Chapter Spotlights

DBSA is proud to recognize exemplary service by DBSA chapters and their support groups. Beyond peer-run support groups, chapter activities may include advocacy efforts, community outreach, education, and more. DBSA Chapter Spotlights are a way to showcase the exciting achievements of our grassroots network.

Contact your local chapter to find out what they’re doing in your community!


DBSA New Jersey - 2014 State Organization Service Award

DBSA New Jersey is a shining example of commitment to DBSA’s mission. They jumped at a variety of opportunities to strengthen their services, launch new initiatives, and partner with the national office of DBSA in 2014. It was an exciting year that saw outreach to local chapters and the general community in New Jersey reach further than ever before. They enhanced the facilitator capacity in local support groups by providing three training sessions, promoted DBSA support groups to professionals and at a variety of events statewide, all while providing encouragement and mentorship to chapter leaders.

DBSA New Jersey is also an active participant in DBSA’s grassroots efforts becoming one of the inaugural state-wide grassroots organizations (GO). In 2014 they hosted the first of the national office of DBSA’s state-wide advocacy workshops by securing speakers and assisting in developing the agenda that has been replicated in other states.  A steering team was formed with participants serving on local mental health boards, developing points of view on mental health legislation and joining with other mental health advocacy organizations in the state to educate state legislators on issues of access to quality mental health care.

A pinnacle achievement was their annual conference held in conjunction with DBSA’s Chapter Leadership Forum. The conference drew a record number of attendees including peers from New Jersey and chapter leaders from numerous states. They worked closely with the national office of DBSA to organize this event, assist with selecting the conference venue, and provide the opportunity for author Marya Hornbacher and musician and advocate Demi Lovato to speak as keynotes. Thank you, DBSA New Jersey, for all your amazing accomplishments!

DBSA Rockland County (NY) - 2014 Large Chapter Service Award

DBSA Rockland County (NY) identified “getting the word out” as their catch phrase to summarize 2014’s accomplishments. Over the course of the year they engaged in a variety of community outreach endeavors including a speaker series, comedy show, and educational sessions on mood disorders with peers sharing their recovery journeys. New tools such as an interactive website, Meetup.com page, and private Facebook group provided additional avenues for people to find support. In the advocacy realm, chapter activities centered around spreading the word about DBSA to local representatives and participating in focus groups to provide input on how to improve the mental health system in their county.

Together these efforts resulted in exponential growth in support group participation, moving to a larger meeting facility, and increasing the number of facilitators to better serve their continually expanding membership. DBSA Rockland County considered their growth as an opportunity to empower more participants to take on leadership roles.

One of their proudest developments was the institution of a facilitators support group where facilitators can discuss best practices and help train new facilitators. They also diversified the leadership structure by creating more positions, increasing the number of directors, and implementing training to ensure smooth transitions in leadership. Through these efforts, the message “We’ve been there. We can help” has reached more individuals in their local area. Thank you for your commendable work, DBSA Rockland County!

DBSA Princeton (NJ) - 2014 Small Chapter Service Award

DBSA Princeton (NJ) reached out to their community in new and exciting ways! The chapter’s activities included bringing workshops to local psychiatric hospitals to introduce patients to the concept of peer support groups and offering their chapter as a resource for education and support. These presentations feature personal testimonials by group participants and are presented in an engaging Q&A format.

They also represented DBSA and delivered the DBSA Depression Community Education Program at various health fairs—educating peers, families, and local facilities about mood disorders and the DBSA Princeton support groups. As word spreads about the positive impact of their outreach efforts, the chapter has created partnerships with other mental health facilities.

To advocate for the needs of persons living with mental health conditions, they began attending the meetings of the Mercer County Mental Health Board, which led to the Director of Mental Health Services for the county inviting them to have a representative on the board.

The chapter instituted changes and expansions in their peer support efforts. They identified and empowered people from a neighboring town to create a new group, bringing peer support to an area of their state which had previously lacked a DBSA chapter. They also welcomed a therapy dog into the support group. He is a valued attendee providing welcome emotional support—and entertainment—at their meetings.

Through these efforts they are helping to build more opportunities for support and leadership in the peer community, as well as providing valuable education in their local area. Keep up the great work, DBSA Princeton!

DBSA Shanghai Tulip Mental Health Center (China) - 2014 Rookie Chapter Service Award

Although they only formed in April 2014, DBSA Shanghai Tulip Mental Health Center (China) has an impressive array of accomplishments in each of the four primary functions of DBSA chapters. As the first DBSA support group in China, they received overwhelming media report through fifteen TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Their public policy activities included submitting an opinion letter to include NGOs in governmental mental health projects, which was successfully adopted into law.

Through nineteen educational meetings, the chapter reached 522 participants and recruited fifty volunteers. They utilized crowd-funding to raise the rent money for their meeting space for a full year and the campaign also spread awareness and attracted twenty participants and volunteers.

They also distributed more than 800 brochures and trained more than 700 individuals about peer support group concepts. Within eight months they had established a second support group and were reaching out to support sister organizations in other cities starting peer support groups in their communities. We are impressed by their energy and velocity and can’t wait to hear about their future accomplishments!

Diane Dworkin of DBSA Longmont Supporting Together (CO) - 2014 Outstanding Leadership Award

As main contact for the chapter, Diane provides understanding and support daily to numerous people in need, helping them connect with the support group and providing referrals to local therapists, temporary lodging, or other programs that might be helpful. Through her warmth and sincerity as a facilitator she provides a safe place where participants can receive support and rekindle hope. She also coordinates a variety of fun activities such as potlucks and holiday parties, which help participants benefit from a vibrant social life. Diane has inspired group members to follow suit and volunteer for the chapter.

Diane engages in education efforts and community outreach as well. She sets up a booth each week at the local farmers market to publicize the support group as a safe, non-judgmental network of friends and provides educational materials to passersby. She started a lending library for group participants, invited mental health professionals to speak, and shared updates on emerging research and practices in the treatment of mood disorders.

According to a participant, Diane is “compassionate, attentive, patient, and has a great sense of humor. She is a genuine, hard-working advocate for everyone in the support group and beyond.” Thank you, Diane, for your inspiring devotion to our mission.

Annie Lauri of DBSA Madison (TN) - 2014 Outstanding Leadership Award

Annie has been a leader of DBSA Madison for three years and was integral in growing the chapter into one of the most active in Tennessee. Starting with an average group attendance of six people at a monthly meeting, the group now welcomes more than twenty participants at biweekly meetings thanks in large part to Annie’s efforts. In addition, she started a family and friends support group.

Annie developed the chapter website and spoke about DBSA in radio interviews and at local health fairs. Understanding the vulnerability many people feel at their first support group meeting, Annie created the role of hospitality ambassador to warmly welcome each person to the meeting and send handwritten notes inviting them to return. She coordinated a holiday party complete with elaborate food, door prizes, and a photo booth.

Beyond DBSA Madison, Annie is active with the state organization DBSA Tennessee as an inspiring speaker at nursing panels where she shares her journey to wellness and educates the students about peer support. She also helps other chapters in the state when they are having events. Annie acts as a mentor to new chapter leaders and assists chapters during leadership transitions. Annie gives from the heart, lives her compassion, and is a worthy recipient of this award.

Cheryl France, MD of DBSA West Virginia - 2014 Outstanding Professional Advisor Award

Dr. France has been a part of DBSA West Virginia since its formation by serving as the professional advisor and as a member of the board of directors. She has not only provided her professional support but has also been a featured speaker at a variety of state meetings and conferences, spreading the word about DBSA to clients and colleagues. Dr. France is also instrumental in securing speakers for other events for DBSA West Virginia. Thank you for your exemplary service, Dr. France!

Lois Kroplick, DO of DBSA Rockland County - 2014 Outstanding Professional Advisor Award

In her five years as professional advisor to DBSA Rockland County, Dr. Kroplick has actively promoted the group to her patients and to health care providers. She also participates in board meetings, speaks at events, and writes for the chapter newsletter.

According to Dr. Kroplick, “being involved in community groups and helping others have always been passions of mine. As a psychiatrist, my mission is twofold: to help people change their individual lives and to encourage them to work with others to help change their community.”

DBSA Self Help Center (MO)

DBSA Self Help Center (MO), 2012 Large Chapter Service Award winner, provides empowering opportunities for their members and excellent educational resources in their community. They launched an ongoing workshop featuring readings and discussions on recovery-based topics. Outreach through inpatient support groups provided hope to participants and a bridge to continued support after discharge. Chapter educational initiatives included partnerships with local universities to educate nursing students on recovery, a suicide prevention awareness booth at an area grocery store, and “Street Corner Fundraising” where members held up stigma-busting signs and accepted donations for the chapter. DBSA Self Help Center also empowered and supported the fundraising efforts of 27 participants to attend the statewide consumer conference.

DBSA Michiana Promotes Suicide Prevention Awareness

These actions also helped recruit new participants to the chapter and educate and heal our members on their road to recovery.
– Cindy F. 

DBSA Michiana (MI) works hard to fight stigma and educate their community about suicide prevention. The chapter’s Community Awareness Committee (CAC) participates in a variety of health fairs and community events. Visitors to the chapter’s table receive a Mental Health Statistical Quiz, designed to combat stigma associated with mental health conditions. Chapter participants created display boards with items showcasing suicide prevention and awareness.

DBSA Michiana also printed a special issue newsletter pertaining to suicide which they distributed widely. The chapter planned a Suicide Awareness Walk to honor loved ones who have attempted or completed suicide. The money raised from the walk helped DBSA Michiana members attend Mental Health First Aid training and funded an educational seminar.

DBSA Chicago Loop (IL)

Developing leadership not only provides attendees the opportunity to take personal ownership and pride in their own wellness but also enables the chapter to expand its offering of programs and support to the community.
– Cheryl M.

Founded in July 2011, Rookie Chapter Service Award winner DBSA Chicago Loop has grown and prospered at an impressive rate. With weekly support group attendance growing over 300% in four months, the chapter developed a base of devoted participants who have taken an active role in the chapter’s success.

Chapter leaders encourage participants to share larger roles in the chapter’s success. This positive atmosphere has seen the self-development of new leaders who have initiated chapter book and movie clubs, trained as support group facilitators, and participated in advocacy programs.

Word of the success of the chapter quickly moved beyond the community of those living with a mood disorder, creating awareness among family members. As a result, DBSA Chicago Loop launched a weekly support group for family and friends. This support group provides family members and friends the opportunity to share their journey with those in similar life situations.

DBSA Tennessee - 2013 State Organization Service Award

DBSA Tennessee's amazing accomplishments made 2013 a rewarding year! They supported chapters in their state by hosting educational presentations and training programs, giving them the tools necessary for successful chapters. With help from DBSA Tennessee, five local chapters were interviewed on television or radio to promote DBSA to the community. Leaders encouraged one chapter’s community outreach, resulting in a city-wide Mental Health Day declared by their mayor. DBSA Tennessee’s robust plan to help new chapters in the startup process helped find free meeting locations, assistance in affiliation fees and paperwork, and provided a sponsor from an already established chapter to assist the new chapter.

Five members of DBSA Tennessee attended DBSA’s Peer Advocate Training in Washington, D.C. and then created an advocacy plan for their state including a campaign against proposed budget cuts to close all 45 of Tennessee’s Peer Support Service Centers.  DBSA Tennessee is a growing, thriving organization. With its advocacy for peer support and local chapter start-up, community outreach and commitment to peer education, DBSA Tennessee is one of the most energetic affiliates of DBSA.

DBSA New York - 2013 State Organization Service Award

DBSA New York started up one year ago and their first year was filled with successes. They have created a localized website for meeting information, contact information, and literature. Thanks to their support to new chapter leaders, support groups have sprouted up throughout Long Island and two new support groups have started in Queens, with plans to open new chapters in all boroughs of New York City. DBSA New York participated in local walks, health fairs, suicide prevention symposiums to bring information and support to people in need. They also participated in open panel discussions on mental illness at Columbia University, private colleges, and local chapters of other national mental health organizations to let everyone know that there is support out there. We look forward to all that DBSA New York has in store for 2014!

DBSA Colorado Springs (CO) - 2013 Large Chapter Service Award

DBSA Colorado Springs has set as its hallmark a consistently measured approach to growth as a chapter by offering programs to best assist people with mood disorders achieve and maintain wellness, and increasing its reputation as a viable and respected service-oriented organization in their community. The chapter attended multiple symposiums and health fairs including an event dedicated to Veterans and Military Families, a school counselors conference, and Brain Awareness Week. The chapter doubled the size of their weekly Inpatient Hospitalization and Awareness program, which visited with more than 2,000 patients in adult, adolescent, and Veteran units to provide recovery-oriented resources and information.

DBSA Colorado Springs holds eight weekly support groups and provides bi-monthly facilitator meetings and trainings. Thanks to their extensive base of volunteers, the chapter held more than 50 events, answered 870 phone calls, and reached more than 4,000 individuals through support groups. The joy of successes they have celebrated with each other for every achievement is a testament to the power of selfless devotion to a shared mission.

DBSA MDSG Long Island (NY) - 2013 Large Chapter Service Award

DBSA MDSG Long Island experienced tremendous growth in 2013 through each of their services and efforts to help the people living in their communities. They doubled their facilitator ranks and increased support group offerings from three to nine groups. All facilitators were offered multiple training opportunities as well as a web portal to access group literature. The new groups included a teen group, a group for young adults under the age of 30, a topic meeting, and a lecture series, with plans for a GLBT group in the near future.

DBSA MDSG Long Island created public relations and fundraising committees which led to several fundraising initiatives and reaching out to local therapists and behavioral health programs to inform them of the support group and other chapter programs. Participants joined local walks, health fairs, and symposia dealing with mood disorders and suicide prevention. Congratulations on an excellent year, DBSA MDSG Long Island!

DBSA Feeling Better About Ourselves (FL) - 2013 Small Chapter Service Award

DBSA Feeling Better About Ourselves is successful thanks to community outreach, training, educational efforts, and support. The chapter has grown from one support group to two groups thriving in different cities. Through promotion in newsletters and hospital units, the chapter helped another group that was in danger of closing due to lack of facilitators and participants. DBSA FBAO hosted multiple classes to train facilitators. The meetings have seen impressive growth and the group they helped has joined DBSA FBAO.

In support groups, leaders establish a format that keeps the group moving. According to a participant, “There is a new visible strength in these people who are not talking about the same thing every time. There is a definite healing and acceptance going on.” Group leaders have also created a variety of wellness-focused resources they provide to group participants and community members through seminars and workshops. These programs cover topics such as fear, processing anger, and grief. A chapter leader has spoken about mood disorders to a group of law enforcement officers at a crisis intervention training.  

DBSA Norman (OK) - 2013 Small Chapter Service Award

DBSA Norman might be small, but they have worked hard in all of the functions of a DBSA chapter: advocacy, community outreach, education, and support. In 2013 DBSA Norman grew to maintain average participation of 15 members from very diverse backgrounds. They announce chapter news through a weekly email along with other resources, websites, and videos submitted by members to further their knowledge and understanding of mood disorders. Facilitators advocate for individuals in crisis, helping them obtain needed services including crisis hotlines, hospitalization, and referrals to doctors or clinics.

Leaders are also involved in the state organization DBSA Oklahoma with the goal of doubling the number of support groups in their state. To further these goals they make 10 presentations each month on the importance of DBSA peer support groups in sustaining long-term recovery. These presentations reach clients at mental health facilities and inmates at state prisons. “It is our goal to keep DBSA Norman a dynamic, growing group, beneficial to all who attend, and to increase DBSA’s presence in Oklahoma. It is gratifying to watch members grow and know that DBSA Norman has been a part of their recovery, just as it has been a part of ours.”

DBSA Murfreesboro (TN) - 2013 Rookie Chapter Service Award

DBSA Murfreesboro began in July of 2013 with support from DBSA Tennessee. The chapter started out with one support group, which saw its attendance double in fewer than six months, becoming one of the fastest growing local chapters in the state. The growth of the chapter can be attributed to the forces behind it that work tirelessly to get the word out about the group. Flyers and pamphlets are distributed to agencies and health care providers, the Salvation Army, local hospitals and businesses, and more. DBSA Murfreesboro provides post-hospitalization support for those who would otherwise have none. Educational materials, resources, and wellness tools are provided to each chapter participant. They have also started a family and friends support group.

Members of DBSA Murfreesboro participated in the state chapter meetings and contributed to grassroots advocacy efforts. The chapter also enlisted the backing of their U.S. Representative. For a chapter that achieved all of this in six months, DBSA Murfreesboro has a fine resume of accomplishments, but they consider their greatest success to be the level of support offered to each person who walks through their doors.

Leslie Davis of DBSA Rockland County (NY) and DBSA New York - 2013 Outstanding Leadership Award

Leslie helped bring about many developments for the chapter in 2013. As a regular facilitator for support groups, she helps mediate tough situations. She takes calls daily from people wanting to learn about mood disorders and speaks with people in crisis to help them get through difficult situations. She also spearheaded the chapter’s annual fund drive which raised more than $2,200.

Leslie is the co-president of the Mental Health Coalition (MHC) of Rockland County where she represents and advocates for DBSA Rockland County while educating the community about mental health. She is the first consumer to be elected co-president of the MHC of Rockland, which is a tribute to the great respect she has gained in the local mental health community. Leslie is also active on the state level. As vice-president of DBSA New York, she reached out to several other chapters in the state to learn about how they operate, help them get more focused and organized, and to be better advocates for people who have mood disorders. Her sound advice and strong leadership will continue to expand awareness and opportunities for helping people to give and get support through the efforts of DBSA.

Steve Brannon of DBSA Jackson (TN) and DBSA Tennessee - 2013 Outstanding Leadership Award

Steve is an excellent role model for pursuing a wellness-focused life while living with a mood disorder. He fights stigma by openly sharing his journey in the local newspaper, on DBSA’s website, and on his weekly online newsletter. He has worked with the local police department to help educate and train police officers for crisis response teams. Steve was selected for DBSA Peer Advocacy Training and was a representative of DBSA for Hill Day in Washington, D.C.

At his local chapter, DBSA Jackson (TN), Steve gently encourages, trusts, and believes in support group participants. He instituted a monthly “share your inspiration” night in which group members report on what keeps them going, creating an environment of hope and personal growth. Steve is dedicated to further advancing DBSA’s mission into surrounding communities and across the state. The number of support groups has doubled in the past year under his direction, encompassing all major cities and some smaller cities across the state. He has traveled hundreds of miles at his own expense to conduct local chapter visitations as state director. Steve’s passion for the advancement of DBSA’s mission in Jackson and the state of Tennessee is so strong that he has diligently dedicated his time and resources for over a decade.

DBSA GLBT Chicago (IL)

We decided to step up our educational efforts to improve our members’ health. 
– Bob K.

DBSA GLBT Chicago (IL), 2011 Small Chapter Service Award winner, may be a small group but their huge efforts deserve much recognition. The chapter serves individuals in Chicago’s GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender) community who live with a mood disorder.

After determining weight management to be an important concern amongst participants, DBSA GLBT Chicago hosted a workshop on nutrition, weight loss, and holistic wellness strategies. The speaker was a clinical psychologist with expertise on weight management for individuals who take psychiatric medications. With attendees from the chapter and the local community, the workshop was the chapter’s most successful event to date. In 2012 they followed up with an expert panel on sleep health, another frequently discussed topic at the support group.

The chapter helps participants keep in touch with news about mood disorders and other mental health topics by sharing the latest information on their website. The continuously updated list of current news articles from around the Web has become a valued resource for group participants. The chapter also offers a lending library with a collection of materials relating to mood disorders, health issues, and GLBT topics.

DBSA Northridge (CA)

We represent empathy, sensitivity, compassion, and non-judgmental feelings. Our participants want to make this world a better place.
– Jeff F.

2011 Large Chapter Service Award winner DBSA Northridge has a lot to be proud of! The chapter has achieved a high level of recognition in their community and is regularly sought out by local and international media. DBSA Northridge also operates a blog that shares participants’ mental health recovery stories and struggles. The purpose of the blog is to create a greater sense of community among existing members and to reach out to potentialmembers, whose only exposure to the group is the internet.

DBSA Northridge hosts educational speaker events on topics such as disability benefits and choosing a health care provider. They also invite psychologists and clinicians to provide information about treatment options. The chapter offers a collection of free literature and a growing lending library.

Participants have many opportunities to get involved, including frequent facilitator trainings and committees focused on identifying new speakers and planning social events. As a result DBSA Northridge has a calendar full of events and a diverse group of facilitators committed to bringing DBSA support groups to even more individuals in the community.