DBSA e-Update May 2017

May is Mental Health Month: Join us at #MoodVillage
DBSA Welcomes New Vice President of Development Eric Horner
Parent Connection: A Guide to 13 Reasons Why
Chapter Start-Up Webinar Now Online
Free PLC courses and new support groups in celebration of Mental Health Month!
Complete DBSA’s Demographic Survey
Ask the Doc: What is mild Bipolar I?
Care for Your Mind: Help us fix emergency department challenges!
Who are the winners and losers in health care reform?
bp Magazine: Bipolar and Controlling Impulsivity
Nominations open for DBSA 2017 Life Unlimited Award
Life Unlimited: Meet Alex Hanna
Allen’s Note
Wellness Tips from Peers
Save the Date




Many people are finding the past year, now, and the immediate future to be challenging times for their emotional health and well-being. Uncertainly breeds anxiety, and often fear—both of which can cause new, or worsen existing, mental health challenges. And, all of us invested in advocating for the rights of people living with mental health conditions will need to fight harder than ever to ensure all who need help have access to quality mental health care. At times, this can feel like a heavy burden and even overwhelming.

As such, we at DBSA searched for ways to help each of us individually better address any anxiety, fear, and added need for advocacy—to lighten the loads we each carry and not surprisingly, we came to the conclusion that we can’t do it alone. That the best way to help ourselves is through the principles DBSA was founded on—the principles of peer support!

Whether you’re helping a fellow peer who lives with depression or bipolar disorder, or are the parent, family member, or friend of someone who does, support from others is a critical component of wellness—not only for the person you’re helping, but you! A community of support magnifies our ability to share concerns, learn new wellness strategies, lend a friendly ear, discover ways to advocate, celebrate our successes, and turn feelings of isolation and exclusion to feelings of belonging to a community of people doing good in the world—for ourselves and others.

Join us during May to connect with a community of support.
In celebration of Mental Health Month, we invite you to join us during May at #MoodVillage and DBSAlliance.org/MoodVillage to connect with a community of people who know the challenges and victories of life with a mood disorder—their own, or that of a child, family member, or friend. Each week in May we’ll discover together ways to inform, learn, celebrate, act, and connect with each other as we explore our growing #MoodVillage of support.

Look for #MoodVillage posts on DBSA’s social media accounts and at DBSAlliance.org/MoodVillage throughout the month of May!

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Eric Horner
Eric Horner
Vice President of Development

DBSA Welcomes New Vice President of Development Eric Horner

“I am thrilled to welcome Eric to the DBSA team. In addition to major gifts fundraising experience that will be essential for growing DBSA’s development program, Eric has development communications and marketing background, which will enhance our broad-based annual fund efforts and donor acquisition. Eric’s leadership will play a critical role in DBSA’s ability to greatly expand the reach of DBSA’s support networks, educational programming, and advocacy efforts to help the more than 21 million Americans living with mood disorders find their unique paths to wellness,” shares Allen Doederlein, DBSA President. Read full press release.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
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 Helpline and other family-focused programming.

Parent Connection: A Guide to 13 Reasons Why

For better or for worse, portrayals of mental health topics and conditions on TV can largely affect how audiences process their own mental health, seek out support, and consider their next steps to wellness. Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why demonstrates that even well intended messages can dangerously miss their mark. Here are some things to consider when discussing the show (or any of its topics) with your child.

What is the Concern?
If your child has not watched 13 Reasons Why, they have most likely heard of it—it is currently the most widely discussed series on social media by teenagers. The show revolves around the suicide of Hannah Baker, a teenage girl, and the 13 people and events that led to her decision to die by suicide. Although it was originally created as a call to openly discuss suicide and recognize other problems in high school, educators, and parents have expressed alarm that the series’ portrayal of suicide can be harmful and influential to vulnerable viewers:

  • 13 Reasons Why sensationalizes suicide, and could lead to “copycat” behavior among students. (The show violates all of the “Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide” guidelines, used by journalists to minimize the risk of copycat suicides after a reporting.)  
  • It depicts suicide as a way for someone to get others to understand their problems, to get revenge on those who hurt them, to place blame, and to be heard.
  • Suicide is shown as the only way out―recommended alternative strategies such as talking to a professional, seeking treatment, or asking for support are ignored.
  • Adult characters, such as the school counselor and Hannah’s parents, are depicted as being incompetent, clueless, and unwilling resources for help.  

How do I talk about the show with my child?
If your child has already viewed the series, it is recommended that you let them know that you would like to watch it and discuss their thoughts. Although psychologists and educators generally discourage watching the show, children who have watched it will need support to help process the information.

  • Before considering viewing the series with your child, refer to The National Association of School Psychologists’ Consideration for Educators and Families.
  • If watching the show with your child, refrain from binge watching. If your child ever feels anxious after watching, they should be encouraged to stop.
  • The JED Foundation’s 13 Reasons Why Talking Points is a helpful resource to help your child separate the realities of suicide from the dramatization of the show.

Beyond the Show
Parents will find that there are many discussions and teachable moments beyond making sure that their child understands that 13 Reasons Why is not an accurate portrayal of suicide. For one, parents may be anxious that they are missing potential warning signs from their child, or that they will not ask for help when they need it. Children may also have concerns or problems that they’ve never felt comfortable sharing. Additionally, conversations about 13 Reasons Why can be a valuable prompt to discuss suicide prevention and how to support others.

  • Be confident and willing to talk about suicide and other topics with your child. The more comfortable and open you are, the more comfortable your child will be to talk about what is important to them. Educating yourself beforehand can be a simple way to stay comfortable and keep the conversation open.
  • Show that you take your child’s concerns seriously, and give your child a chance to talk and articulate their perceptions.  
  • Know the general suicide warning signs.
  • Help your child identify warning signs in their peers to give support and speak up.

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DBSA Chapters

Missed the Chapter Start-up Webinar?

A recording of the webinar is now available online. The webinar provides an overview of DBSA and its chapters as well as how chapters are governed and funded. Learn about the benefits of affiliation with DBSA and how to get started!

If you have any questions, please contact Nareth Phin, Chapter Relations Coordinator, at (800) 826-3632 x170 or StartUp@DBSAlliance.org.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Celebrate Mental Health Month with PLC!

In celebration of Mental Health Month, the DBSA Peer Leadership Center is giving FREE access to all continuing education courses AND launching a new site feature―online support groups for peer workers!

DBSA’s Peer Leadership Center has partnered with Support Groups Central to offer video conference-based support groups that are exclusively for Peer Workers. The groups are accessible via computer, tablet or smart phone. The 90-minute meetings will bring together peer workers from all over the U.S. and beyond. Learn More

The DBSA Peer Leadership Center is dedicated to advancing the field of peer support and the peer provider workforce. In honor of May being Mental Health Month, ALL PLC online learning will be free with the coupon code: MAY2017. Learn More

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA’s Demographic Survey

Help us learn about our community! DBSA is seeking anonymous responses to learn more about our community’s demographic make-up. Please take the time to fill out the survey by June 30, 2017. The non-identified cumulative results of this survey will be used by DBSA to shape future programming and in grant applications. Your responses will not be shared with anyone outside of DBSA.

Feel free to share this survey with other members of DBSA’s community! Questions can be directed to Angie Day, Chapter and Volunteer Services Director at ADay@DBSAlliance.org.

Please take the survey now: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/dbsademographics

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
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.

Got a nagging question? Submit your questions to Ask the Doc online. Also, take a look through our Ask the Doc feature page, a comprehensive archive of past columns, which may already have the answer to your questions.

Ask the Doc

I was diagnosed Cyclothymic about two years ago. I sent my psychiatrist a text today to see if I really need to stay on meds because it's so mild. She said she reclassified me as Bipolar II or possibly "mild" Bipolar I. I've never been hospitalized, and never had psychosis. Can you explain to me what "mild" Bipolar I means? I am totally confused. 

Those terms all refer to bipolar mood patterns, meaning patterns that include both periods of low or depressed mood and periods of elevated mood or over-activation. The specific terms describe different levels of severity.

Cyclothymia refers to a bipolar mood pattern including both depressed periods and elevated periods when both are less severe. Depressed periods are not severe enough to be called major depressive episodes, and periods of elevated mood are not severe enough to be called full manic episodes.

Bipolar II disorder refers to a mood pattern where depressed periods are more severe but elevated periods are less severe or briefer. Depressed periods do include several symptoms of depression, last at least two weeks, and cause significant interference with daily activities. But elevated periods are milder or briefer and have not led to hospitalization.

Bipolar I disorder refers to a mood pattern where both depressed and elevated periods are severe. Technically, a history of a single full manic episode means a diagnosis of Bipolar I disorder, even with no history of depression. In reality, however, almost everyone who experiences a full manic episode also has had episodes of depression.

Regarding the need for continued medication, the real question is the risk of relapse (into depression, or especially into mania) if you are not taking maintenance or prevention medication. People with Bipolar I disorder are certainly at higher risk of relapse into mania. Risk also depends on other individual factors, especially the number of severe mood episodes a person has experienced and the time since the last severe episode. As you mention, a history of psychosis also indicates higher risk.

Before making any decision, you’ll want to carefully review your history with your doctor. It’s possible that she did not understand or accurately record some of what you reported. Or it’s possible that she has observed mood problems that she thought were more severe than you did. Coming to a shared understanding of your history is important, not only for accurately understanding your risk of relapse but also in understanding what to watch out for if you do make a change in medication.

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Care for Your Mind

DBSA’s Agitation and Emergency Care Survey revealed a disconnect between how hospital emergency departments view their job and the expectations of people facing psychiatric emergencies. Find out how we can fix this misunderstanding. Read more.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Who are the winners and losers in health care reform?

The U.S. House of Representatives began the process to reform health care with the passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) earlier this month. So who are the winners and losers?

Winners: Anyone without a pre-existing condition and anyone in a high-income bracket.

Losers: Anyone with an existing mental or physical health diagnosis, anyone over 50 years of age, and lower income Americans.

If you are healthy and young, the promoters of the legislation say your health insurance premiums will be reduced by 10% by 2026. Will you still be healthy young in 2026?

Under the House legislation, older Americans would pay five times more than younger Americans in monthly premiums. Insurance plans would no longer be required to provide mental health benefits, and if you are lucky enough to have a plan with mental health benefits, the insurance plan could add a surcharge to your existing premiums. Some studies suggest this surcharge will be as high $8,400. It doesn’t sound like there are many winners in this latest plan, considering that

  • 20% of Americans are between the ages of 50 and 64,
  • 30% of college students experience depression, and
  • 25% of all American will experience a mental health episode in any given year.

The process now moves to the U.S. Senate where it will be much more difficult, although not impossible, to pass legislation. The lesson to be learned is to stay engaged and involved. DBSA sent out action alerts asking people to call their U.S. Representatives and tell them to vote NO. Were you among those who received the action alert? Did you call your U.S. Representative? If not, now is the time to subscribe to the DBSA advocacy platform so that you will receive future action alerts. Just as important, forward the action alert to friends and family and ask them to do the same. As George Washington said: “The people must remain ever vigilant.”

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Bipolar and Controlling Impulsivity

Reckless actions are a common symptom of bipolar disorder, even outside of mania. Good coping tools can rein in impulsivity and prevent the negative consequences. Read the article. 

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Nominations open for DBSA’s Life Unlimited Award!

Celebrating inspirational peers— Nominate a peer for DBSA’s 2017 Life Unlimited Award! Established in 2012, the award honor individuals who exemplify a life unlimited by depression or bipolar disorder and who are actively working to help others do the same. Through this award we celebrate the strengths, inspiration, and accomplishments of our peers. From personal triumphs, to raising awareness, to founding non-profits, peers,  DBSA’s Life Unlimited Award winners offer inspiration and hope to us all. To nominate someone, please fill out this application by June 23, 2017. The winner will be notified on or before July 14, 2017, and will be featured in the August edition of DBSA eUpdate and via social media. The winner will also have the opportunity to record an audio podcast with DBSA president, Allen Doederlein. 

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Alex Hanna

Read more inspiring stories. If you would like to participate in our Life Unlimited feature by sharing your story, please submit your contact information.

Life Unlimited: Meet Alex Hanna

Mental health challenges are no joke. They suck. Suffering with anxiety, severe depression, and ADHD has made "adult life" challenging. Not that it was easy as a child either. For me, an always-busy childhood helped keep everything in check. I would spend the school year going 100 miles per hour between school, sports, and other extracurricular activities. Then in the summer, I would work six days a week, work out seven days a week, and do all of the preparations needed to continue the high octane life I had built. Then, when I had the opportunity, I would completely crash. Zero miles per hour, clutch disengaged, rolling wherever gravity would take me.

I went to a top-tier college and joined a high-octane consulting firm after graduation to keep up the heat. 15 hour days? On the road 250 days a year? You bet! I still didn't realize what was going on. I was hiding my condition from work. But I couldn’t hide forever.

I got married, which meant that I was about to share my life with someone—and that I could no longer run away from my mental health. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the best gift anyone could have given me.

When I was 27, after years of erratic mood swings, periods of hyper-activity—always in “gotta-be-productive” mode—and days-long breaks from everything and everyone, I finally broke. Still traveling for work, I had, for the fourth week in a row, fled an entire state without telling anyone so I could come home and curl up in bed for multiple days. Daily panic attacks were now part of my routine. I wasn’t able to function outside of the 27 steps a day I logged on my pedometer.

I had been medicated for about three years at that point (and still am today), but had never thought to try therapy. My wife helped me find a therapist, and through that, daily life slowly became manageable again. I was back at work and going through the motions, but I still wasn’t “better”.

For the next year, I would attend therapy, build a mental health advocacy platform, work full-time, and go between being “fine” and completely depressed, to the point where I thought the best thing would be to end it all. But my wife, family, and friends were (and are) always there to support me when I’m down. The platform I built, Challenge the Storm, allows me to share my story and encourage others to do the same. I am not alone.

I spent months off of work learning to love myself again. What I’ve learned is that we all have a story to share; we must always love ourselves unconditionally; and that even during our darkest days, there is always a brighter day ahead.

The sunlight shines
Shines so bright.
After the darkest

Darkest of nights.
You’re tired or fighting

Fighting this fight.
But tomorrow brings hope

Hope of new light.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

May is Mental Health Month, and we at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) hope and intend that the month be a catalyst for conversations about what it means to be “mentally healthy” in a whole-person-centered sense. We hope it is educational, and transformational, and that it may ease some of the prevailing uncertainty and resultant anxiety—even illness—that we see among our constituents and within the world in general.

I say all of this with my whole heart. I mean it! Yet I also find myself thinking, even if only faintly against the background of chaos and noise of a busy day: physician, heal thyself!

Now, in no way do I think of this proverb literally. I’m no real clinician, nor do I harbor the delusion that I’m at all like an actual physician, except maybe for my handwriting. What I mean is that, even with all my knowledge and exposure to peers and thought leaders and researchers and incredible, inspiring advocates, I still can (and often do!) forget the basics.

Am I—and are many of us who have mood disorders, perhaps?—not letting knowledge be the power it wants to be?

Consider the awesome new 12 Easy Wellness Moments to Add to Your Day poster online within the DBSA #MoodVillage, now active on social media and our website. I know all that stuff! I work for a healthcare organization! I talk about mental health interventions both big and small literally every day. Yet, although the sun shines outside, I’ve not felt its warmth for five hours, and I’ve probably been seated at my desk, looking at one of three screens that face me, for at least the past hour and 45 minutes. My breakfast did have protein—14 grams; I just looked it up—but it certainly wasn’t colorful, and I haven’t had anything but caffeinated beverages for the past five indoor hours. My door is closed because I have, maybe, nine different deadlines today, so I’m not interacting with anyone, and I’m not thinking about what I’m grateful for—except maybe my appreciation of the snooze button earlier this morning.

You likely get the picture.

I’m quite sure I’m not alone in this regard. We know what will help, which isn’t just the seemingly minor (though quite beneficial, with research to back it up) day-to-day stuff—it’s also the peer support, the medication, the therapy, or some combination thereof. But do we always do these things? And do we always keep doing them, since—knowledgeable as we are—we know that such therapies tend to exist within a “use it or lose it” paradigm? I think the answer for all too many of us can be no.

But wait, what’s that? Has writing perhaps helped me gain some perspective just now? Am I feeling, maybe, a sudden twinge of gratitude—gratitude that I have the opportunity to write a note like this, and even if one person reads it and gets something out of it, I’ve been heard, and might even have helped that one person? And, yikes, is this an impulse I have, to get out and into the sun (and quick, because it’s supposed to be replaced by rain soon) and down a half-mile or so for a brief walk, some fresh air, and to grab a salad? Yep, I’m creating an upward spiral for myself, gosh darn it. Will this quell all my anxieties? Will I be depression-free all of a sudden because of this? Probably not. Well, not immediately, anyway. But it feels good to be taking some positive steps forward, and when the wind’s against you, those steps are all the more important.

Have a great Mental Health Month, my friends, and help DBSA catalyze upward spirals for everyone who’s in need of a lift.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Facing Us Clubhouse

Visit the FacingUs.org to get more tips, create your own tips, track your wellness, and connect with peers. Joining the Facing Us Clubhouse is easy and free.

Wellness Tips from Peers

Anxiety
Think about the biggest challenges you’ve had in your life so far. You got through all of those! You will be successful in facing new challenges as well.

Depression
Celebrate small achievements: getting out of bed, eating, talking to people, smiling, brushing your teeth.

Bipolar Disorder
When I am hypo-manic, I like to write poetry. It lets me clear things out of my head. I prefer Haiku, as it has a limited number of syllables that can be used for each line. It calms me down and helps me to focus.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

Core Peer Specialist Training
Chicago, IL
June 5-9, 2017

Veteran Peer Specialist Training
Chicago, IL
September 11-16, 2017
Apply Now

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