We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. – Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Preparing young people for a bright future when they live with a mental health condition is a challenge our entire nation must meet. Almost half of all US youth age 13-18 have experienced a mental health condition and of this group, one in five have or will have a seriously debilitating disorder. Eight to ten years will pass, on average, between the first onset of symptoms and treatment when research tells us that early engagement and support are critical to recovery.
DBSA is confronting this challenge by expanding its programming to serve peers from childhood through the teen years to the transition to young adulthood and beyond. Now, wherever you may be in your journey, DBSA will be there to help. Our new resources are designed to help our youngest peers toward the educational and social success they want and deserve while dealing with difficult symptoms. There are also resources for parents that can assist them in navigating the often bewildering experience of parenting a child living with a mood disorder.
Parents of newly diagnosed children are often disoriented because of a flood of unfamiliar information and are unsure of their next steps. To bridge this information/understanding gap, DBSA has published a new brochure, Getting Started. It offers accurate information on mood disorders and treatments, the value of peer support, how to assemble a medical team, what to say to a child about their condition, plus tips on nurturing the whole family.
The Balanced Mind Parent Network is an especially valuable resource for parents. This active community comprises, in part, 10 online groups of parents of children with mood disorders who together share experiences, exchange information, and offer support. The Network also provides parents, teens, and educators with educational resources for childhood mood disorders, and invites them to ask questions through our Helpline and search for mental health professionals or facilities.
“BMPN is an incredible community,” says Angie Day, DBSA’s chapter and volunteer services manager. “Many families living with a pediatric mood disorder may feel isolated. BMPN gives parents the opportunity to come together and know that they are not alone.”
BMPN recently expanded its activities by participating in a study about children and mood disorder medications. They offered researchers a real-life, boots-on-the-ground perspective on various aspects of day-to-day living with a child who has a mood disorder. Read more.
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 with mood disorders face unique challenges as they transition from high school to entering the workforce or college to starting a career and/or a family of their own. DBSA recently created two new online support groups for them where they can reach out to each other and share wellness strategies. The DBSA Young Adult Council assists DBSA in outreach to young people and helps develop specialized programming for this age group. If you are 18 to 29 and interested in joining the Council, contact YACmembership@DBSAlliance.org for more information.
DBSA is committed to learning about and sharing the perceptions and experiences of young adult peers through our Survey Center. In November 2014, we reported the results of a survey that collected feedback from young adults and their parents on issues of greatest importance to this age group. The results are being used to prioritize future programming. Read survey results summary (PDF).
Our newest program for young people is under development by our Young Adult Council. Called Living Proof, it targets teenagers with mood disorders. Council members are creating video testimonials that speak to the realities of life with a mental health condition and the fact that life can nevertheless be rewarding and successful. Living Proof will launch this fall.
Young people, as is often said, are our greatest resource. Providing our youngest peers with the support they and their families need, then, is of critical importance—our society sorely needs their energy, compassion, insight, and the contributions that only they can make. DBSA stands ready to help them now and throughout their lives.
Chapter Spotlight: DBSA Colorado Springs
DBSA Colorado Springs works tirelessly in their community to raise awareness that wellness is a truly achievable goal. They regularly participate in health and educational fairs, reaching hundreds of visitors seeking information on mood disorders, support systems, and local resources.
The chapter’s hospital visitation program, which includes visits to three inpatient and two outpatient psychiatric units each week, helps adult and adolescent participants learn about the benefits of attending a DBSA support group as a first step on the road to recovery. Established in 2003, the program averages more than 40 sessions per month, delivered by 10 volunteers; 2,669 peers were reached in 2015 alone. Volunteers offer information about free and sliding-scale services available following discharge; hope and encouragement based on their own personal stories; and a sense that participants are not alone in their struggles. Many arrive at the chapter’s resource center immediately upon discharge and join a support group.
DBSA Colorado Springs also conducts targeted outreach to teens. Their Teen Depression and Suicide Prevention program is a 45-minute classroom session. It gives students and school officials a first-hand opportunity to hear volunteer teens and young adults talk about their symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder and how early intervention and treatment, along with the understanding of support groups, have made a difference in their lives.
To see what some of our other affiliates are up to, visit the Chapter Spotlights section of our website!
Are you looking for a volunteer opportunity where you can give back by using the experiences 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, who often have nowhere else to turn, with the information and resources they need.
DBSA’s Helpline is a phone and email resource line that individuals can contact to receive suggestions about specific challenges they are facing.
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 will then be responsible for emailing or calling the individual with 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 be able to see how the questions are handled by the group and get a feel for the system.
Mentorship Once you are comfortable with the system, we will begin assigning requests to you along with one of our more seasoned volunteers. This mentor will help you formulate a response.
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 are able to respond to requests on your own time schedule. If you will be on vacation or have a particularly busy week, you can arrange not to 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 manager, Angie Day, at ADay@DBSAlliance.org.
Participate Now in the Mood Disorders and Employment Survey!
Have you experienced stigma from workplace colleagues? Have you disclosed your mental health condition to a supervisor? There’s only a few weeks left to participate in our Mood Disorders and Employment survey. If you currently hold a job, have had a job in the last twelve months, or are actively looking for a job, you are eligible to participate. The survey results will be available on the DBSA website in late fall 2016.
Dr. Wagner is the Marie B. Gale Centennial Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Dr. Wagner is an internationally recognized expert in the pharmacological treatment of childhood mood disorders.
Ask the Doc
By Karen Dineen Wagner, MD, PhD
I believe my daughter’s psychiatrist is going to be prescribing an antidepressant. What questions should I ask him? My daughter is 15.
First, it’s important to know the reason your daughter may be prescribed an antidepressant. Assuming she is depressed, ask the psychiatrist about the symptoms of depression so you have a good understanding of your daughter’s condition. Things like sleep difficulties, low energy, and suicidal thoughts can all be symptoms.
Here are some questions you might ask the psychiatrist to help you understand your daughter’s treatment:
Is antidepressant medication the best treatment for my daughter’s depression?
Are there other treatments, such as talk therapy, that can be used?
What antidepressant will be prescribed?
Is this antidepressant Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for depression in teenagers? (Medications with FDA approval for teenagers have been shown to be safe and effective in treatment studies.)
How long will it take for the antidepressant to improve my daughter’s depression?
What are the most common side effects of the antidepressant?
What should I do if my daughter develops any of these side effects?
Are there any medications my daughter cannot take with the antidepressant?
How long will my daughter need to stay on the antidepressant?
Will my daughter’s depression come back after antidepressant treatment has ended?
From left to right: Allen Doederlein, DBSA President; Rodrigo B. Mansur, MD, PhD; Greg Simon, MD, DBSA SAB Co-chair; Maurizio Fava, MD; and Gary Sachs, DBSA SAB Co-chair.
DBSA Klerman Award Winners Announced
On May 15 in Atlanta Georgia, DBSA presented its Gerald L. Klerman Awards. Maurizio Fava, MD and James Jefferson, MD were honored with Senior Investigator Awards for their career-long contributions to mental health research. Young Investigator Awards went to Rodrigo B. Mansur, MD, PhD and Louisa G. Sylvia, PhD. Awards were presented at the DBSA Scientific Advisory Board reception.
DBSA’s Klerman Award is the highest honor DBSA extends to members of the scientific community. It recognizes researchers whose work contributes to understanding the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of depression and bipolar disorder. Presented annually, awards are given in the categories of Senior Investigator and Young Investigator, with up to two awards given per category.
Gerald L. Klerman, MD was a professor and associate chairman of research at Cornell University Hospital Medical College and one of DBSA’s earliest supporters. While conducting the first clinical trial showing the efficacy of medication and psychotherapy in preventing recurrent depression, he developed interpersonal psychotherapy. He also led the first large-scale, multi-sites study to understand the diagnosis, course, and genetics of major depression. Still ongoing, the study has provided critical findings on the nature of depressive disorder.
BMPN Contributes to Children’s Study on Medication Side Effects
On June 26, DBSA Chapter and Volunteer Services Manager Angie Day traveled to Boston for Academy Health’s Annual Research Meeting. She was to speak about DBSA’s experience as a partner in a current study, MOBILITY, as part of a panel titled Innovative Practices and Stakeholder Organization Engagement in PCORI’s Pragmatic Clinical Studies and Large Simple Trials Program. Hosted by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the panel also included Jaye Bea Smalley and Anne Trontell from PCORI, as well as the lead investigator, Melissa Delbello, from the University of Cincinnati.
The MOBILITY study, which focuses on children age 8 to 17, is examining the use of metformin and healthy lifestyle interventions to combat unwanted side effects (such as weight gain or cholesterol spikes) from second generation antipsychotics in youth living with a bipolar spectrum disorder. The two-year study will ultimately include approximately 1800 youth from the greater Cincinnati and New York regions. Financially supported by PCORI, MOBILITY is being conducted by Dr. Melissa DelBello from the University of Cincinnati in collaboration with Long Island Jewish Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
During the panel discussion, Angie spoke about the contributions to the study by DBSA and its Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN). BMPN families participated in a survey that provided real life information on concerns about medication and side effects as well as parents’ and childrens’ personal experiences with treatment options. Angie is also serving on various committees for the study, including the Stakeholder Engagement Committee.
The MOBILITY study will provide important treatment information for families of children living with a bipolar spectrum disorder. With its emphasis on stakeholder engagement, it highlights the importance of having the peer perspective at the center of conversations about mental health.
bp Magazine: Richard Dreyfuss—Brash, Bold, and Proudly Bipolar
Movie star Richard Dreyfuss speaks candidly on Hollywood greed, civics education, how living with bipolar disorder has been good for him, and why stigma is stupid. Read article.
DBSA to Present Pre-Conference Institute for INAPS Annual Conference
DBSA is offering a one-day workshop, Veteran Peers Navigating Moral Paradoxes, as a pre-conference institute for the International Association of Peer Supporters (INAPS) 10th Annual National Peer Support Conference. DBSA’s workshop will take place on Thursday, August 25, at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center, just prior to the INAPS conference which runs from August 26 to 28 in Philadelphia. This year’s conference theme is Collaboration for Unity.
The experience of serving in the military can create paradoxes in individuals that may lead to the development of mental health or substance use conditions. DBSA’s workshop will help Veterans and their supporters understand the key role played by peers in helping their fellow Veterans address these paradoxes. The workshop registration fee is $99; pre-registration is required.
Become a Peer Leadership Center Member
Join forces with the leading community of peer support! The Peer Leadership Center is dedicated to advancing the field of peer support and the peer provider workforce. Members may take advantage of educational offerings, job listings, and networking with fellow peers. Memberships are available for both individuals and organizations. Sign up now!
House of Representatives Authorizes $10 million for VA Peer Specialist Training
The credibility of and respect for the peer workforce received a big boost this month. The US House of Representatives authorized a grant program for VA peer professional workforce development as part of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Beginning in 2018, this five-year, $10 million program will give preference to existing peer training programs as well as programs focused on youth.
Over the past 18 months, DBSA has educated members of the House on the value of peer support. We advised on language to be used in the peer workforce legislation, all of which, happily, remained intact in the final version of the bill. It passed with a House floor vote of 422 to 2 and includes a provision for a study on peer support specialist programs. The study will identify best practices relating to training and credentialing, such as recommended skill sets, exams, code of ethics, and number of volunteer hours.
The value of peers was also recognized through a mandate to establish an Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee. This committee is charged with recommending ways to improve outcomes as well as specific actions to be taken by relevant federal agencies. The committee membership will comprise the secretaries, assistant secretaries, or directors of 12 federal agencies, such as Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health, and Veteran Affairs, as well as the attorney general. Also included will be 12 non-federal members plus one individual with lived experience of a mental health condition and one state-certified peer specialist.
As we enter the summer Olympics season, an analogy comes to mind: advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint—our wins are the result of years of perseverance and hard work by mental health advocates. There is still a great deal to be done if we are to reach the day when all people living with mental health conditions have access to quality mental health care and can enjoy lives free of discrimination.
To stay informed and learn how you can advocate for mental health, subscribe to the DBSA Advocacy platform.
News from Our Advocacy Blog
According to John Williams, MD, shared decision making is a common sense concept: you discuss with your doctor things that matter to you, the doctor provides information, and you work together to choose the best treatment. Read more.
Lisa Goodale DBSA Vice President
Peer Support Services
DBSA Advocates at Congressional Briefing for Peer Input
DBSA spoke out on behalf of patient-centered research at a recent Capitol Hill briefing sponsored by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The briefing was designed to raise awareness among members of Congress and other national stakeholders about the importance of this type of research.
A standing-room only crowd heard DBSA Vice President of Peer Support Services Lisa Goodale call for true research partnerships that include peer input from the start as well as increased research into the effectiveness of peer support services. Also speaking was DBSA Scientific Advisory Board member Andrew Nierenberg, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School.
We Are Powerful
DBSA launched in January a year-long campaign, We Are Powerful, exploring the tremendous personal power we each have but may have forgotten or not yet discovered. Peers, parents, and families are encouraged to embrace or reclaim this personal strength in their own lives, the lives of others, and the world.
As part of the campaign, we are looking at a different aspect of personal power each month;
July’s theme is I Celebrate My Wins. Big wins are great but research shows it’s the small wins
that make a huge difference in how we feel and operate in our lives. This month, keep an eye
out for ALL your wins. Take time out to give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate!
To see what’s happening with We Are Powerful, check out the DBSA Facebook page where you
will find several posts each week.
Meet Mark Wenzel
One day, a little more than three years ago, I was lying in my mother's bed curled up in the fetal position. It would have been one thing if I were six years old and afraid to go to school. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The reality was that my mother was away in England and, at age 56, I was avoiding the world and hiding in her bed!
My life had totally collapsed. True, I was the father of a wonderful nine-year-old daughter and was married to a successful professional, but I constantly compared my failure to her success. I had been hospitalized five times for refractory depression and had tried ECT three times after many trials of medication had failed. I had also been in psychotherapy with a prominent psychiatrist but saw no improvement at all. I truly felt hopeless, helpless, and worthless. All I could do was hide in shame and try to disappear.
Sometime later, my marriage broke up and at one point family members insisted I go back to the hospital. Reluctant and terrified, I finally agreed and tried another course of ECT (my fourth). Seven weeks later, I was discharged after 20 ECT treatments, only slightly improved and still scared to death. But then there was a miracle—I discovered a DBSA support group right in my own backyard! That was when my attitude and my mood began to change.
I went to my first DBSA meeting and suddenly felt understood, supported, and cared about. I didn’t feel judged, wasn’t told what to do or how to do it. I had finally come home—not to the one I grew up in but the one I had yearned for. Even more importantly, I recognized that I no longer needed to see myself as a victim, but rather as someone who had begun a journey toward recovery and might ultimately be able to connect with, help, and perhaps even inspire others.
I started by reaching out to other members of our DBSA support group. Then I decided to further my education and training and became a certified peer specialist, offering services I now offer in several settings. Beyond that, being an ambassador for DBSA has become a mission. I am also a part-time driver for Uber and have discovered that many of my passengers are not turned off by my story but instead are fascinated, respectful, and even inspired. I have made referrals to various DBSA support groups in our area to my passengers.
Recently, through my DBSA support group, I had the privilege of telling my story of pain and recovery. I spoke to psychiatrists at a distinguished medical school and also at a prestigious convention. Each of these experiences has enhanced my confidence and self-esteem.
This brings me to the present. On Saturday, June 25, I turned 60 and decided to celebrate my life and recovery by planning and organizing a birthday party for my family and friends, but primarily for members of my DBSA support group. I decided to assist DBSA in its fundraising effort as part of the Art Van Charity Challenge and found the courage and confidence to request donations in my honor—something I would never have done in the past. I’m proud to say that our small party group raised over $12,000. I’ve continued my work for DBSA with a Tribute page.
If I could turn my life around with the loving support of a DBSA support group, so can you. If you need a little encouragement, you can contact me via a letter or note to the DBSA national office and I’ll be in touch.
Experiencing depression or bipolar disorder is challenging and confusing at any point in our lives, and each of us will naturally face different issues related to when we're dealing with a mood disorder. I've learned so much from the volunteer leaders of the Balanced Mind Parent Network (BMPN) about the unique concerns faced by children with mood disorders. The perspectives of our Young Adult Council have likewise been invaluable to my understanding of how that period in our lives can intersect with mood-related symptoms.
With respect to youth, a common theme emerges among the many parents of young people with mood disorders I've spoken to: people all too often react with skepticism or disbelief when they hear of a child having depression or bipolar disorder. Even among well-meaning people who want to help, discrimination—and/or the desire to protect kids from discrimination—can result in questioning, downplaying, or even denying a mood disorder diagnosis. Whereas a declaration of one's child having any other condition is met with concern, sympathy, and offers of help, the disclosure of depression or bipolar disorder is met with, "Are you sure?" or "Isn't that just part of being a kid?" or "These days, they're trying to give everybody a diagnosis of something." Among the many hurdles for parents—finding a doctor, establishing a treatment plan, dealing with school—adding convincing people that the diagnosis is serious and real seems cruel and unfair indeed.
The frustration and exhaustion caused by these attitudes make the community of the BMPN all the more crucial. The forums within BMPN not only provide wisdom and guidance from peoples’ lived experience of caring for their children, but also provide welcoming, judgment-free listening and support for people who very much need such a respite.
This month's eUpdate highlights more about BMPN and DBSA's other work with youth, young adults, and parents, and caregivers. We're immensely proud to have expanded our work over the past several years to include more programs that serves and focuses on young people. And we're dedicated to providing information, empowerment, support, and inspiration to people with mood disorders—at every age and phase of their journeys.
Wellness Tips from Peers
Recovery Focus Recovery
Be gentle with yourself and where you are in life right now. You are where you need to be. You are healing and building a life of wellness and stability that will last far into the future.
Keep breathing! Anxiety
If you are ever in a situation where you feel your head is going to explode, step back and take slow, deep breaths. Let your emotions out with deep sighs as you exhale. It really does help.
Not every disability is visible Depression
Remembering that my disorder isn’t visible helps me be more accepting of it and more forgiving of those who may not understand. It’s not my fault I have this disorder and it’s not anyone else’s fault they may not be able to relate to how I’m feeling.
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.
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.