Thank You DBSA Volunteers

April is National Volunteer Month, and DBSA wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the volunteers who put their hearts and souls into our mission of providing hope, help, support, and education to the communities they serve. DBSA’s volunteers fill a wide array of crucial positions:

  • Office Volunteers
  • Chapter and State Organization Leaders
  • Support Group Facilitators
  • Balanced Mind Parent Network Moderators
  • Grassroots Advocates
  • Young Adult Council
  • Scientific Advisory Board Members
  • Board of Directors

Each volunteer fills a role with their time, talent, and area of expertise. They use their life experiences to complete imperative tasks, support and empower those on similar paths, provide education, reduce stigma, and ensure that DBSA’s mission is constantly moving forward. DBSA’s volunteers positively affect the lives of individuals living with or affected by mood disorders every day.

DBSA would like to thank each volunteer who has participated in our work. We also acknowledge our volunteers’ contributions throughout the entire year. DBSA is incredibly grateful, humbled, and inspired by this generosity.

Congratulations to our 2018 Chapter and State Organization Award Winners!

DBSA is delighted to announce our 2018 Service Award winners:

  • DBSA Colorado Springs – Chapter Service Award
  • DBSA Lehigh Valley (PA) – Chapter Service Award
  • DBSA Bethany (OK) – Chapter Service Award
  • Valerie Ryan of DBSA Ocean County (NJ) – Outstanding Leader Award
  • Matthew Xiarhos of DBSA Revere (MA) – Outstanding Facilitator Award
  • Vincent Vindice, PsyD of DBSA Revere (MA) – Outstanding Professional Advisor Award
  • DBSA New Jersey – State Organization Service Award

Each of these award recipients have worked incredibly hard to provide hope, help, support, and education to the peers in their community. Read more about their accomplishments in 2018 on our Chapter Spotlights page.

See Chapter Spotlights

Note from Michael Pollock, DBSA CEO

Michael Pollock, DBSA Chief Executive Officer
Michael Pollock, DBSA Chief Executive Officer

Spring is often a time filled with hope as we anticipate warmer weather, flowers blooming, and trees budding. But as some of us were reminded recently, rugged storms and even snow can return unwantedly, forcing us to cover up and retrench as a means of protection. The temperature may be cool in the morning and warmer as the day goes on. We are forced to prepare for multiple scenarios, carrying with us perhaps a jacket, umbrella, or gloves, but also sun glasses or a visor.

As the weather cycles, so do many people. Moods may fluctuate more than usual; our energy depleted one minute and restored the next. We may need to prepare for different experiences from day to day, or even through the course of a single day.

DBSA is here to offer support during such transitions. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We will be offering education and resources on mood disorders in several ways, including raising awareness about the warning signs of Tardive Dyskinesia (TD), as well as a number of engagement opportunities online and through social media. Look for more details on our Mental Health Awareness Month plans below.

Our support groups continue to be available as an additional way offer help. I recently spent time with DBSA New Jersey and representatives from several chapters throughout the state.  These volunteers reinforced their commitment to ensure more people living with depression or bipolar disorder could participate in a local support group. Some communities were making plans to train more volunteer facilitators to offer more group meetings or prevent burn out in existing volunteers. Others were organizing events in the community to make more residents and organizations aware of the local services they offer. Volunteers are committed to providing leadership in their community and hope to others.

As I wrapped up my day with the New Jersey volunteers, I reflected on DBSA’s values which are continually present in these chapters and the state: community, responsibility, wisdom and inspiration. These same values are in action in all DBSA support groups, including our online forums. To all our volunteers, thank you for being there and living such values.

April is National Volunteer Month. Our sincere thanks to our volunteers for supporting others whether they are navigating storms in their lives, celebrating the bright opportunities that lie ahead, and every experience in between.

Life Unlimited: Nina Alexandra Horn

Nina Alexandra Horn

When we hear about people’s afflictions, they usually start by saying, “I discovered I had this disease when….” Back in my day, no one spoke of mine. My body wasn’t aching, I hadn’t broken a bone—I didn’t have a fever. But, I did know something was terribly wrong when I started shutting down completely when I was 16. I had no idea this was the beginning of a life-long struggle with Bipolar Disorder.

The mania stepped in when I was 20. For a couple months, I barely slept, my mind was going a mile a minute, and I was making ill-fated decisions at every turn. I felt invincible, though I was essentially unable to function in my daily routine. I landed in the hospital for the first time. Once stabilized, the inevitable happened—I fell into a severe depression. One day, I couldn’t stand it anymore and tried to take my life. Fortunately, I reached out to my mother, who immediately called 911. When I woke up in the hospital, I felt ashamed but was happy to be alive! After this stay, I left with a diagnosis—Manic Depression.

As the years passed by, the depressive cycles became more prevalent and intense. I held on to my career for years before realizing I needed to stop working altogether. At this point, I sunk even lower since I had so much time on my hands without a schedule in place. For two years, I isolated myself from everything and everyone.

Then, on one sunny afternoon, I listened to my husband’s advice and took a quick walk to the corner. I went a little further each day until my walks became routine. I reaped the numerous benefits of exercise, and my mood suddenly improved. A few months later, my doctor suggested a new drug, and we finally discovered a successful medication cocktail! I was thrilled because I felt like myself again after more than a decade of trial and error.

I still encounter ups and downs, but I manage the moods better now. I still walk nearly every day, have a part time job and volunteer at an animal shelter. I’ve realized those of us with mental illnesses need to be kind to ourselves and simply do the best we can. In addition to my psychiatry and therapy visits, I attend my local DBSA’s Bipolar Support Group weekly. All of these tools help me stay on track, along with the loving support of my friends and family.

The advice I have is very simple, though easier said than done. Don’t ever, ever give up. Help and solutions are always out there. We just need to be as patient as possible (and as a patient, I’ve always struggled with this). As a child, my Mother read “The Little Engine” book to me at bedtime and stressed “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” I never imagined how helpful that little phrase would be…

Ask the Doc

Can a person with bipolar disorder ever be truly happy? Are my periods of happiness just mania?
My short answer is: Yes, a person who lives with bipolar disorder can certainly be truly happy. But I think I can understand the concerns behind the question. If you have experienced disruptive or dangerous episodes of mania, you may worry that feeling happy is just a first step toward another damaging episode. Manic episodes are generally not happy or pleasant times, but some people do experience elevated mood or an exaggerated sense of well-being as part of mania. There are, however, some important differences between mania and feeling truly happy. Those key features of mania or hypomania include rapid or disorganized thinking, impulsive or risky behavior, and irritability or intolerance of any disagreement or inconvenience. ... Read Dr. Greg Simon's Full Answer

Illinois and New Jersey Set a Standard for Care

High co-pays and high out of network costs are just some of the barriers to accessing mental health care.

For years, Savannah needed outpatient therapy but couldn’t get it because she couldn’t afford the high copay. “I am currently paying my psychiatrist $100 out of pocket because no psychiatrist in my network is accepting new patients.” She also has to get prior-authorization for her medications.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) was meant to address this, though many folks are falling through the cracks. One reason is that many people don’t know what their rights are. Even if someone does know they may have a mental health parity issue, there is confusion about which government agencies are responsible and how MHPAEA, which is a federal law, should be enforced at the state level.

Such is the case in Ohio, where Savannah lives. Ohio needs more clarification of roles and responsibilities so that people’s rights are enforced. This is why DBSA is collaborating with other organizations in Ohio to write a stronger mental health parity bill. Legislators and Governor Dewine’s administration need to be educated on these mental health parity issues, the failures of enforcement, and why Ohio needs a stronger bill.

Thanks to the work of advocates, some states have passed laws to strengthen mental health parity. Illinois passed a bill last year that is a model for other states to follow, and New Jersey followed suit last week. They show how states can implement mental health parity enforcement and improve access to mental health care.

Illinois is the first state to pass legislation requiring health insurance plans to make public how well their plans comply with parity laws. Additionally, Illinois regulatory agencies are responsible for auditing insurance plans and required to submit a report detailing how the agency is enforcing the law. New Jersey’s law requires plans to demonstrate parity compliance before being made available to consumers.

If you believe you have a mental health parity issue or concern, you may find the contact information for your state’s Department of Insurance by clicking on this link:

Please forward to colleagues, family, and friends to assist us in this grassroots effort to make our voice heard. To continue to receive communications about issues that support access to quality mental health care, register here.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

DBSA is joining mental health organizations across the country to promote better public understanding of mental health conditions. In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, we invite you to join us next month on our social media channels as we spread awareness and resources related to depression and bipolar disorder.

Facts and Stats

DBSA is committed to raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health issues. To do this, we’re launching a “Facts and Stats” social media campaign where we will feature a mental health fact or stat every weekday in the month of May through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tardive Dyskinesia Awareness Week

During the week of May 6th, DBSA is raising awareness about Tardive Dyskinesia (TD). The goal is to provide education on warning signs and offer hope to those that are living with TD. Follow our social media where we’ll feature infographics and resources for you to share with your friends and loved ones.

Live Streaming Event to Support DBSA

DBSA is partnering with Tiltify and live video game streamers to raise awareness about mental health. During the week of May 13th, DBSA will partner with a featured streamer on Twitch, who will provide their audience (primarily young adults) with information about depression and bipolar as well as educate them on DBSA’s efforts to support those living with a mood disorder. During this live stream event, our feature streamer will accept donations to support DBSA’s mission to provide millions with hope, help, support, and education. Pay close attention to our social media for the announcement of our featured streamer and information about dedicating a live video game stream to support DBSA’s mission.

Wellness Tips from Peers

Keeping your Inventory

I find it helps to sit down and really figure out why I am feeling the way I am. Of course the harder part of this is that chemical imbalances often mean there is no rational explanation. Expressing myself in some way through art or writing helps navigate this and if nothing else, leaves me feeling more at ease.

Settling Is Not Always Best

Do not always settle for “better than nothing.” Sometimes it is not better. Rather, wait till you can find a solution to meet your needs.

Trust in Yourself

Learning to disconnect from negativity of others is paramount. Accept opinions but don’t own them. Those expressing their opinions of you are not the ones living your life. Give yourself some credit, stop doubting yourself. It’s empowering to be free of the worries of others second guessing your thoughts, experiences and actions.