Note from Allen: The Year in Review
2015: DBSA Leads the Way…From I to We
When it was founded, the notion of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, or any organization, being not only for people with depression and bipolar disorder, but also led and governed and staffed by these individuals, was unusual, to say the least. Many people were skeptical that such an organization would last.
Now, in 2015, as DBSA closes its thirtieth year, we can take immense pride in the transformation we have achieved. For we, as a force some three million strong and growing, are leading the way to a world in which mental health is not a lucky accident for some, but rather the accepted norm for all. We are leading the way to a world where people with mental health conditions are celebrated for their contributions rather than feared or ignored. We are leading the way…from I to We:
- from eliminating illness to building wellness
- from isolation and fear to a welcoming community of support
- from individual views to powerful, collective voices
Indeed, 2015 has been our celebration of I to We.
From eliminating illness to building wellness
2015 included members of the DBSA team traveling to three major cities to host events combining information, connections to community, messages of hope, and inspiration from people doing extraordinary work to help their peers achieve wellness. We were immensely impressed by the engaged and active participation in our I to We events in Colorado Springs, Los Angeles, and New York, and I’m thrilled to share that we will be continuing our I to We community events in 2016, too!
And then, on September 26, 300 people gathered at the Eaglewood Resort in Itasca, IL for the DBSA I to We Weekend, our thirtieth anniversary national conference and leadership forum. The weekend focused on the importance of community and the mind-body connection in wellness. The event was also a celebration of the significant contributions of people living with mood disorders. In addition to educational content on wellness, whole-health, positive psychology, intimacy, nutrition, sleep, and substance use, we welcomed wonderful keynotes: Dese'Rae Stage, founder of LiveThroughThis.org; actress, author, and mental health advocate Mariel Hemingway ; and author, philanthropist, and mental health and civil rights advocate Andrew Solomon.
For the first time this year, our conference also included an overall DBSA Leadership Forum for numerous members of the mental health community: DBSA chapter leaders, parents, young adults, advocates, and peer specialists. The DBSA Leadership Forum also included powerful keynotes by Larry Fricks and Barry Bradford.
From isolation and fear to a welcoming community of support
DBSA was founded by leaders who understood that no one could understand, or help, with a mood disorder like someone who had been through such a journey her or himself. With a peer support model that would come to be an evidence-based practice championed by leading clinicians and researchers (not to mention the genesis of a new role within the mental health workforce—the peer specialist), DBSA began with a handful of chapters that offered free, in-person support. Now, over 53,000 people attend a DBSA support group in a year, and a nationwide network of nearly 300 DBSA chapters is creating safe spaces of learning and healing—lifelines to community and inspiration.
Additionally, the work of the Balanced Mind Parent Network continues to flourish, a dedicated group of super-volunteers answering questions for and providing hope to hundreds of parents whose children have mood disorders.
DBSA’s Young Adult Council launched a series of podcasts on young adult issues in 2015, and we also assembled new resources to help support young adults through challenges and help them connect to other young adult peers. The Young Adult Council also created a new Young Adult Q&A resource.
On October 1, 2015, DBSA launched its new I’m here… campaign. The campaign encourages open and authentic communication between people living with depression or bipolar disorder and those who care about them. To help begin these conversations, DBSA offered a special friendship pin kit symbolizing the three pillars of I’m here…
- Creating Safety in Numbers
- Starting the Conversation
- Spreading Awareness
From individual views to powerful, collective voices
Self-advocacy and legislative advocacy continue to be priorities for DBSA. Making it easier not only to learn about issues that affect access to quality mental health care, but also to take concrete, strategic action in order to influence change, have been our chief advocacy goals. To facilitate these, we have our Care for Your Mind blog, a partnership with Families for Depression Awareness, and newly launched DBSA Advocacy Platform. And nine DBSA Grassroots Organizations, or DBSA-GOs, are leading state-based advocacy initiatives, bringing passion and the peer voice to the forefront of the policy, regulatory, and media dialogue.
On October 5 and 6, 2015, over 30 DBSA participants joined forces in Washington, D.C. with 700 other mental health advocates from around the country. Under the auspices of the National Council for Behavioral Health’s annual Hill Day, DBSA and nine other organizations’ constituents coalesced powerfully for access to, and funding for, quality mental health services and programs.
At the 2015 Hill Day, attendees also heard from singer and mental health advocate Demi Lovato, who along with DBSA and other mental health organizations, is part of the Be Vocal Speak Up for Mental Health campaign.
Bookending 2015 were two unique and groundbreaking initiatives led by DBSA. On April 29, 2015, DBSA organized and led the first-ever Congressional briefings to be entirely initiated by people with lived experience of mental health conditions. The briefings educated members of the House and Senate and their staffers about the extraordinary efficacy of peer support and peer support services. And then on December 8, 2015, DBSA welcomed 14 leaders from throughout the mental health community to a Peer Support Services Summit, where the assembled individuals met to launch—and continue—collective efforts to advance the peer support workforce.
DBSA has for 30 years informed, empowered, supported, and inspired people who have mood disorders and people who care about them. With the DBSA: I to We Campaign, we are raising our sites to say not only do we have the ability to be powerful and transformative in our own lives, we truly have the power to change the conversation about mental health from one of danger and drain to one of collaboration and contribution. We could not do it alone, though, as the very words I to We suggest, and we thank our chapters, volunteers, staff, donors, board, and all who are part of our growing force for good.