A message from Michael
With the holiday season upon us and the year ending, we can all reflect on 2020 and all its unexpected twists and turns. DBSA has certainly had its share. But this past year also brought to light new opportunities and appreciation in several ways.
The pandemic forced DBSA staff and volunteers to innovate, learning new skills and technology. This work was essential to continue offering support groups and wellness tools during a time when the pandemic, economy, and social unrest led more people than ever to visit our website to seek resources. We were fortunate that we already started the transition to virtual services, including a handful of national online support groups and a portion of our peer specialist training courses. This gave us a head start and hopefully created opportunities for peers to access resources sooner than would otherwise have occurred.
During this period, we also forged new relationships and strengthened existing ones. I am grateful to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, the International Society for Bipolar Disorder, and the Chicago Urban League for the partnerships we are building. Our existing relationships with members of the Mental Health Liaison Group and Support Group Central ensured the peer voice continued to have multiple opportunities to be heard, whether with government leaders, industry partners, or with one another.
DBSA is grateful for the volunteer and financial support we continue to receive. Our chapter leaders have shown creativity and resilience to ensure that those seeking peer support and education found a welcoming and receptive community, even if through boxes on a screen. Our volunteer subject matter experts, including our Scientific Advisory Board, the Supporting Youth Mental Health committee, and our advisors engaged in our Transforming the Definition of Wellness initiative played a pivotal role in driving DBSA’s continued work. The DBSA National Board of Directors offered steadfast leadership and reassurance to the staff, helping us navigate these unusual times.
These accomplishments were only made possible through the generosity of the individuals and organizations who stepped forward and invested in our work — a sign of your unwavering commitment to our mission. Not only did your donations help us sustain existing services, but you allowed us to expand support groups and accelerate online wellness resources for children, young adults, Veterans, seniors, and the adult public at large.
With your continued involvement, DBSA is positioned to carry on into the new year. Let’s hope we can soon come together in person, with renewed appreciation to shake hands, sit around a conference table, share a meal, or offer a hug.
Supporting youth mental health: A look at 2020
DBSA’s Supporting Youth Mental Health initiative launched in January of 2020. It was the beginning of a three-year plan to provide more resources to support children, teens, and young adults who live with mood disorders, along with their parents and caregivers. At the beginning of this year, we could not have imagined the type of toll that would be taken on the mental health of all people and how much it would affect the youngest among us.
Before COVID-19, the reporting around the mental health of teens and young adults was particularly concerning. Major depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders were being reported on insurance claims of young people at staggering rates – and then the pandemic hit.
Throughout 2020, DBSA continued to create programming to support peers living with depression and bipolar and to help their parents and caregivers. From tools and resources to help with wellness, to support groups, to elevating the peer voice to combat stigma, we found new ways to connect with our community.
We Offered Support
When COVID-19 made having in-person support groups impossible, the DBSA team responded by adding additional online support groups, including specific groups for young adults. DBSA’s parent and caregiver community, the Balanced Mind Parent Network continued to provide support to each member and welcomed 220 new members to the network this year.
We Elevated the Peer Voice
At DBSA, the peer perspective informs all we do, and elevating your voice this year was more important than ever. The DBSA Young Adult Council (YAC) demonstrated this through their anti-stigma Instagram campaign, their blog on the first signs of a mood disorder and companion podcast, and their moving piece on life after a suicide attempt.
We Created New Tools and Resources
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we launched a new wellness tool that takes a holistic approach to wellness. The DBSA Wellness Wheel offers users one main workbook and supporting worksheets and journal prompts to allow you to assess and reflect on your wellness in 7 key areas. You’ll also find additional goal planning and tracking systems to help you clarify your wellness goals. Each month we recorded a new Wellness Wheel Podcast to interview an expert on each subject area. You can find episodes of DBSA’s Wellness Wheel podcast here.
For individuals who could use additional help tracking their wellness strategies, we released the DBSA Wellness Tracker. Keeping records of your moods, symptoms, medications, sleep, nutrition, and other measures gives you a record and visual representation of your wellness each month. Download the DBSA Wellness Tracker.
In August we launched our new tool for children, the DBSA Mood Crew™, which consists of 10 emotion-based characters. The program has resources that parents, caregivers, clinicians, and educators can use with children to begin important conversations about understanding emotions, such as the Mood Crew Mood Tracker, the Moods in Motion Game Pack, and the Matching Moods Game. Visit the Mood Crew homepage to meet all the characters and download the main Mood Crew Workbook.
The Mood Crew™ would like to hear from you!
In August, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) released a new tool to help children understand emotions and feelings. We hope you were able to check out the Mood Crew™ and use the games and activities provided. If you did, please tell us how it went!
How to find wellness while you work from home
Since the beginning of COVID-19, many people have been working from home, which caused disruption to our routines, our home space, and maybe even our productivity. Managing our wellness while working from home can be challenging, which is why we have compiled some tips that can be beneficial for all but may be especially relevant to those of us that live with depression or bipolar.
There are many ways in which having healthy routines can support our mental health. Our brains tend to like patterns and consistency. Creating healthy routines around our workday can help us to feel more organized, prepared, and less stressed. Creating consistency does not have to be a daunting effort. Start by thinking about any part of your day that may benefit from more structure. We’ll outline some prompt questions and some wellness tips that will help you get started.
What do you do as soon as you wake up? You may not be much of a morning person, but what we do when we first wake up can really set the tone for our day. It can be something as small as drinking a glass of water first thing or starting our day with a five-minute journaling session; by considering what we do first thing in the morning, we can give ourselves the right mindset for the day.
How do you start your workday? Do you open your email? Write a to-do list? Starting the day with the hardest tasks on our to-do list can bring a sense of accomplishment, while sometimes it can be too challenging of a way to start the day! Figure out what type of task makes you feel more organized, inspired, and that keeps you motivated.
Are you remembering to take breaks? It is important to remember to take breaks during the workday. Whether this is a quick walk around the block, doing some household chores, or taking some time to socialize with a colleague, the breaks we take during the day help us to refocus and can give us the refresh we need to continue productively.
Are you taking too many breaks? Maybe working in your home environment is distracting you from work or you find it is hard to stay motivated. Try to identify what distracts you in your home environment and create a working space that minimizes that. It also can be useful to give yourself some additional structure with time, for example, setting a timer for 45 minutes and focusing solely on work. After the 45 minutes, take a 15-minute break to recharge.
How do you conclude the workday? Having your home double as your office can mean you have a lot of work reminders floating around. Provide yourself some visual separation from your workspace. The end of the day is also a great time to take a walk, run an errand, or start another engaging activity so you can feel some sense of separation between time for work and your personal time.
How is your workspace set up? If you can’t have a traditional office at home and you are using another space such as your kitchen or dining room, think about ways you can separate things that remind you of work from other parts of your living area when you aren’t working. By creating a separate space to store your work items during your time away from work, you can achieve better balance. This can be as simple as finding a box to put your work notes in at the end of the day or covering your workspace with a blanket.
How is your lighting?
Our bodies respond to natural daylight; it regulates our sleep and wake cycle each day. While working from home, you may not get the same natural daylight during our commute so it is important to make sure you are getting enough exposure to the sun as often as we can. Lighting can also make a difference in our workday. Sometimes overhead lights can be straining, while sitting in spaces that are too dark may make us more tired. Consider the lights you have in your workspace and your daily access to sunlight.
Are you staying social? Part of work that can be rewarding is the socialization a traditional office environment provides. Living and working from home may feel very isolating at times. Try to create habits around staying connected to co-workers, friends, or family. Identify those in your circle who can be supportive of you and try to set up regular phone calls, lunch dates over zoom, or socially distanced trips to the park.
Finding the right systems for your home workspace may take some trial and error, but small adjustments can make a big impact on how you feel throughout the day. If you need extra support, a trusted friend, family member, or therapist may be able to provide additional recommendations as well.
Share your opinion on how clinical trials should measure effectiveness
DBSA has been on a journey to transform the definition of wellness for people living with mood disorders as it relates to the delivery of mental health care for several years. To do this, we are working to develop a new set of treatment outcomes for medical product clinical trials to measure their effectiveness for people living with bipolar or mood disorders.
To support this effort, over the last four years DBSA has:
- Developed and distributed the Supporting Wellness survey, a peer-designed survey asking our community to identify their preferred treatment outcomes.
- Hosted an externally led patient-focused drug development meeting as part of an FDA initiative to hear directly from patients around the unmet needs and gaps in current medical product interventions.
- Based upon what we learned from the survey and the PFDD meeting, we executed peer focus groups to reduce diversity shortcomings and to learn more about community needs.
- Convened two patient engagement and stakeholder workshops bringing together peers, family members, clinicians, researchers, FDA and medical product development staff to provide direction and guidance. The output of the last workshop was a consensus on four concepts of interest for treatment outcomes:
- Improved physical energy
- Activities of daily living
- Time spent in positive versus negative space
- Maintaining / increasing relationships as desired
This year DBSA conducted a review of published scientific literature to identify existing tools and scales that matched the concepts of interest. What we found in the initial review was more than 15 criteria to describe more than 100 measures of wellness.
In order to advance our work, DBSA needs input from you, our community members, to help us narrow down this work to a manageable list. You can assist us and fellow peers by taking this simple survey that asks you to prioritize treatment outcomes.
YAC Spotlight – Finding the right therapist: Nak’s story
Finding the right therapist is no easy task. When you are not feeling your best, this can often feel insurmountable. You are not alone. This new series from the Young Adult Council will share the experiences of other DBSA community members who have been there, too.
I have spent more hours browsing Psychology Today for a therapist than I’d like to admit. Therapy is something I have participated in on and off for the last seven years. Different therapists have brought different things to the table, and I can confidently say that I have had a pleasant therapy experience.
My first therapist was not someone that I picked since I was 17, but we paired together well. She was young, warm, and helped me figure out how I could make therapy work for me. I like to think of her as a “starter” therapist. She helped me scratch the surface, but she and I both agreed that it would be best for me to find someone new.
Life Unlimited: Share your story
Each month, DBSA features new, empowering stories of individuals whose lives have been touched, but not limited by, a mood disorder. Our hope is to provide inspiration to individuals living with depression or bipolar disorder – to acknowledge that, though there may be dark times, there is also hope, and we are not alone.
That’s where you come in. Do you have a story to share? Each person has their own unique wellness journey, with both pitfalls and progress. Your story is a powerful gift. By sharing it, we hope you feel empowered to recognize how far you have come and challenges you have faced. By talking about your experiences, you help to reduce stigma and show others that there are others who have felt the way that they do.
Environmental Wellness Tips
Environmental Wellness in the DBSA Wellness Wheel is about finding balance with both our natural environment and places like homes and offices. By maintaining and making efforts to support our own environmental wellness, we can help to improve our overall wellness.
Keeping our home space and office space organized can be an important part of Environmental Wellness. Are your surroundings inspiring calm or are they somewhat chaotic? To begin thinking more about Environmental Wellness, check out our Wellness Wheel worksheet on the subject. Click here to download the worksheet.
Maintaining our Environmental Wellness during winter months can be challenging, especially in environments that have colder weather. Spending less time in nature during the winter months can be challenging, especially for individuals who live with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Consider using a lightbox after consulting with your doctors if you feel more impacted by seasonal change. Read more on Seasonal Affective Disorder here.
Did you know we can support our Environmental Wellness by supporting our brain environment? Dr. LaGenia Bailey gives us insight into this in our new Wellness Wheel podcast where we discuss how nutrition, exercise, and meditation can support our mental health. Listen to the podcast.
In this DBSA Wellness Wheel podcast, guest expert Dr. LaGenia Bailey shares with Programs Director Maria Margaglione and Programs Manager Hannah Zeller how to tend to our Environment Wellness in three areas: nature, our homes and workspaces, and our brain.
Dr. LaGenia Bailey is the founder of East West Integrative healing. Her soul’s mission is to facilitate Holistic Wellness for her clients through the use of Eastern and Western Science. These sciences include sound, mindfulness, and traditional as well as complementary healing modalities. Dr. Bailey is a board-certified neuropharmacologist, a yogi, musician, and singer. She uses her knowledge to help guide people to wellness.
Have you heard our latest podcasts?
DBSA podcasts are released every month. This series features peers and leading experts on mental health discussing topics that impact those living with mood disorders such as treatment options, finances, and tools to improve overall well being.
We hope you will subscribe, rate, and review our podcasts so we can continue to shape this series around your interests and needs.
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