One out of ten people in the U.S. live with a mood disorder. It can be overwhelming and sometimes isolating, not only for someone who experiences one of these conditions, but also for their friends and loved ones who may not know how to help or what to say. Through a new campaign I’m here… launched on October 1, DBSA 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 is offering a special friendship pin kit, available for just the cost of mailing. One kit is intended to be shared by two people, symbolizing the three pillars of the I’m here… campaign:
Creating Safety in Numbers It makes all thedifference in the world to know that someone understands you and wants to help. Making I’m here… pins with a friend or family member creates an opportunity for sharing. Connection, rather than isolation, helps you or your loved one move towards wellness.
Starting the Conversation
Telling your truth can seem incredibly difficult, whether you live with a mood disorder or are a friend or family member of someone who does. Wearing an I’m here... safety pin shows that you’re open and ready to listen and share.
Spreading Awareness Mood disorders are common, yet stigma and fear of discrimination halts important discussion and prevents people from getting help and support. DBSA aims to spur the conversation. Wearing and then explaining to the people in your life the meaning behind your I’m here... pin helps everyone move closer to understanding mental health conditions.
To begin your own conversation, order a DBSA I’m here… pin kit (or make your own with a safety pin and lime green beads) and find a supportive friend or loved one. And when you’ve finished creating your I’m here… pins, pull out a camera and share a picture on social media of you and your friend wearing your pins! Tag it #ImHereDBSA to help spread awareness and tell people, I'm here...
Need help starting the conversation?
Linea and Cinda Johnson talk about their experience in learning how to communicate after being diagnosed with a mood disorder.
Dr. Greg Simon offers suggestions on how to express concerns to friends and loved ones.
The national DBSA I to We Tour makes its final 2015 stop on Sunday, October 25, in the heart of New York City. Melody Moezzi JD, mental and civil rights activist and United Nations global expert, headlines a free, multi-media presentation co-presented by DBSA, our metropolitan New York chapters, and local mental health organizations. Join us at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for the Performing Arts from 1 to 3 pm to connect with others interested in changing the conversation about mental health.
DBSA I to We Weekend Celebrates 30th Anniversary
On September 26, close to 300 people gathered at the Eaglewood Resort in Itasca, IL for the DBSA I to We Weekend, our 30th anniversary national conference and leadership forum. The weekend focused on the importance of community and the mind-body connection in wellness, as well as the significant contributions of people living with mood disorders.
In addition to information-packed sessions on a holistic view of health, positive psychology, intimacy, nutrition and inflammation, sleep and relaxation, and a panel discussion on substance use, three powerful keynote speakers each brought the house down. Photographer, writer, and suicide awareness advocate Dese'Rae Stage recounted her life experience with bipolar disorder and a suicide attempt which led to her founding LiveThroughThis.org. Actress, author, and mental health advocate Mariel Hemingway spoke of her escape from the tragic legacy of mental illness, suicide, addiction, and depression in her famous family. Andrew Solomon, an author, philanthropist, and mental health and civil rights advocate, offered thoughts and recollections on living with depression as documented in his seminal book, Noonday Demon. 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, advocates, and peer specialists. The day was punctuated by uplifting keynote presentations by Larry Fricks and Barry Bradford.
Our deepest thanks to each one of you who took time out to be with us at the DBSA I to We Weekend. Your enthusiasm contributed enormously to the event’s success and the positive spirit everywhere was inspiring.
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.
Ask the Doc
I was diagnosed at age 18 with bipolar disorder and still have the same struggles at 52. I also have PTSD. Is there evidence that adverse childhood experiences prevail as a factor in mood disorders?
It’s certainly well established that adverse childhood experiences increase risk for mood disorders (especially chronic depression) and anxiety disorders (especially PTSD). The evidence is clearest for adverse experiences that are well defined and easier to measure―like losing a parent to death as a child or experiencing childhood physical or sexual abuse. But this may just be science catching up to what people have known for a long time―that traumatic experiences early in life can increase risk for a wide range of mental health and chronic physical conditions.
I want to focus, though, on your use of the word “prevail”. If you have experienced abuse, trauma, or other negative experiences early in life, there’s a difference between saying “It makes sense that I experience depression and anxiety” and saying “It’s inevitable that I experience depression and anxiety.” The first statement can lead you away from self-blame. But the second one can lead you into hopelessness. And recovery from bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety is certainly possible―even if it’s been with you for 34 years.
One other factor to consider: there is at least some evidence that people with chronic depression following childhood trauma benefit more from psychotherapy with medication than medication alone. If your treatment has been mostly or completely focused on medication, you should certainly ask about seeing a therapist knowledgeable about specific treatments for chronic depression and PTSD.
Got a nagging question you want to ask a doc? Submit your questions online for a chance to get the answer. Check future DBSA eUpdates to see if your question was chosen. In the meantime, take a look through our Ask the Doc feature page, a comprehensive archive of past Ask the Doc features which may already be home to the answers you seek.
New Podcast for Young Adults: “Dealing with Failed Expectations”
DBSA is proud to announce the latest podcast in our Young Adult Series: “Dealing with Failed Expectations”. We often have great expectations of ourselves—and this can certainly be a good thing! Sometimes, however, these expectations can work against us, making us feel as if we are failing in our lives. Join DBSA’s Young Adult Council co-chair, Geralyn Dexter, and young adult mental health advocate and author, Linea Johnson, as they explore the difficulties in handling failed personal expectations. Listen to more young adult podcasts.
Our thanks to Rebecca’s Dream for their support of the DBSA 2015 Young Adult podcast series and Q&A.
Parent Connection appears each month in the DBSA eUpdate. Here, parents and guardians can expect to find up-to-date information and resources about parenting children and adolescents with depression and bipolar disorder. We also feature news about Balanced Mind Parent Network online support communities, the Family Helpline and other family-focused programming.
Parent Connection: Parent Programming at DBSA Leadership Forum
For the very first time, DBSA’s annual leadership forum included programming specifically designed for parents. Cheryl Magrini, MSEd, MTS, PhD led the informative morning session “Building Resiliency in the Family,” which showed how bouncing back from difficult situations is a skill for adults as well as children. She also offered tips for helping to build resiliency in all family members. See handouts.
The afternoon session featured “Crisis Happens—Be Prepared,” presented by Susan Ling. She discussed the importance of identifying triggers and ways to deal with these struggles, and emphasized the importance of a plan for family health as a preventative measure in day-to-day living. See handouts.
Many thanks to Cheryl and Susan for their contributions to a well-attended and successful day.
bp Magazine: Letting the Light In
Learn more about bipolar depression, including strategies that challenge lethargy—like the “good enough” theory and word choices that can help you build momentum and get yourself unstuck. Read article.
DBSA Advances Veteran Battle-Buddy-Bridge Program
As part of DBSA’s groundbreaking work in advancing availability of Veteran-to-Veteran peer support services, DBSA is partnering with Volunteers of America (VOA) to train and certify Veteran peers as part of VOA’s Battle-Buddy-Bridge (B3) program. Battle Buddies assist other Veterans and families in obtaining resources related to housing, health care, family support, education, employment, legal services, and benefits.
B3 was developed by VOA to serve a dual purpose: provide assistance to Veterans and families in need of resources, and offer opportunities to Veterans in search of mission-oriented work after separation from the military. Once trained as Battle Buddies, Veterans are placed in B3 squads. Squads are strategically deployed to reach Veterans and families via multiple avenues, including word of mouth and social media; VA and Vets Centers; outreach on the street, in jails and the court system; and through engagement with colleges and universities. VOA currently operates B3 in Los Angeles County and is actively pursuing additional opportunities to expand the program nationally over the next several years.
In October, DBSA trained B3 Veteran peers from across the country in skills that were focused on Veteran suicide prevention. Training participants were identified through a national selection process and participated in interactive training in overall peer support skills and suicide prevention tools. “The high number of Veteran suicides is a constant reminder of the life-threatening costs of mental health and substance use conditions,” said DBSA Peer Support Services Vice President Lisa Goodale. “DBSA is honored to be an integral partner with VOA and the B3 Program, an innovative method of fostering hope for Veterans and providing them with practical support to lead rich and rewarding lives.”
DBSA Key Partner in Washington DC Hill Day Advocacy
On October 5 and 6, twenty-five DBSA participants joined forces in Washington, DC, with over 700 mental health advocates to urge congressional support for better access to quality mental health services. The National Council for Behavioral Health has sponsored Hill Day for more than a decade and DBSA has served as a partner for the past three years.
Tracy Honkonen, chair of the DBSA Florida Grassroots Organization (GO), shared, “The thought of going to Washington was intimidating when I signed up, but spending the first day of the conference in sessions with other advocates from around the country gave me confidence. You could feel the collective power growing among everyone with each session they attended.”
The two-day event began with training sessions, highlighted by a panel discussion which included DBSA’s Phyllis Foxworth, advocacy vice president. She encouraged participants to share their personal stories when meeting with congressional staff. Attendees also heard from singer and mental health advocate Demi Lovato, who pressed attendees for action and introduced to the Be Vocal Speak Up for Mental Health website which encourages people across America to use their voice in support of mental health.
“This was my first year attending Hill Day,” reported Bret Bohlin, DBSA Illinois GO leader. “Sharing the message of hope and living in wellness through access to quality mental health care was particularly meaningful to me. I wanted Congress to know that, with appropriate funding for mental health programs, individuals living with a mental health condition can lead productive lives. I was honored to be the face for others who were not able to make it to Washington.”
In celebration of thirty years of life-saving peer support, DBSA presented two awards on Saturday, September 26 at the DBSA I to We Weekend. The DBSA Legacy of Hope Award, which recognizes longtime leadership and service to DBSA as well as lifetime achievement in the support of peers, was presented jointly to Jan Fawcett, MD, and Rose Kurland. Both were instrumental in founding what is today known as DBSA, growing it from an inspired idea to a national movement. The DBSA Life Unlimited Award went to Carolyn Burke. This award honors individuals who exemplify a life not limited by depression or bipolar disorder, and who are dedicated to helping others do the same. Carolyn is a wonderful example of living a healthy, connected life. An artist and graphic designer, she volunteers for both DBSA and the National Alliance on Mental Illness and works in the mental health field as a peer case manager. See press release. (PDF)
Life Unlimited: Bridget Miller
As with many of us I knew from an early age I was different from the children and adults that were in my life. I spent my childhood, school years and college riding the rollercoaster of bipolar disorder. I also grabbed onto things and people I defined as all good and put those judgements on a pedestal when those people and things failed to be perfect, I couldn’t see any value in them and would completely disregard and ruin the relationships. I joined DBSA about 5 years ago and attended only 2 groups. I came back because I found them again after a suicide attempt. I heard people saying the things I had been feeling for decades. I was so overwhelmed I broke down sobbing uncontrollably. For the first time in my life, I was not afraid of being judged, and I didn’t feel threatened.
DBSA became my life saver. If I hadn’t been able to attend support groups on a weekly basis, I’m sure I would have made another suicide attempt. I kept going to meetings and kept getting stronger. I was asked to facilitate a group and after much deliberation, I agreed. Later I was asked to serve on the chapter board of directors. Again I thought it over carefully. As with most of us with mental illness, we hold ourselves back from what other people may see of us because of our low self-esteem issues. I now serve on my local chapter board. I have learned I am safe at DBSA. I’ve learned I am accepted and I can be involved without letting the bipolar or the borderline personality disorder destroy my relationships with DBSA. I have also received remarkable help from a great psychiatrist and an even better psychologist. I’ve learned I need to identify my moods, triggers, and splitting. I have learned how to deal with them before they get a hold of me. Now I breathe. I talk things over with my professional support team and a trusted friend. When a trigger comes along, I frame it in ways I learned through therapy and by belonging to DBSA. I continue to attend groups. I recently attended a DBSA Conference in New Jersey where I was able to shift the paradigm of my thinking:
I do not suffer from this illness.
I do not have an illness that owns me.
I no longer live with an illness;
I am not its hostess, and
These illnesses are not my roommates.
I live well and thrive.
I am normal.
I am glad to see DBSA emphasizing the idea we can move from Illness to Wellness. I hope everyone who has received mental health diagnoses can move along through their lives with wellness and thriving.
Each month, DBSAlliance.org features new, empowering stories of individuals whose lives have been touched, but not limited, by a mood disorder. Our hope is to provide inspiration to individuals living with depression or bipolar disorder—to acknowledge that, though there may be dark times, there is also hope, and we are not alone.
If you would like to participate in our Life Unlimited feature by sharing your story, please submit your contact information.
Allen Doederlein DBSA President
Note from Allen
In declaring that DBSA is shifting focus from “I to We,” our organization is championing the power of collaboration and the potential we unlock when we open ourselves to our communities and our collective impact. Such power and potential were in evidence throughout our moving, successful DBSA I to We Weekend in Chicago this past September 25–27, 2015. While I think all of us who participated had individually transformative experiences, it was the connections and partnerships formed that will allow the spirit of the magical weekend to live on—and to continue to grow DBSA’s efforts beyond just our organization and into a greater movement of mental health and wellness for all.
Yet even as I am acutely aware of the need to collaborate as an organization and as a broader community of health and mental health, I still at the same moment recognize that such collaboration is only made possible by the bold act of an individual: someone who stands and says, “I’m here,” and in so doing, allows others the opportunity to do the same. This is why DBSA’s I’m here… campaign is so vital: it is a powerful individual declaration or act that creates the safety to connect and transform.
Join DBSA in saying, “I’m here.” Your stand for I’m here… can be a light to cast out the darkness of stigma; your stand may be a support for someone you love—or even someone you don’t know yet. You can say, “I’m here,” as a member of your local support group, chapter, or community, or you can tell the world, “I’m here,” by advocating for access to and quality of mental health care and other related policies and regulations.
Yet I’m here… has another dimension, one that can be more difficult for many of us, for a host of reasons. You can say “I’m here…and I need your help.” Far from being a sign of weakness or a failure, to ask for help is courageous and strong, and it creates a forum in which those who help you may find things within themselves—strengths, resiliencies, hopes, connections—that they didn’t know were there. All too often, when we need help, and perhaps especially when we’re at the affect of depression, we want to fix it, to retreat, to fade or vanish, even not to be here.
May the DBSA I’m here… Campaign be a reminder that we are connected, safe, strong—and that, sometimes, when we don’t feel that way, we need to ask for help.
Wellness Tips from Peers
Visit the Facing Us Clubhouse to get more tips, create your own tips, track your wellness, and connect with peers. Joining the Facing Us Clubhouse is easy and free.
Steer Yourself Inspirational Quotes
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
Opposite Action Anxiety
Identify the action urge of the emotion you are feeling. Is it going to help you achieve your goal? If not, identify the opposite action and do that instead. We can change our mood with our actions.
You Are Somebody Recovery Focus
You may not fit in because you stand out. You are GREAT!
Save the Date
October 25, 2015
1:00 PM–3:00 PM DBSA I to We Tour in New York City
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Bruno Walter Auditorium Learn more
OUR MISSION: DBSA provides hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders.
The Power of Peers
DBSA envisions wellness for people who live with depression and bipolar disorder. Because DBSA was created for and is led by individuals living with mood disorders, our vision, mission, and programming are always informed by the personal, lived experience of peers.