Your feedback is needed: Help us know you better
DBSA is working diligently to expand our reach and resources available to those living with mood disorders and members of the DBSA community. As part of our commitment to provide support and wellness tools that benefit our diverse constituents, we have put together a survey to better understand our audience and your needs. Whether you are a peer, family member, clinician, or friend, we want to hear from you!
The survey is anonymous. We hope you will take a few minutes to share your thoughts. In recognition of your time, you will have the opportunity to win one of five $25 Amazon gift cards. Thank you for your help!
Improving health equity: Thank you to Janssen and Otsuka
DBSA extends our sincere gratitude to Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. for investing in DBSA’s effort to increase access to peer support services for Black communities in Chicago in 2021.
According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health symptoms than the general population, and only one in three Black people who need mental health care receive it. Barriers to mental health care for Black individuals in America include stigma, distrust of the healthcare system, high insurance costs, underrepresentation of Black health care providers, implicit bias, and even outright racism from medical professionals.
As these systemic concerns continue to create barriers for Black individuals seeking a path to wellness, with generous support from Janssen and Otsuka, DBSA will increase and enhance opportunities for Black individuals to both receive and be trained in the evidence-based practice of peer support. DBSA will also develop new peer support groups specifically for Black individuals living with a mood disorder led by a Black peer support specialist who, at the end of each meeting, will offer one-on-one support services to group members. This program is one facet of a larger, organizational-wide effort to prioritize providing increased awareness of and access to peer support for Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.
Thank you, Janssen and Otsuka, for your investment in DBSA’s commitment to increasing health equity!
From the YAC: 10 grounding strategies to redirect your thoughts
What are grounding techniques?
Grounding techniques are tools you can use to redirect your thoughts or bring yourself back to the present moment when you’re experiencing unwanted thoughts. Grounding techniques can be useful in several situations. You may find them especially helpful if you experience anxiety, panic attacks, dissociation, intrusive thoughts, or urges to self-harm.
It is important to note that these strategies are meant to complement treatment, not replace it. These tools also are not intended to help you avoid a thought or feeling forever. Grounding simply allows you to delay processing an emotion until the time and place is more practical, such as when you are meeting with your therapist or a trusted peer.
It is helpful to think of these mental exercises in a way that is similar to how you think of physical exercises. DBSA Young Adult Council member Olivia shares three best practices that have kept her from becoming discouraged:
1. Try out a few different exercises to see which ones work best for you.
The mental health benefits of physical exercise have been well documented, but the benefits can vary based on the method you use. For example, I love jumping on a mini trampoline for cardio and using a resistance band or light weights for strength exercises. I do not enjoy burpees or trying to set a new weightlifting record. In the same way, some grounding exercises work better for me than others. Just like physical exercises, what works for me is probably different than what works for you. Picking your favorite grounding strategies is a personal experience that takes time and practice.
Supporting Youth Mental Health: Dealing with fatigue
As we approach the one-year anniversary of COVID-19, parents and caregivers are continuing to feel the strains of increased demands. Managing working from home while parenting, caring for young ones and older relatives, and all the unknowns ahead have caused increased stress for many. When you are the caregiver for a child that lives with depression or bipolar, the demands can be even greater.
As a caregiver, sometimes managing your own mental health can fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Maybe you have read about the importance of self-care to mitigate these effects but roll your eyes when trying to discern when you will have time for self-care. The demands can be a lot, but the effects of not implementing care for yourself can be detrimental and lead to burnout or even compassion fatigue.
Burnout or compassion fatigue?
Burnout and compassion fatigue are similar, but compassion fatigue encompasses both burnout and what is known as secondary traumatic stress.
Characteristics of Burnout:
- Feeling as if nothing you do can help
- Feeling exhausted, overwhelmed or tired
- Feeling like a failure
- Feeling frustrated or cynical
- Feeling disconnected from others
- Feeling depressed or having low mood
- Feeling as if you need to use substances to cope
Characteristics of Compassion Fatigue:
- Feeling anxious or fearful about situations that you might not have had before
- Feeling excessively worried that something bad will happen
- Feeling “on-guard” all the time
- Feeling overwhelmed by the trouble you see in the one you care for
- Feeling that the other persons’ trauma is your own
When you experience secondary traumatic stress like compassion fatigue, you take on the stress of those you care for and it becomes your own. Compassion fatigue can evolve to become a condition needing treatment. Compassion fatigue can cause caregivers to become numb or can be re-traumatizing in your own life.
Coping with compassion fatigue
If you recognize yourself within the symptoms listed above, know that you are not alone. When you deeply care about others, their struggles can deeply impact your life. It is this empathetic response that allows you to be a good caregiver. However, when worry and concern become overwhelming, they can begin to impact our own mental health. If you are a caregiver who is feeling burned out or symptoms associated with compassion fatigue, here are some things you can consider for your overall wellness.
Sleep, nutrition, physical activity: Consider your basic routine. Are you getting enough sleep? Eating food that feels good? Moving your body? Sleep, nutrition, and physical activity are the building blocks for good wellness, so consider each area as you consider your self-care.
Take time alone for rest: While it can be hard to find time alone as a caregiver, giving yourself down-time is important. Whether it is a mini-meditation before the day begins or an evening bath to find some calm, carving out small periods of alone time can make a big difference in your mental health.
Create time for ritual: Whether a spiritual practice or something else, rituals can help ground us in the present moment. Consider whether meditation, writing, or some other calming activity might be helpful to you.
Connect with your supporters: When you are a caretaker, your world can feel like you are the main supporter for everyone else. Finding like-minded individuals through DBSA Support Groups or the Balanced Mind Parent Network is a great way to find a community of people who understand what you are going through.
Mood Crew monthly: Letters with Lonely
Children everywhere are experiencing loneliness in a way that we never could have imagined. If COVID-19 has left your young one feeling less connected to others, we recommend trying Lonely’s new resource, Letters with Lonely.
Join Lonely in writing letters so we can feel better, together.
Last-minute Trump regulation would gut Medicare patient protections
On their final day in office, the outgoing Trump Administration announced a new proposal that would create a significant barrier to accessing mental health medication for Medicare Part D recipients.
In a proposal for an updated Medicare demonstration project, the administration proposed allowing Part D plans that participate in certain Medicare program models to limit the drugs they cover, including denying patients access to medications in the “protected classes” of medications.
A demonstration project is the vehicle by which a government agency obtains the authority to waive existing law and regulations in order to propose and test new innovations. Currently, Medicare Part D carves out certain categories of medications called “protected classes” and requires Part D plans to make more than one medication in that class available to the plan recipients. Among the six protected classes are those medications that treat mental health conditions.
Under the proposed demonstration project, Medicare recipients in the affected plans would lose access to “protected status” medications in 2021. Additionally, the plans would only have to cover one drug in all classes, instead of the current two drug per class standard.
This proposal is troubling because medications to treat mental health conditions are not always interchangeable. Patients often respond differently to the same drug: while one patient will respond well, a similar patient will have a suboptimal response, or worse. Further, drugs in the same class often have different side effects, and patients are often better suited to one particular drug over another.
Looking forward, the Biden Administration will have authority to determine whether the new policy is ultimately implemented, and DBSA is already working actively to warn the new leadership in Washington of the risks associated with this proposal. Importantly, significant support exists for the protected classes policy among a host of patient advocacy organizations and bipartisan lawmakers. For example, in 2019 when the Trump Administration first proposed weakening the protected classes policy, more than 120 Members of Congress joined in bipartisan letters to the Trump Administration in opposition to the proposed changes.
Continue to monitor Making Mental Health Matters for future updates on this important topic.
Wellness tips from the DBSA Wellness Wheel
Pile of books you haven’t read yet? Do you have any art supplies going unused? Think about ways you can ingrate thought-provoking and creative outlets to stimulate your intellectual wellness.
Is there a time of day you feel more energized? Think about your routine and what times of day you can get your best work done.
What are some practices that help you feel calm? Consider adding a calming ritual to your routine to support your spiritual wellness.
Continue your path to wellness with the DBSA Wellness Toolbox. Explore each aspect of your wellness by creating your own Wellness Wheel and keep track of your mood and wellbeing with the Wellness Tracker.
BP Magazine: 20 unexpected signs of bipolar depression
I’ve found that there are two kinds of bipolar depression, and few seek treatment for the second type. By identifying our depressive symptoms before we get sick, we can manage bipolar disorder far more successfully. Here are the signs of an angry and irritated downswing.