There’s nothing like a new year to prompt us to look at our lives with fresh eyes. Like me, you have probably resolved to make some changes and, like me, sometimes your best intentions fall short of your plans. Anyone can lose that initial spark of enthusiasm but those of us with mood disorders face an extra challenge. It’s the feeling of powerlessness. This can be because of our conditions, not being really heard by our doctors, public stigma, or maybe all of these things and more. But what we tend to forget is that there is a fierce, untapped power in each of us. Maybe you have yet to discover this inner strength or have just forgotten it’s there. So this month, we are launching the year-long campaign We Are Powerful. We want to encourage everyone—peers, parents, and families—to embrace their power and use it in their own lives and for the good of others and the world.
Allen talks about the 2016 DBSA We Are Powerful Campaign
We Are Powerful in Our Own Lives! When we learn more about our conditions and treatment options, or insist on treatment strategies that focus on being truly well rather than simply better, or surround ourselves with supportive people who lift us up, not pull us down, we are showing our power by taking control of our own lives.
We Are Powerful in the Lives of Others! We have a very important role to play in the lives of our peers, children and families. Sharing our personal stories, becoming an online support group member, or just lending an understanding ear to someone else can make a tremendous difference. And speaking out about our challenges and voicing our opinions has the potential to change communities and even the law.
We Are Powerful in the World! Each ofus has a contribution to make to the world, no matter our challenges. There is no one else who can do exactly what we do or how we do it—we are unique.
“We” is at the center of power! As we find our personal strength and increase our own power, we impact so many others. Our efforts touch those in our immediate circle, they reach out to others, and these people to still others. We never know how far our influence reaches.
Embrace your power in 2016! We invite you this year to join us on a journey toward personal power. At the beginning of each month on Facebook we’ll introduce a different aspect of power for you to explore. At the end of the month, tell us about your experience on “Power Points” Friday. You can trace your path using the online journal at DBSA’s FacingUs.org.
Make 2016 your most powerful year yet! Ilook forward to sharing the journey with you. Happy New Year!
Chapter Spotlight: DBSA Orange County, CA
DBSA Orange County partners with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA, and operates a peer-run Resource Center on the hospital campus. Open five days each week, the Center serves people attending an intensive outpatient program, their family members and supporters, as well as people from the surrounding community. Visitors may drop in to borrow materials from an in house library, speak with volunteers about available community resources, such as housing, or even talk to someone about their current situation. Information requests, which may also be made over the phone, often require a great deal of time and research.
DBSA Orange County also offers 11 meetings each week at four different hospitals, monthly lectures, and a variety of volunteer opportunities. Key to their thirty-year existence has been empowering participants to become leaders. Facilitator Bill Mahoney especially enjoys working with young people and is proud of the four new young adult facilitators recently trained. When asked to share tips for other chapters, he said he believes that the way to keep people involved is by working with their interests and schedule, as well as being adaptable to community needs which tend to change over time.
To see what some of our other affiliates are up to, visit the Chapter Spotlights section of our website!
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.
Volunteer with DBSA’s Helpline in 2016
Are you looking for a volunteer opportunity where you can give back by using the experiences that you’ve gained as an individual or parent of a child living with a mood disorder? If so, DBSA’s Helpline may be for you. Help make a difference by providing peers with information and resources that they need when they don’t know where else to turn.
The Helpline is a phone and email resource line that individuals can use to receive suggestions about specific challenges that they are facing. Questions can be sent by email or leaving a voicemail and an assigned volunteer will respond to the request.
How does it work?
An individual calls the Helpline and leaves a voicemail or completes an online form with a question or concern.
Our volunteer Helpline coordinator reviews the request and then assigns a member of the volunteer team (via a private online group) to respond.
The assigned volunteer is responsible for emailing or calling the individual who left the question and providing resources.
What training is provided?
Observation If your application to become a volunteer is accepted, we will begin by making you a member of the online volunteer group. Here you will see how questions are handled and get a feel for the process.
Mentorship Once you are comfortable with the process, we will begin assigning requests to you, along with one of our more seasoned volunteers. This mentor will help you formulate responses.
Team Member After you have handled requests with the help of another volunteer, you will then begin to answer requests on your own—but remember, you will always have the support of the other volunteers if you have any questions.
How much time does it take?
You can respond to requests on your own time schedule. If you will be on vacation or have a particularly busy week, you can ask to not have any requests assigned to you. All we ask is that if you agree to handle a request, you do so within 48 hours.
If you are interested in volunteering or have any questions about the Helpline, please contact our Chapter and Volunteer Services Coordinator, Angie Day, at aday@DBSAlliance.org.
David Miklowitz, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program at the UCLA School of Medicine. He has been conducting research in psychosocial treatments for patients with bipolar disorder since the mid-1980s. A previous winner of DBSA’s Gerald Klerman Senior Investigator Award, he is the author of The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide;The Bipolar Teen: What You Can Do to Help Your Child and Your Family, and most recently, Clinicians’ Guide to Bipolar Disorder with Michael Gitlin, M.D.
Ask the Doc
My son is nine and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADHD, and OCD. When he is having one of his meltdowns what is the best way for me to help him through it?
An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure. Try to develop a plan with him when he is not having a meltdown and write it down. Talk about what you’ll do and say, what you’ll want him to do, and what others in the family should do when the next meltdown occurs. List the possible triggers, such as being hungry, having a game interrupted, not getting some expected treat, or reactions to a certain parental tone of voice. List what the first signs of the meltdown usually are, such as a wild look in his eyes, moving around a lot, an angry tone of voice, speech that speeds up, cursing, and standing up when he usually sits. Make sure you put your written plan in a place where you can all see or easily find it.
Prevention may not always work. At the beginning of the escalation, he may still have some access to his own calm or “wise” mind, so try to problem-solve. Calmly say something like, “Sounds like we’re starting to go down that difficult road again. Let’s think about what we can do to keep from getting into it like we have before. Do you need some time alone? Are you hungry? Should we go for a drive and get out of the house for a while?” If his meltdown is related to something like not being able to keep playing video games, say “I know you want to keep playing. I don’t always want to stop and have dinner either. But it’s the only time we can all eat together, so let’s meet each other halfway. What do you suggest we do?”
Avoid giving him a list of instructions. If he has ADHD he won’t do well with “I want you first to get out of those clothes and take a bath. Then come down stairs and set the table, we’ll have dinner, but don’t leave right after we’re through because I’ll need help with the dishes.” He could lose control just because he’s not able to keep track of all those steps.
It’s not necessary to let him have his way every time and, in the long run, that can be a bad idea. Stick with your position, but try to understand (and show you understand) how he feels. Monitor your own tone of voice, and don’t encourage others to intervene. Remember the adage “Don’t let your kid’s mood dictate everyone else’s mood in the household.” Kids get more riled up when they sense their parent is losing control.
I hope this has been helpful. Ross Greene’s classic book, The Explosive Child, includes more information about these and other techniques.
DBSA Co-Authors Report on Peer Specialist Compensation
A new report on National Survey of Compensation among Peer Support Specialists has been published. Driven by a growing recognition that leaders in the peer support services field have no meaningful data or reasonable benchmarks to determine workforce compensation standards, two 2015 national surveys were conducted, one designed for peer support specialists and the other for organizations who employ them. More than 1,600 peer specialists completed the survey, which was supported by DBSA, the International Association of Peer Supporters (INAPS), and New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS), along with nearly 300 employers.
Study findings point to wage rate differentials between those working full- and part-time, and between male and female peer specialists. The analysis also reveals geographic differences in compensation rates in the 10 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regions. It outlines and compares regional and national averages.
The survey report is now available on The College for Behavioral Health Leadership website. Principal author is independent consultant Dr. Allen Daniels, who initiated the survey as a service to the field, and co-authors are DBSA Vice President Lisa Goodale, Tanya Stevens (NYAPRS), and Peter Ashenden (INAPS).
bp Magazine: Bipolar & Anger: Unravel Your Wrath
Bipolar irritability and anger can damage relationships and hurt you in the workplace. It pays to learn how to prevent and defuse temper flare-ups. Read article
How Will You Work for Change in 2016?
2015 saw many opportunities for peers and family members to raise their voices to improve access to quality mental health care and stop discrimination against people living with mental health conditions.
DBSA was a major contributor to the language in the PEER Act, introduced by Senator Blumenthal (D-CT), which would expand the Department of Veterans Affairs current use of Peer Support Specialists from mental health clinics to the primary care setting.
Twenty-five DBSA participants enjoyed a feeling of empowerment by taking part in DBSA’s annual program that brings peers to Washington D.C. to participate in National Council for Behavioral Health’s Hill Day.
DBSA lent its support to nine different pieces of mental health legislation making their way through Congress.
State-wide grassroots organizations (GO’s) in six states mobilized peers. GO’s participated in state capitol days, fought stigma through legislative visits, and had a seat at the table through participation in state, county, and local mental health commissions.
Five action alerts were sent out to subscribers of the DBSA Advocacy Platform, asking registrants to contact their national and/or state elected officials.
What’s new for 2016? It’s easy to become involved!
Subscribe to the platform and opt-in for emails to receive action alerts.
Subscribe to the DBSA Advocacy Newsletter written by GO leaders sharing stories of advocacy inspiration, education advocacy tips, and advocacy wins.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Volunteer for a Study of Mood and Yoga!
The Mood Patient Powered Research Network (Mood Network) is launching a new research study addressing the benefit of hatha yoga for individuals with mood disorders. Hatha yoga is a yoga practice that includes physical postures, breathing exercises, and brief meditation, with the goal of promoting physical and emotional well-being.
The study takes place online and can be completed in 40 minutes. You must register to join the MoodNetwork and complete your session by January 30. No prior experience with yoga is necessary.
“You’re not good enough!” “Things will never get better!” “It’s hopeless!” These are just a few of the voices of bipolar disorder that have been living in my head since I was a teenager. But on a day that has been etched into my mind forever—I was 15, lying in bed contemplating suicide—I heard another voice whisper, “One day you will share your story.” I found it absurd that such a thought would pop into my head at such a desperate time, yet over the years I have heard it more loudly and frequently. It is nothing short of miraculous that I am here, 30 years later, doing exactly what that voice assured me of so long ago.
Without a doubt, I know it was God carrying me through this battle, teaching me that my struggles would one day provide hope for others. I’ve wanted to give up so many times. There have been lows filled with despair—seemingly lasting forever—when I’ve wanted nothing more than to die. Then they would switch to mania, resulting in nights of sleeplessness.
I have been fairly stable for a few years. After countless hours of therapy, endless trials with different pharmaceutical cocktails, numerous hospitalizations and leaves of absences from my teaching job, I can finally say I accept living with a bipolar diagnosis. I see moments where God has clearly saved me when I’ve called out to Him in desperation. He’s given me strength and courage to speak out and help others by blogging and sharing my story with struggling teens. The moment I put my complete trust in God, even though it didn’t seem to make sense, doors began to open. My life changed when my purpose became clear.
Despite my illness, I have been able to accomplish things my 15-year-old self would never have thought possible. I have overcome an eating disorder and alcoholism, both of which I turned to in order to cope. I am now in my eighteenth year of teaching elementary school where my experience with mental illness has given me more insight and compassion for my students. I have an amazingly supportive family, comprising my husband and two boys with whom I travel the country every summer in our rv.
Whereas at one point I could not imagine seeing past the darkness and fog, I now truly appreciate all the beauty this world has to offer. We organize concerts as a family to benefit our community and also bring anti-bullying assemblies to elementary schools. My husband and I write the programs which are performed by our 11 and 13 year-old sons’ band. I achieved a bucket list goal of completing a 30-mile ultramarathon and I’m now pursuing my dream of writing for the purpose of bringing others hope. I blog at maotribe.wordpress.com and have a book that is in the works.
I never truly believed I would make it this far. As I’ve struggled, my faith has grown that God will have my back when I ask for help and that He has brought me to this moment. I vow to keep pressing on in the hope that my journey will help others see that they, too, have a purpose and that there is hope. There is always, ALWAYS hope!
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.