The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance provides hope, help, support, and education to people living with mood disorders. As part of our mission, DBSA is committed to actions that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion to enhance mental wellness for all.

DBSA recognizes the unique ways identity, culture, and access affect people living with mood disorders. We strive to create safe and inclusive spaces for individuals to feel empowered on their own path to wellness. DBSA seeks to create equitable access to peer support services and mental health resources and advocate for all individuals with a lived experience with a mood disorder, regardless of cultural and social identity or systemic barriers.

The above statement is a result of a commitment DBSA made to our community three years ago. One of our core beliefs is that the lived experience of people should inform everything DBSA does. For too long, DBSA didn’t recognize the gap in sharing peer voices from historically marginalized communities. Since June of 2020, DBSA has worked with peers and DEI experts to help us audit our internal policies, communications, and resources to bridge that gap.

Action starts with listening

We held listening sessions with Black members of our support group community and asked—how is DBSA currently supporting them and how could we do better? In those sessions, we learned that listening and practicing awareness were the most important entry points for creating inclusive spaces and resources for a more diverse audience.

Further, DSBA partnered with DEI strategist ADR Consulting to audit internal processes and train staff to look through a more equitable lens as we moved forward with our initiatives to support one another and our community.

Our initiatives

In collaboration with peers and DEI experts, DBSA has been able to incorporate important messaging and learnings into our work. The three initiatives listed below moved multiple priorities forward: expanding peer support, increasing education and wellness resources, broadening the adoption of Peer Specialists throughout mental health delivery systems, amplifying the peer voice, and broadening and reaching a more diverse audience.

Though we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg, we stand committed to increasing awareness, improving our cultural competence, and learning from and sharing the voices of peers from historically marginalized communities.

Online Support Groups

Culture and Identity Focus support group development starts with asking representatives of the identified community about their experience in living with a mood disorder, needs within their community, etc.

DBSA has developed and nurtured the formation of online peer support groups specifically for Black individuals living with a mood disorder or who believe they may have a mood disorder. The groups, led by a Black peer facilitator, create a safe, culturally sensitive space for people to share stories, questions, and concerns. What started with two (2) online support groups a week expanded to nine (9) total groups per week—at least once daily.

Black Community Survey Results (August 1, 2021 – July 31, 2022)

92% felt like their opinions and comments were respected during the meeting

83% felt more hopeful after the meeting

80% learned new strategies and information for living with a mood disorder

I am thankful to have found this group. To have a safe place to share and receive support for mood disorders is a true blessing. Today was my first time in this group but definitely won’t be my last. I found my tribe.

More Quotes from Black Community Support Group Participants:

“I feel invited to ask questions about my recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I feel safe to share personal information about my current place in navigating healthcare and treatment options as a person living in the USA identifying as black/indigenous. Thanks (to my facilitator) for the warm first-time welcome!!”

“This group allows me to release so much of what I am feeling. Being able to do that, I feel the safety and understanding from all in attendance.”

“Thank you for establishing this group for African Americans. I feel so comfortable sharing and learning new techniques from other African Americans to help me be better.”

Join an online support group

Rural and Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Communities

DBSA worked with Rural Minds to reach out to members of the rural community to serve on a Peer Council to solicit that information. We have identified a Peer Council of 12 people with varied backgrounds within the rural community to inform the formation of a total of four (4) support groups in 2023. The first two are anticipated to be launched by the end of March 2023.

DBSA has identified three potential partners to work with to reach out to various populations in the AAPI community to serve on a like Peer Council. Online support groups for the AAPI community are anticipated to launch their first two (2) groups by the end of June 2023, pending any language barrier challenges. The remaining two (2) support groups for both the rural community and AAPI are anticipated to launch in early Q3 of 2023.

Peer Support Specialist Apprenticeship Pilot

DBSA expanded its scope by creating a peer support specialist apprenticeship pilot through funding from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) and private foundations for individuals from the Black community who live with mood disorders.

During this pilot project, DBSA has served as a trainer and employer. Peer support specialist apprentices (PSSA) are provided with job-readiness skills during the first six months of the apprenticeship. PSSAs are placed in a community behavioral health center or social service agency to receive a hands-on practicum during the last six months of the apprenticeship.

A wealth of research has shown that, on average, racial and ethnic minority populations report experiencing mental health problems at the same rate as whites. But barriers, including lack of access, discrimination, and stigma, prevent these communities from getting the high-quality mental health care they need and deserve.

I have experienced discrimination, lack of access to care, and stigma, and I am still being targeted. I am passionate about peer support because I didn’t have a smooth experience when navigating the healthcare system. I want to be an ear to listen, a resource for help, a voice for those who cannot speak, and support people like me and my community. –Nicole B., a student in DBSA’s peer support specialist training program and a U.S. Army Veteran

Providing culturally relevant content

DBSA worked with DEI consultants to assess our tools and resources, including DBSA’s website, Wellness Wheel, Wellness Tracker, and Mood Crew. Most recently, we held focus groups with several participants from our online support groups for the Black community. Their feedback helped us outline the modifications needed to make our tools more culturally relevant.

Identity, culture, and mental health

Each person’s mental health journey is unique. A person’s family history, race, ethnicity, and culture all play a key role in how mental health is understood and addressed. While a sense of community and belonging is a known protective factor for mental health, experiencing discrimination, harassment, or lack of access to health care can worsen mental health conditions.

Racial trauma can occur from stressors that are specific to certain groups. This can be on the individual or societal level, such as experiencing continuous microaggressions. It also derives from the systemic level and is seen when social policies seek to subjugate and deter BIPOC communities from thriving.

Learn more about trauma and mood disorders

Learning about how cultural and identity factors affect mental health is the first step to addressing inequality and ensuring everyone has access to mental health care. See how these factors affect mental health.

Read more on the way identity and culture can impact mental health.