A message from Michael

I think it is safe to say that, for a lot of people, November has been a challenging month. COVID-19 cases in most parts of the country are rising rapidly and creating barriers to seeing family and friends this Thanksgiving. While some of us are fortunate enough to work from home, many are on the front lines and in the community taking on the risks, and still, more are without work altogether.

Regardless of one’s politics, the drawn-out vote-counting process produced a great deal of anxiety across our country. Half the country remains dissatisfied with the outcome. Sadly, hearing about the deaths of Walter Wallace in Pennsylvania and Gregory Edwards in Florida, as well as the mistreatment of Tamara Barnicoat in Arizona, is a painful reminder of how much more work must be done to protect people living with mental health conditions while in police custody and to ensure they receive proper and timely treatment and care.   

I know these issues are weighing on many in our community because some of you have contacted me to share your concerns. I appreciate your honesty not just with what you’re feeling, but your suggestions on what more DBSA can offer going forward to help support peers and represent their voice during these turbulent times. 

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

I recognize that more people are accessing our resources by the increase in website visits. Our online support group page increased traffic by more than 57,000 views.  Each week more than 600 new individuals register for one of our online support groups. And more than 800 people accessed DBSA’s new short film portal for “Psychiatrist as Patient: Caring for the Caregiver,” a powerful documentary short that follows the life of Dr. John Budin, a respected psychiatrist who reveals his mental health condition after 35 years.

When the pandemic began, you told us you were relying on peer support and wellness tips from DBSA. Among the new resources, I invite you to consider is the launch of our new online support group for people living with a dual diagnosis. We recently hosted a Facebook Live education event on the subject with Kimberly Allen, who offers the peer perspective, and Dr. Greg Simon, who serves on DBSA’s Scientific Advisory Board. We also produced a new podcast on financial and mental wellness, which includes perspective and tips from Dr. Thomas Richardson, who lives with bipolar and is passionate about the subject. I also invite you to read Kristin McNally’s journey in this month’s Life Unlimited.

Recent news of an effective vaccine is promising. In the meantime, I encourage you to continue to find ways to care for yourself and support one another. We will continue to offer ongoing resources to assist along the way.

Supporting our Veterans: Double your impact

We at DBSA are deeply grateful to the people who serve our country, particularly our Veterans. That’s why we are proud to offer you the opportunity to double your impact during our month-long #GivingTuesday match campaign impacting Veterans’ programs.

Your contributions will support Veteran-specific Peer Support Specialist training courses through DBSA. These courses have the power to turn hardship into opportunity: providing hope, building relationships between service members, and creating a path to employment at Veterans Affairs facilities or civilian health institutions. 

Now through December 1st, all donations up to $40,000 will be matched dollar for dollar.

Donate today!

Thank you to our sponsors: Wintrust and CIBC.

2019 Klerman Award winners celebrated at virtual event

On November 13th, DBSA celebrated the winners of its 2019 Gerald L. Klerman Awards. Steven D. Hollon, PhD was presented with the Senior Investigator Award for over 40 years of research and advocacy to improve long-term treatment plans and outcomes for those living with mental health disorders. Paul Alfred Vöhringer, MD, MSc, MPH was the recipient of the Young Investigator Award for his avid work to better diagnose and treat mood disorders, including often misdiagnosed variances of depression.

The Gerald L. Klerman Award is the highest honor that DBSA gives to members of the scientific community. Presented each year, this award recognizes researchers whose work expands our knowledge of the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of depression and bipolar disorder. Winners are selected by DBSA’s Scientific Advisory Board. Roger S. McIntyre, MD, FRCPC, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board and Michael Pollock, CEO of DBSA offered their welcome and remarks before hosting a discussion with the winners.

DBSA extends a warm thank you to Alkermes, Inc., Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson, Neurocrine Biosciences, Inc., and Otsuka Pharmaceutical returning as corporate sponsors of the awards.

Read more about the winners here.

Boeing grant announcement

We are thrilled to announce that, thanks to a generous grant from Boeing, DBSA will increase free access to peer support services for justice-involved Veterans on Chicago’s south and west sides who are living with PTSD, mood disorders, and/or substance use disorders. 

Community-based peer support services meet people where they are, providing them assistance and resources in settings that are comfortable to them while also removing the barrier of cost that often prevents individuals from accessing support. Peer support specialists will be trained to use their own lived experience to support others in recovery and will be embedded in partner organizations in systemically underserved communities on the south and west sides of Chicago. Acting as trusted and motivating role models, peer support specialists will assist their peers to navigate often-confusing health care systems, get the most out of treatment, develop recovery and wellness plans, build skills in daily living, identify community resources, and obtain needed services.

With the support of Boeing, DBSA aims to serve and empower Chicago’s most under-resourced justice-involved Veterans, who will benefit from increased coordination of community integration and recovery services, leading to empowerment, stigma reduction, and an enhanced sense of community between peers.

Life Unlimited: Kristin McNally

Trauma doesn’t look good on anyone no matter the type. I have a strong history of trauma that started at age 9 and continued until I was 19. I knew I was different from an early age. I knew that I had dirty little secrets that no one knew about. Because of that, I had hate, rage, and pain…lots of it. At 19, I had people in my life who helped me seek therapy. That lasted all of 3 months when we moved out of state.

I didn’t receive any services after that until 2004 after my daughter was born. Postpartum Depression hit hard and the trauma I experienced was never really addressed. But I kept moving forward millimeter by millimeter. I began therapy again still hiding much of my trauma and not fully understanding what was happening to me. I continued therapy until 2008 when my family and I moved to another state. Shortly after is when it hit the fan. Everything came to a head in 2012 when I was sent to the psychiatric hospital for the first time. Each time after that I got a little stronger and more resilient.

Read Kristin’s full story

Supporting youth mental health

Home for the holidays has a new meaning in 2020. Living through a global pandemic has made 2020 a challenging year for everyone. As families approach the end of the year, we are facing a different type of holiday season. Families with young children have experienced many challenges in the face of the pandemic, from distance learning to remote work. As we face another surge as the holidays approach, it can be easy to feel discouraged about what the holiday season will look like this year. 

Here are some steps families can take to manage expectations and enjoy the year-end celebrations.

Make plans early

Mental health experts are advising that families begin making plans early this year. If you have children at home, explaining your plans to children early will help to manage expectations, open up conversation about the difference of this year, and acknowledge any hurt feelings family members may have.

Get creative – and include the kids

2020 has required us to be innovative when it comes to special days and events. Including your children in the holiday planning process will give them ownership and a renewed excitement for the season ahead. While this year may be different for kids, we can manage disappointment by allowing them to have a say in the alternative activities you are planning. 

For help with talking to children about emotions, try downloading the DBSA Mood Crew’s™ “Days of the Feels” mood tracker. The Mood Crew™ mood tracker is a great way to identify what children are feeling. Once you have begun to use the mood tracker with your young one, you’ll be able to see what emotions are coming up more often. Download the Mood Crew Mood Tracker here!

Practice gratitude

While you may have heard of the importance of gratitude for our mental health, it bears repeating as we near the end of the year. If you already have a gratitude practice, think of ways you can change it up to share gratitude with the people who have supported you this year. Gratitude can be shared with family, so think about ways in which you can have your children participate in a gratitude practice of their own. Writing letters to loved ones, creating a special video to send to friends and family, or creating homemade goods for others will help create community within your home and beyond it. 

 Acknowledge grief 

2020 is a year that cannot be sugar-coated, which is why throughout the year, but especially near the holidays, it is important to acknowledge that grief is okay. For children and teens who are disappointed with the ever-changing reality of this year, let them know it is okay for them to feel upset and disappointed. When we allow ourselves and our children to feel our feelings, we can begin to move on and look ahead to our newly created year-end plans and traditions. 

Young Adult Council: Choosing the right career for you

Young Adult Council members understand how challenging it can be to choose a career that is a good match for you. YAC member Christine provides a list of questions to ask yourself, and other YAC members weigh in on how those questions impacted them personally. 

Remember that your career choice isn’t set in stone. You don’t have to retire from the first company that hires you. If you start a job and find out that it isn’t a great fit for you, it is okay to step back, assess what does and does not work, and make a change. 

YAC members give advice in the following areas when choosing the right career: 

  • Fulfillment 
  • Personality
  • Personal Strengths 
  • Work-life balance
  • Physical and Emotional Limitations
  • Financial Security 

Read the post

Join DBSA For Live and Interactive Discussion Around Insomnia and Depression

Register today to participate in a live discussion that explores how peers can better work with their clinicians in identifying treatment options for insomnia that take into account the interaction of insomnia and depression. Good sleep quality and quantity are important for overall health and well-being.


The 60-minute, interactive program called “Insomnia: Do Not Lose Sleep Over It and Work with Your Doctor” will air on Tuesday, November 24th at noon EST. DBSA peers will share wellness resources that can assist peers to prepare for their visits with their clinicians. They will also offer their perspective on the value of working with their mental health care teams to support whole health outcomes they are seeking. Dr. Larry Culpepper, Professor of Family medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, and Dr. Michael Thase, Professor of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania will also participate in the panel discussion.

Peers and their caregivers are invited to join this live, interactive video presentation by registering on NeuroCareLive today! Our expert panelists are also accepting questions from the audience during the live program. Submit your questions today on NeuroCareLive’s Q-Board and vote on other submitted questions to have them discussed live. 

DBSA Presents an Opportunity to Amplify the Peer Voice Around the Mental Health Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

One of the goals of DBSA Advocacy is informing peers about opportunities to collaborate with researchers. Peer voices need to be heard, in a scientific and systematic way. To date, there has been insufficient research focused on the needs of people with mental health conditions at this challenging point in time.

 The University of Wisconsin is conducting an anonymous survey that focuses on the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are seeking individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions to complete the survey. This study is called “All about MHE.” MHE is an acronym for Mental Health Effects (of COVID-19). 

Other surveys have indicated that many adults have experience elevated levels of depression, anxiety, and stress related to COVID-19 and the changes to our lives surrounding the pandemic. But, what about people who were already living with a mental health condition? What is the psychological and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on peers? 

 This survey will focus on these topics. The entire questionnaire will be an online survey. Results will be tallied in aggregate and will not be tied directly to any individual respondents.  

Your Voice Can Make a Difference 

Who:  Anyone with the lived experience of a mental health condition 

What: An anonymous online survey to find out how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected you personally 

Why:  To answer: What are the Mental Health Effects of the pandemic on people with pre-existing Mental Health Conditions?

 Take the survey 

Please support this work by forwarding this message to colleagues, family, and friends who are passionate about this cause to assist us in this grassroots effort to make our voice heard. If you have any questions about the survey, please email pathsresearch@psych.wisc.edu.

What is pharmacogenetic testing and how can it help you?

Did you know that your DNA can provide insights that can help with treatment planning?

In this episode of the DBSA podcast, we talk to Dr. Mark Pollack, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Clinical Affairs of Myriad Neuroscience, about what pharmacogenetic testing is, how the testing works, and what benefits it can offer peers. We also talk to Dennis L., a peer who details his journey with Major Depression and how pharmacogenetic testing helped improve his treatment plan.

What is pharmacogenetic testing? This test uses a small sample of your DNA, usually obtained by swabbing the inside of your cheek, to learn how your genetic makeup can affect your response to medication. Doctors use this information as a tool to help make prescription decisions. Along with PGx test results, your age, gender, other medical conditions, and any other drugs you take may also be factors in your doctor’s recommendations about possible treatments.

Learn more about pharmacogenetic testing

From Hope To Cope: Parenting While Depressed: Overcoming Guilt & Prioritizing Self-Care

Parenting is easily one of the ‘hardest jobs in the world’—made even more difficult when depression enters the fray.

Read the full article

Intellectual Wellness Tips

Staying home without access to our typical hobbies, routines isn’t easy. Here are some tips for keeping your Intellectual Wellness in balance, no matter where you are.

Watch before you do

Intellectual Wellness may feel intimidating, but just watching videos of others participate in a creative outlet is a good way to get our brains interested in creative hobbies.

Write it out

Is there an old hobby you haven’t invested in recently? An interest you never took the time to engage with? Journal about why you began a hobby or have an interest to reignite passion for your hobbies.

Take in a virtual tour or event

COVID-19 has been challenging for many reasons, one is that we can’t attend the types of cultural events we once did. If you are missing going to museums, seeing plays or other cultural activities, see what these organizations are offering online as a way to keep in touch with your intellectual wellness.

Check out the Intellectual Wellness podcast

In this DBSA Wellness Wheel podcast, DBSA staff members, Maria Margaglione, Programs Director, and Hannah Zeller, Programs Manager, discuss their own journeys toward Intellectual Wellness. Guest expert Dr. Wendy Linderholm addresses the challenges individuals who live with depression and bipolar might face in terms of their own Intellectual Wellness. 

Intellectual Wellness is about finding work and leisure activities that stimulate you and help you to learn new things. Reading, writing, doing puzzles, and collecting, are all different types of hobbies that can boost our intellectual wellness. Dr. Linderholm gives Maria and Hannah insight into why intellectual wellness can help change or brain chemistry to allow for new ideas which can disrupt our experience of depression.

Alternatively, download this episode and subscribe to DBSA’s Apple Podcasts