or cut down doesn’t necessarily mean that a benzodiazepine is really helping. It may be just a rebound effect, meaning that you should cut down more slowly. I wouldn’t say that no one should ever take benzodiazepines long-term. But I would recommend anyone taking benzodiazepines regularly to try to cut down. Even if you can’t stop completely, reducing the dose will reduce the risks. Going very slowly is the key to successfully cutting down or stopping. For someone taking moderate or high doses of a benzodiazepine for years, tapering off may take six months or more. Dr. Heather Ashton developed a manual for doctors and patients about gradually tapering benzodiazepines. Many of my patients have found it helpful.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: The Enemy Within: Tools to Stop Self-Sabotage

When self-sabotaging behavior joins the mix of bipolar disorder, new challenges can support self-defeating tendencies; here’s how to get out of your own way. 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

"I don’t react until I know how I feel"
Bipolar Disorder
We don’t think clearly or express ourselves correctly when we’re inside our feelings. My first reaction never accurately expresses what I actually think or feel about a situation. When I’ve removed myself away from the moment long enough to think about it from a logical and critical perspective, I will then allow myself to give a response or reaction. If I still feel the same as I did initially, I know it was genuine. But not everything deserves a response.

Give yourself advice as if you're giving advice to a close friend
I notice that although I may feel pretty crappy, I can be pretty good at giving someone else advice on what to do. What advice will I give myself now? I see that I need to reach out more to my good friends, to admit the fact that I have depression and that I can’t make myself get out of it without any help. I do have good days, yes, but they don’t last long enough for me to be considered “recovered.”

Remember that you are sad, NOT weak, and there’s a difference. Life can feel like a struggle you have with yourself, especially when things seem the darkest. However, simply “showing up for the fight that day” is the most critical part of NOT losing. You don’t have to beat the storm that day, but  that does not mean you “lose.” You are who you think you are: someone who will push back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.

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