We all strive for full, healthy, and happy lives. Individuals living with mood disorders are no different. But for people with these conditions DBSA believes the bar needs to be raised and the focus changed. Clinicians must help peers work toward their own personal definition of wellness rather than exclusively pursuing symptom alleviation. Peers need to heighten their expectation of the quality of life available to them and actively take responsibility to make their wishes a reality. DBSA’s tools and programs are designed to facilitate this important shift in focus from illness to wellness.
I couldn’t have turned my life around as easily without DBSA. It works and it helps. It’s a powerhouse of support, understanding, solutions, and wellness.
As part of our year of I to We, DBSA created a community mental wellness event, also titled I to We, and took it on the road to Colorado Springs (May 16); Los Angeles (August 15), and New York City (October 25). This free, interactive event celebrated the contributions of people living with mental health conditions and promoted dialogue and action towards changing public perception of these disorders. In each locale we invited community mental health organizations to join us on site to provide attendees with information about local resources and services.
More than 500 audience members overall enjoyed remarks by DBSA president Allen Doederlein and a moving keynote address, “From Adversity to Advocacy: A Personal Story,” by Melody Moezzi, award-winning author, United Nations Global Expert, and mental and civil rights advocate. Audience members also took on various mental health issues in discussions moderated by Doederlein.
Surveys administered at each event showed that participants considered the sessions inspirational and a great success. In response to this enthusiasm, the DBSA I to We Tour will return in 2016.
In recognition of the many mental health observance days and weeks in October, DBSA, in partnership with Rebecca's Dream®, launched the I’m here… campaign on October 1. This campaign encouraged open and authentic communication between people living with depression or bipolar disorder and those who care about them. To help begin these sometimes challenging conversations, DBSA offered a special friendship pin kit for two people, symbolizing the three components of I’m here…: creating safety in numbers, starting the conversation, and spreading awareness. People were invited to build their pins with a friend and send “selfies” wearing their completed pins to DBSA.
Over the course of the month-long campaign, more than 2,400 pin kits were distributed. Photos were received from such prominent personalities such as platinum-selling recording artist Demi Lovato and Dese'Rae Stage, photographer, writer, and suicide awareness advocate. The I’m here… webpage received 16,516 page views and the associated videos were viewed 61,521 times. More than 57,000 people engaged with DBSA’s Facebook I’m here… posts, with an average of 2,595 comments per post.
When I found DBSA I was at a low point—my symptoms were out of control. Talking and sharing [with peers] has indeed been a saving grace! I AM HERE!
–Support group member
DBSA was proud to partner this year with the JED Foundation, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Council for Behavioral Health, and Sunovion on the Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health initiative that encourages individuals living with or affected by mental health conditions to speak up for themselves and their community.
The Be Vocal initiative evolved through an interest in mental health advocacy by platinum-selling recording artist Demi Lovato. She participated in the Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour, generously supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc., which connected her with leading mental health advocacy organizations, including DBSA, and helped her become a stronger, more informed advocate. She shared her personal experience of learning to live well with a mental health condition at national advocacy events across the country.
In 2015, as part of Be Vocal, Ms. Lovato encouraged those living with or affected by mental health conditions to speak up for themselves by submitting their stories to BeVocalSpeakUp.com. Taped statements were also solicited from advocates during Hill Day in Washington DC. The resulting video compilation makes a powerful statement, showing that, together, we can make a difference in the conversation around mental health.
DBSA’s Young Adult Council has joined All for 1, a new coalition of colleges and universities working together to improve student mental health. All for 1 strives to offer support for college students experiencing mental health concerns as well as work with universities across the nation to reevaluate their current mental health policies.
DBSA communicated with clinicians nationwide this year to offer information about the value of the peer support and spread awareness of DBSA.
DBSA conducts research on the peer experience and facilitates and/or participates in the studies of major researchers and institutions.
DBSA adds to or upgrades its extensive library of informational materials and wellness tools each year.
Thank God there are alliances like DBSA to educate the public and offer resources for those who are confused and scared, be it family or the person with the mental health condition.
Handling a Quarter-Life Crisis
Coping with Feeling Behind Your Peers
Dealing with a Relapse
Helping Friends Understand Your Mental Health Condition
Struggling in Silence
Dealing with Failed Expectations
Should I or Shouldn’t I: Disclosing a Mental health Condition
DBSA and the Young Adult Council Partner with Campus Coalition
DBSA I'm here... Campaign with Cinda and Linea Johnson
DBSA I'm here... Campaign with Dr. Greg Simon
I have often hoped that my pain can help others in some way; that there can be a purpose in all of this. As I watched your videos, I became excited and hopeful that I can do something this year that can make a difference for both myself and others.
Build Your Way to Wellness. A workbook that helps individuals identify and prioritize wellness goals as well as action steps toward achieving them; a collaboration with Optum®.
“Ask a Young Adult.” Members of the Young Adult Council offer their perspective online on questions asked by their peers.
“Sexual Health and Mood Disorders.” Online content that offers information on how sexual health may be impacted by symptoms of as well as medications for mood disorders.
Living Successfully with a Mood Disorder. This in-person curriculum and online course was revamped and enlarged.
DBSA Wellness Tracker. Named a Top Bipolar App of 2015 by Healthline, Tracker enhancements this year included an expanded section on physical health and long-term tracking ability of the user’s input averages for physical health, mood changes, and lifestyle choices. Individuals can also now opt in to give DBSA permission to collect data related to their tracking habits and interface with the tool.
[The Living Successfully online course] was such an eye-opener. I never knew I could one day have a job or even seem normal again.
Individuals living with or affected by mood disorders can sometimes feel powerless and alone, fearful of venturing out into the world because of stigma or lack of support. Through our programming—and virtually everything we do—DBSA strives to remind peers that they are part of a larger, supportive community and that wellness is possible for everyone.
Fear is the hardest thing to get over when you go to a support group like DBSA. Once you’re there, you just feel like you’re at home.
–DBSA chapter leader
On September 26, nearly 300 people gathered at the Eaglewood Resort in Itasca, Illinois, for an uplifting DBSA I to We Weekend. Including our thirtieth anniversary national conference and a newly expanded Leadership Forum, the event focused on the importance of community, the mind-body connection in wellness, and also celebrated the many contributions of people living with mood disorders.
In addition to information-packed sessions on a holistic view of health, the field of positive psychology, intimacy, nutrition and inflammation, sleep and relaxation, and a panel discussion on substance use, the weekend featured three powerful keynote speakers: photographer, writer, and suicide awareness advocate Dese'Rae Stage; Academy Award-nominated actress, author, and mental health advocate Mariel Hemingway; and Pulitzer Prize finalist author, philanthropist, and mental health and civil rights advocate Andrew Solomon. Of special note were presentations of the DBSA Legacy of Hope Award to Jan Fawcett, MD, and Rose Kurland, who were instrumental in the founding of DBSA, and the Life Unlimited Award to Carolyn Burke for a life lived unlimited by a mood disorder. A toast raised by DBSA president Allen Doederlein at the day’s end celebrated DBSA’s 30 years of life-saving peer support and high hopes for the next three decades.
Sunday’s Leadership Forum attracted a record number of participants. New this year was a five-track format that included special sessions for chapter leaders, parents, young adults, peer sponsors, and other attendees. Highlighting the day were thought-provoking keynote presentations by Larry Fricks and Barry Bradford.
This was the most important experience I have had since I was first diagnosed. I finally found others who understood, even without having to say a thing. I don’t feel so alone.
–DBSA National Conference attendee
In addition to working with their support groups, DBSA chapters are reaching out to their communities in new and exciting ways.
The DBSA Central Florida Chapter is in its first year of affiliation and is already very active. They have established weekly support groups for men and women in a local correctional facility where participants not only share support and information, but also create wellness plans using DBSA’s Facing Us website. The chapter is currently working with correctional administrators to set up additional group meetings for participants after their release and hope to replicate this program in other counties.
DBSA Princeton (NJ) is bringing workshops to psychiatric hospitals in their area, introducing patients to the concept of peer support and offering their chapter as a resource. The chapter is also delivering a DBSA Depression Community Education Program at various health fairs, where they educate peers, families, and local facilities about mood disorders and the DBSA Princeton support groups.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of DBSA Middle Tennessee Bellevue. One of their most recent projects was participating on a panel to educate nursing students about bipolar disorder. Chapter members shared their stories and engaged in role playing to allow students to understand how a patient with a mental health condition might experience different health care settings. One chapter member also visited Tennessee’s Capitol Hill to meet with a senator, representatives, and the Speaker of the House to advocate for a bill that would require mandatory suicide prevention training for medical education programs.
DBSA was founded by leaders who understood that the best person to help someone with a mood disorder is someone who has been on the same journey. With a peer support model that would come to be an evidence-based practice championed by leading clinicians, DBSA began in Chicago with just a handful of chapters that offered free, in-person support. Today we comprise 254 chapters, 615 support groups, and 10 state organizations, and in 2015 served 57,321 individuals locally. Ninety-seven percent of respondents to a recent survey stated that they would recommend their support group to others and 94 percent felt their group facilitator was effective.
DBSA is extremely proud of and grateful to all of our chapters who work so hard to bring support and hope to so many. Every year we recognize outstanding contributions by our chapters in several categories. Congratulations to this year’s recipients!
State Organizations: DBSA Oklahoma, DBSA Tennessee
Large Chapter: DBSA Overland Park (Kansas)
Small Chapter: DBSA Arlington Heights (Illinois)
Rookie Chapter: DBSA Solon (Ohio)
Outstanding Leadership: Nancy Bollinger, executive director of the DBSA Self Help Center (Missouri), and Cheryl Molyneaux who founded DBSA Central Florida in 2015.
The Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN) is an online community that guides families raising children with mood disorders to resources, connection with other parents, and hope. BMPN includes 12 communities who post questions, concerns, helpful information, and tips on a discussion board. Questions are answered by a dedicated group of 37 parent volunteers. In 2015, there were 25,586 posts in parent communities and 305 requests for help answered by volunteers.
This year, as part of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) conference on April 11, BMPN parents and children joined DBSA to take on Capitol Hill to promote child and adolescent psychiatry. They visited many legislators’ offices to tell their stories and describe their needs. As a result if this experience, one mother-daughter team is now planning to aim their new advocacy skills homeward.
Our experience in Washington made me realize that good can come out of our very challenging situation.
DBSA’s Young Adult Council (YAC) was established to advise DBSA on concerns and interests of our younger peers who live with mood disorders. The all-volunteer Council completed several projects this year, including the launch of a series of nine podcasts on young adult issues and assembling new resources to support young adults and help them connect with their peers. The Council has six members, ages 18 to 29, situated throughout the United States.
Self- and legislative advocacy are top priorities for DBSA. Through our activities and programs we strive to help peers learn about issues affecting access to quality mental health care and how to take concrete, strategic action in order to influence change.
Peers interested in learning about advocacy now have a remarkable new tool. This year DBSA launched the online DBSA Advocacy Platform that offers resources to help visitors educate themselves about the policy and legislative issues affecting people living with mood disorders and how to take action. Among many other things, visitors can access a complete advocacy toolkit and subscribe to receive alerts about upcoming legislation, complete with instructions on how to ask elected officials to support vital legislation that preserves, protects, and creates access to quality healthcare.