As independent affiliates of DBSA in their communities, DBSA chapters offered more than 800 peer-run support groups in 2013, in 44 states—providing comfort and direction in a confidential and supportive setting to more than 53,478 people across the U.S. Many DBSA chapters also offer a variety of education and outreach programs to address the mental health needs within their local communities.
DBSA thanks our most valued partners, our chapters, for their inspiring and life-changing work.
Here are the stories of two incredible DBSA chapter participants.
Spotlight on DBSA Chapter Leader
Tom Doucette, president of DBSA Nashua in New Hampshire, wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until he was 56, following a crash that resulted in him returning to his home state of New Hampshire. He began seeing a therapist who recommended he find a local peer support group. Tom found one at a local church and began attending. Very quickly Tom realized the great potential for this group if only other people knew about it!
In 2002, after splintering off from the initial group, he decided to affiliate his new support group with DBSA. Tom recounts, “For the first two or three weeks, we just played cards.” Getting word out to the public was difficult and attendance was very low. But then a local newspaper asked to do an article and suddenly Tom found a picture of himself on the front page of the paper! Forty people showed up at the very next meeting.
Suddenly, the small group was finding itself too big for its original meeting space and began being courted by two local centers – both of which wanted the group to meet at their center. Since then the chapter has grown in recognition in the community and hosts a steady stream of regular participants and newcomers. “So many people that come in are amazed that there are people like them,” Tom shares.
DBSA Nashua believes that recovery does not work without peer support. They make an effort to make sure everyone feels important to the group and that no one person is “in charge” by rotating the peer facilitator role among six of their trained participants. Despite his support over the past 12 years, Tom is quick to share, “I am not DBSA Nashua. It is its own entity—its own structure. It supports itself. It doesn’t need me and I don’t want it to. I always tell people all I did was to find a roof!”
He may be humble, but it’s clear that Tom is proud of what DBSA Nashua has become. “I’ve seen hundreds of people come through the door. I like to think that the group gave them a little seed that grew and helped them get their life on track.” While the chapter doesn’t know what it would do without him, Tom is equally thankful to them.
In addition to serving as President of DBSA Nashua, Tom is also the Assistant Director of H.E.A.R.T.S. PSA (a local peer support center that serves greater Nashua.)
DBSA Chapter Support Group Member’s Experience
About a year ago, I was admitted to a mental hospital. While there I was diagnosed with Bipolar II and participated in some group therapy sessions. When I returned home I began participating in a DBSA support group. Nothing makes me feel better than talking with my support group. They actually understand how I feel. Not many of my friends have mood disorders, so coming to the group and talking about my week and how to deal with problems I’m having is an amazing experience.
I think support groups are beneficial because they bring together people who can understand you, and can tell you what worked for them. I’m not saying that other attempts, like reading a self-help book, are useless, but there's something about hearing it from others that makes it better. Just knowing that they've had troubles makes me want to try things, and since I've been here, the majority of the things I've tried have worked!
–K.S., DBSA Support Group Member
DBSA 2013 Chapter Service Awards
The DBSA Chapter Service Awards recognize exemplary service by DBSA chapters, state organizations, and their leaders. Winners were honored at the 2014 Chapter Leadership Forum in addition to receiving a cash award and bulk subscriptions to bp and esperanza magazine. Learn about the significant accomplishments of these award-winning chapters and chapter leaders.
State Organization Service Award: DBSA Tennessee
State Organization Service Award: DBSA New York
Large Chapter Service Award: DBSA Colorado Springs (CO)
Large Chapter Service Award: DBSA MDSG Long Island (NY)
Small Chapter Service Award: DBSA Feeling Better About Ourselves (FL)
Small Chapter Service Award: DBSA Norman (OK)
Rookie Chapter Service Award: DBSA Murfreesboro (TN)
Outstanding Leadership Award: Leslie Davis of DBSA Rockland County (NY) and DBSA New York
Outstanding Leadership Award: Steve Brannon of DBSA Jackson (TN) and DBSA Tennessee