Depression and Bipolar Support AllianceA Message from DBSA Board Chair, Lucinda Jewell, to the DBSA Community: DBSA Stands for Mental Wellness

This has been an unprecedented inaugural year to serve as your national chair. Beginning with velocity, our Board and staff collaborated to create an organizational vision: “DBSA envisions wellness for people living with mood disorders.” This statement has transformed our mission to focus on four core values of community, inspiration, wisdom, and responsibility.

I am proud to share what we have achieved and where we have exceeded expectations in all aspects of our organization. Here is just a short list of DBSA’s accomplishments in the past 11 months:

  • DBSA regenerated our regional events with chapters in the form of Partners in Mission sessions and the Chapter Leadership Forum as a stand-alone conference.
  • DBSA re-launched DBSAlliance.org with greater navigability and a focus on the areas of information most important to our chapters.
  • DBSA launched WeSearchTogether.org in collaboration with the University of Michigan Depression Center in order to boost participation of peers in research about mental health.
  • DBSA advanced strategic partnerships with Families for Depression Awareness, the National Council on Community Behavioral Healthcare, the National Network of Depression Centers, and several other social-profit and for-profit entities.
  • DBSA nurtured a successful strategic partnership with the International Society of Bipolar Disorders, and DBSA’s symposium at the ISBD conference in Istanbul, Turkey in 2012 led to our Concordance webcast on November 12, 2012 and will lead to a joint conference day in June 2013 in Miami.
  • DBSA exceeded measures for attracting new individual, government, and corporate investors in 10 of 11 months.
  • DBSA completed a three-year strategic plan, which will be presented to the DBSA community in early 2013.

None of this would have been possible without our new vision and the extraordinary teamwork of Board, staff, chapters, honorary and scientific advisors, and the larger community.

Let me say again: DBSA envisions wellness for people living with mood disorders—not someday, or in some distant future, but now. This does not mean that mental health symptoms will miraculously disappear, but that, as an organization, we are dedicated to making wellness available to everyone regardless of their circumstances or how they feel in the moment. How will we do this and what will it look like?

How will we do this?
Completing the vision, mission, and values statement allowed DBSA’s strategic planning committee to bring clarity and efficiency to developing a five-year strategy. The committee made three strategic choices that staff will use to frame and implement all messaging, marketing, initiatives, and programs going forward:

  • PEER FOCUS: We are peers who have or have had mood disorders and we build on shared experiences to live better now.
  • ADVOCACY: We create and promote messages, structures, and practices that advance mental health, personal choice, and wellness.
  • ORGANIZATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS: We provide powerful leadership to fulfill on our current commitments and stated vision with impact, accountability, and integrity.

What will it look like?
Over the past several years, institutional and social support for people with mood disorders has been focused around the concept of mental illness. Important work has been done with that focus, but the prevalence of severe symptoms remains unchanged—some would argue they have even increased over time. What will similar effort, action, and structures make available in support of the concept of mental wellness? It is up to us to create new and powerful institutions and social supports for mental wellness, and we will need the strength and commitment of our combined voices, along with those of our allies and social-profit and for-profit partners, to explore what mental wellness can make possible. Mental wellness will require a shift in how mental health is viewed, asking new questions and establishing new educational priorities, research directions, lifestyle practices, and social-profit organizations.

DBSA is that new social-profit organization. We are taking the lead in a bold adventure. We are grateful for where we have been, where we are now, and the possibilities that we have yet to imagine and make real. Wherever you are in relationship to your own mental health and the conversation for it, we invite you to join us—just where you are. You make a difference no matter how you feel. And people who have experienced depression and/or mania have made and continue to make extraordinary contributions in their own lives, in the advancement of humanity, and in the understanding of what it is to be human.

Join us in standing up, speaking out, and stepping into an unimaginable future of mental wellness for all. Together, we can!

–Lucinda

Lucinda Jewell serves as the Chairman of DBSA. She is the former President of DBSA Boston and still serves on the board there. Previously, she was a co-founder and first editor of the Boston Book Review, a literary review modeled on the Times Literary Supplement. She earned her Ed. M in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard, and since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995, has been a tireless educator and advocate for transforming the conversation for mental health. She lives with her daughter in Cambridge, Massachusetts.