Our Work

DBSA is led by and created for individuals living with a mood disorder, and that experience informs everything that we do. Our peer-based, wellness-oriented, and empowering services and resources are available when people need them, where they need them, and how they need to receive them—online 24/7, in local support groups, in audio and video casts, or in printed materials distributed by DBSA, our chapters, and mental health care facilities across America.

Through our extensive online and print resources and our nearly 650 support groups and more than 250 chapters, DBSA reaches millions of people each year with in-person and online peer support; current, readily understandable information about depression and bipolar disorder; and empowering tools focused on an integrated approach to wellness.


We Are Powerful Social Media Campaign
DBSA posted monthly challenges throughout 2016 on our vibrant social media channels, asking our followers to share ways they have embraced their power to impact positive change in their lives and/or the lives of others. DBSAlliance.org/WeArePowerful

Peer Leadership Center
For more than 30 years, DBSA has championed the peer voice, bringing hope to individuals, harnessing the power of collective voices, and illuminating the value of peers as a workforce. In February 2016, DBSA took another leap forward by launching the DBSA Peer Leadership Center (PLC). In brief, the PLC is an impartial clearinghouse that centralizes a multitude of information of interest to peer specialists and supporters, as well as organizations with training, resources, and employment opportunities for them. It’s an online community where the peer provider workforce can find information and training about peer support services; connect with individuals working in peer service fields; learn about employment opportunities and organizations that champion peer support services; and engage in dialogue that will advance the field.

PLC membership is open to both individuals and organizations, free-of-charge. Individual members build and post a profile which details their background and experience. They then receive access to a job board; educational opportunities such as online classes and webinars; and a calendar of certification and continuing education training. And perhaps most importantly, they may use discussion boards and private messaging to support collaboration, dialogue, and personal networking. Organizations who offer mental health services and are invested in the peer workforce may also register. They can post job opportunities free of charge and promote their community and national resources to PLC visitors. PeerLeadershipCenter.org

National and State Advocacy
The focus of DBSA advocacy mirrors the organization’s goals to facilitate wellness for individuals living with mood disorders. For many people empowerment through service is an important tool in their wellness plan. This is often the case with people who are newly diagnosed. After being silenced for so long, they are looking for a constructive way to make their voice heard. Just as important, many people who have experienced a difficult journey on their way to wellness want to make sure that others have an opportunity to find a softer landing or journey. Recognizing that stigma and public health policies might be barriers, they want to make systemic and institutional changes to the way society views and treats mental health conditions. DBSAlliance.org/TakeAction

An effective way to effect change is through coordinated mobilization. DBSA’s state-wide grassroots organization (GO) program enables participants to work together as a team mobilizing around issues in their state. Through their own state page on the DBSA advocacy platform, advocates can educate about issues and mobilize peers by sending out action alerts when it is most advantageous for legislators to hear a collective voice. New in 2016 was publication of the first online issue of Making Mental Health Matter. Written by advocates participating in a state GOs, this monthly e-newsletter features sections on inspirational advocacy work, updates on mental health policy or legislation, advocacy tips, and recent successes.

Nationally, DBSA played a significant role in the mental health reform language included in the 21st Century Cures Act that was signed into law in December, 2016. As a result of advocacy by DBSA and other organizations:

Community Connectors
The DBSA Community Connectors program connects community resources to individuals living with depression and bipolar disorder. This program focuses on expanding the availability and quality of peer support through regional representatives, clinical connections, nationwide trainings, and online support.

DBSA hired our first regional representative, charged with covering the Mid-Atlantic region, in late 2015 and hired an additional representative to cover the Great Lakes area in early 2016. These representatives train and work directly with DBSA chapters to build connections to and share resources with other mental health community groups as well as grow chapter services in underserved areas and areas with no services. This added attention allowed for enhanced trouble-shooting support as issues arose, three regional events that allowed chapters to meet each other and discuss common issues and solutions, and an increased re-affiliation rate in these areas.

The DBSA chapter team also works to provide similar resources, trainings, and connections to chapters not yet represented by a regional representative. The Community Connectors program offered support to chapters nationwide by offering four professionally-led webinars on chapter finances and board development to our chapter leaders, creating and distributing a new template for chapter bylaws as well as a complete welcome kit template, welcome statement and preamble to help chapters introduce themselves to new participants, increasing the likelihood of return attendance. Additionally, the Community Connectors program supported direct outreach to clinicians to help facilitate connections to peer support groups in their local community and increase awareness of DBSA’s wellness tools and resources for their patients/clients. For more information on chapters visit DBSAlliance.org/FindSupport.

Additional Successes:

I to We Tour Expansion
DBSA first launched the DBSA I to We Tour in 2015, making stops in Colorado Springs, the greater Los Angeles area, and New York City. DBSA expanded on this tour in 2016, hosting events in Baltimore, MD, Seattle, WA, and Akron, OH. These free events for the public, individuals living with mood disorders and their friends or family, mental health practitioners, press, and local government celebrated the significant contributions of individuals living with mental health conditions; promoted dialogue and action towards changing public perception from danger and drain to potential and contribution; and connected individuals seeking wellness to DBSA chapter and community resources. In addition to providing a dynamic, multi-media educational experience for audience members, these events served as a catalyst to forging new partnerships with diverse mental health organizations within the host city. DBSAlliance.org/ItoWe

I to We Weekend 2016
Building on the success of the I to We tour events, DBSA held a two day event in Akron, Ohio in November, 2016. Day one featured expanded I to We Tour programming. Keynote presentations focused on updates in new findings in depression and bipolar disorders and utilizing positive psychology to aid in wellness. Day two DBSA offered our annual Leadership Forum designed to help attendees―chapter leaders, support group participants, peer specialists, grassroots advocates, young adults, and parents―enhance the unique way they provide support and advocate for change and, featured two keynote sessions that focused on the power of sharing your story and combatting compassion fatigue. DBSAlliance.org/Akron2016

I’m Living Proof
DBSA’s Young Adult Council conceptualized I’m Living Proof in response to the question—What would these now young adults liked to have had when they were first diagnosed? The resounding response was knowledge that life would get better—hope for the future. With this goal in mind, DBSA’s Young Adult Council began collecting personal stories from young adults, aimed at providing hope and support to teens who are currently facing a mood disorder diagnosis or experiencing symptoms. These stories and videos from brave young adults show the fear and the struggles, but most importantly show teens and other young adults that life does improve—they are living proof of this. We encourage you to review the stories and share them far and wide with the young people in your life—regardless of whether they live with a mood disorder. With suicide rates of pre-adolescent and adolescent girls tripling over the last 15 years, this message of hope is extraordinarily important. DBSAlliance.org/ImLivingProof

Getting Started—A Guide for Parents
Learning that your child has a mental health condition can be frightening and, at times, isolating. Parents with newly diagnosed children or those who suspect that their child may have a mood disorder may benefit from one of our new brochures, Getting Started: A Guide for Parents of Children with Mood Disorders. This guide was created to help parents take their first steps towards their family’s journey to wellness. At DBSAlliance.org/GettingStarted, you’ll find information on

McCormick Foundation Veteran Training
DBSA delivered its nationally-recognized 46 hour Veteran peer specialist training course to 18 Veterans on July 25–30, 2016. The course included both virtual and face-to-face training followed by post-training certification testing. Successful course completion met National VA requirements for peer specialist employment at VA facilities, and training hours qualified toward Illinois Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) certification requirements. Participants evaluated the training course highly; no aspect of the course was ranked lower than Very Good, with the great majority rating the course as Excellent. For more information on training visit DBSAlliance.org/Training.

New Young Adult Podcasts
Building on the success of the 2015 podcast series, the DBSA Young Adult Council created the following additional podcasts in 2016

The Young Adult podcasts have been listened to over 7,000 times since their initial postings in 2015. DBSAlliance.org/YApodcasts

What Helps, What Hurts Supplement for Young Adults
DBSA’s new What Helps, What Hurts Young Adults supplement serves as an accompaniment to our existing What Helps, What Hurts brochure. This 2-sided PDF offers helpful advice on best ways to help and what to avoid for both parents/caregivers and friends. It also includes a special section for young adults on how to best express their need for help with others along with suggestions on handling life transitions and disclosure issues.

New Surveys

The DBSA Survey Center launched two new surveys in 2016.

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In addition to introducing new initiatives each year, DBSA maintains many ongoing signature and core programs.

DBSA Chapters
As independent affiliates of DBSA in their local communities, DBSA chapters offer more than 626 peer-run support groups serving nearly 50,000 individuals in 2016. Participants will find comfort and direction, and learn how they can make a difference in the lives of others. Services offered varies by chapter, depending upon the needs of its participants. Most support groups are volunteer run and provide self-help through free, facilitated meetings. To find a local chapter, search online at DBSAlliance.org/FindSupport or to learn more about some of the great work our chapters do in their communities, visit DBSAlliance.org/ChapterSpotlights.

At the Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN), a program of DBSA, you'll find resources, connection, and hope for you and your child. BMPN offers online support communities for parents of children with depression or bipolar disorder, ranging from toddler to young adults, as well as a Family Helpline that answers inquiries. The BMPN online library features articles focused on pediatric mood disorders. The BMPN online communities offer understanding and support for parents from other parents seeking guidance on the best ways to help their children living with mood disorders and ways to take care of themselves in the process. DBSAlliance.org/BMPN.

Living Successfully
DBSA's Living Successfully with a Mood Disorder course is designed to help people living with a mood disorder as well as friends and family learn more about depression and bipolar disorder, find effective treatments, and create a plan for living well with these conditions. The course is often delivered in local communities across the United States by trained DBSA grassroots volunteers as a six-hour course, but DBSA also offers an online course in an effort to provide basic information about living well with mood disorders to as many people as possible. DBSAlliance.org/LivingSuccessfully.

Facing Us Clubhouse
DBSA’s Facing Us Clubhouse is home to a wealth of customizable personal wellness tools to help you live a full, healthy, and happy life. Inside, you can create a personal wellness plan; chart your emotional, mental, and physical health with the DBSA Wellness Tracker; feed your artist within in the Creativity Center; keep a personal journal; listen to Facing Us Radio; send e-postcards; share wellness tips; and browse inspirational videos. FacingUs.org

Wellness Tracker
The DBSA Wellness Tracker is an online tool and smart phone app to help you recognize potential health problems and mood triggers. Charting life’s ups and downs can help you spot trends affecting your health and treatment. With the DBSA Wellness Tracker, you can track mental and physical health trends, including your well-being, overall mood, mood disorder symptoms, lifestyle choices, and physical health. DBSAlliance.org/Tracker or on iTunes© or Google Play™ DBSAlliance.org/Tracker.

I’m here …
Whether you live with a mental health condition, or want to show your support for a friend or family member who lives with one, opening up a channel of communication can seem difficult or even overwhelming. DBSA’s “I’m here…” program is designed to address the challenge of having such conversations. In addition to the action of creating the pin together as activity to facilitate Starting the Conversation, wearing an “I’m here…” pin shows others that you’re supportive, open, and aware, and also serves as a conversation starter with others in the community and in turn to Spread Awareness. Our hope is to reach a critical mass of people who wear pins that’ll shift seeing a person wearing a pin from an unfamiliar novelty to a level of recognition. DBSAlliance.org/ImHere.

Maximizing Your Health Insurance Benefits
A guiding principle around DBSA advocacy is to increase access to quality mental health care and eliminate barriers that can keep people from leading the lives they want. One way to do that is to ensure implementation of mental health parity laws—a Federal law that requires insurance plans to offer the same level of benefits for mental health conditions as they do for physical health conditions.  Advocates who work on the How To Maximize Your Health Insurance program deliver a workshop that educates people about mental health parity laws. Participants also work with other advocacy organizations in their state that focus on regulatory and judicial remedies when people are unable to access care using their health insurance plans.

Peer Specialist Training
DBSA is a nationally recognized leader in advancing the peer specialist workforce―people who are formally trained and certified to use their own lived experience to assist their peers in recovery. Our training team has prepared thousands of peer specialists working in the public and private sectors, including military Veterans. DBSAlliance.org/Training.

DBSA offers in-depth, scientifically vetted, and easy-to-understand information about depression and bipolar disorder; online mood disorder screeners; medical, therapeutic, complementary, and self-driven treatment options; more than 40 educational brochures that can be downloaded for free or ordered online; and wellness strategies and tools through our user-friendly website DBSAlliance.org and companion websites. DBSA offers additional learning opportunities through podcasts, webinars, videos, online courses, and in-person training and events. DBSAlliance.org.

800 Referral and Helpline
In 2016 people reached out to DBSA through our volunteer-staffed 800 resource and referral line and/or our Helpline, offering support to individuals living with depression or bipolar disorder or their friends and family who could benefit from receiving resources specific to their situation or from shared experiences.

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DBSA is committed to changing how mood disorder and the people who live with them, are treated. As such, we have partnered with like-minded organizations to advocate for the rights of individuals living with mental health conditions at both a legislative/regulative level as well as in the hearts and minds of the general public.

DBSA believes it is critical for individuals with the lived experience of mood disorder be an integral part of determining the nature and goals for research into these conditions. As such, DBSA works to ensure people have access to emerging studies in the field of mood disorder and that the voice of live experience is included in the construction and evaluation of research focused on improving the treatment of depression and bipolar disorder.

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