Is your healthcare team treating toward wellness?

We hear a great deal about wellness these days. But what does that mean? And how do you know if your healthcare team is treating toward wellness? These questions have driven DBSA’s 10-year initiative: Transforming the Definition of Wellness for People Living with Mood Disorders. We’ve heard from our community of people living with mental health conditions that symptom reduction is not what is most important to them. That’s why we embarked on this initiative seven years ago.

This initiative seeks to provide the Food and Drug Administration, healthcare providers, and third-party payers of healthcare with new guidelines to evaluate depression wellness. The program’s foundation was the Supporting Wellness survey which netted over 6,000 responses on how people experiencing a mental health condition define wellness. The most recent step was interviewing researchers and clinicians who have studied major depressive disorder and bipolar depression for years to gain their perspectives.

A depression wellness tool can potentially increase access to care by enabling people to continue with clinical treatment should they wish. This tool must use recognized, well-established research methodologies for regulatory bodies such as the FDA and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services to accept. To that end, DBSA continues to engage with experts in the scientific and medical community to ensure the quality of a future depression wellness measurement tool.

Our goal is to have a new clinical outcome assessment tool identified by the end of the 10-year initiative. We are grateful to all the peers and advocates who answered the Supporting Wellness survey, attended DBSA-sponsored workshops, and participated in interviews. Your advocacy can directly impact the lives of people living with depression for years to come.

By raising our voices together, we can make a big difference.

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.

To continue to receive communications about issues that support access to quality mental healthcare,

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Virtual Peer Support Legislation Advances in U.S House

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, DBSA national and affiliate chapters quickly pivoted to providing virtual support group meetings. During the first few months of the crisis, DBSA national added seven new meetings. Two years later, we are offering forty-five virtual meetings. Recognizing the urgent need for resources to make this transition, DBSA worked with legislators in both the U.S. House and Senate to write language for the Virtual Community Peer Support Act.

Mental health legislation has been moving forward as Congress enters its last working months before summer. At Congress’s request, DBSA recommended a peer who provided oral testimony at a House committee hearing to consider the Virtual Community Peer Support Act and eighteen other mental health bills in April. You can read the written testimony submitted for that hearing here.

After the hearing, the House Energy and Commerce Committee put together a package of mental health legislation. DBSA worked diligently over four weeks to ensure this significant legislation included language from the Virtual Community Peer Support Act. The House of Representatives on June 23rd passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support 402-20 a bill that included an expanded version of the “Virtual Peer Support Act” would authorize $13 million in resources to national mental health organizations to provide virtual peer support groups when signed into law. The amendment also included authorization for facilitator and peer support specialist training courses. This legislation now needs to be approved by the Senate, which is currently working on its own package of related legislation.

Stay tuned for updates on the progress of this legislation and for action alerts to contact your Senators at the most advantageous times and ask them to vote “yes” on this crucial mental health legislation

Self Advocacy

Self-Advocacy Tips for Processing Collective Gun Violence Trauma

According to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), May 2022 saw two of the “deadliest” mass shootings in United States history— Buffalo, New York, on May 14th and Uvalde, Texas, ten days later. The GVA is an independent, non-profit organization with no affiliation to any advocacy group that tracks gun violence incidents. The organization defines a mass shooting as “a single incident in which at least four people are shot, not including the gunman.”

The National Institute of Health defines collective trauma as an event impacting an entire group, community, or society, leaving a psychological imprint or collective memory that is continuously processed or reconstructed so that the group can make sense of it. Indirect trauma is also part of the experience of collective trauma for individuals affected despite their distance from the events in time and space. Collective trauma can result from situations such as pandemics, terrorism, natural disasters, systemic/historical oppression, and mass shootings.

Caroline Giroux is a psychiatrist at the University of California Davis Health who specializes in trauma as it affects mental and physical health. Giroux offers the following self-advocacy practices to help individuals cope with and break the collective cycle of violence:

  • Self-care. Care for your physical and mental health includes adequate sleep, nutrition, physical activities, stress management, artistic self-expression, and reaching out to a network of support.
  • Help others. Offer support, without projecting your own biases and agenda, to those distressed during a tragedy.
  • Know that it’s normal to feel angry about what happened. Feelings of anger and outrage are understandable. Productively channeling this energy can lead to finding our power and collectively preventing mass shootings.
  • Use your power for change. Explore and identify your gifts and talents to promote positive change.
  • Join with other people to create change. Strengthen the collective voice to say “ENOUGH” to gun violence to connect and build communities versus fostering “destructive forces.”
  • Restore human dignity. Create a new cycle that uses kindness and compassion to counter the cycle of violence. “No matter how hurt we may feel…” reversing and breaking the cycle of violence cannot be achieved with more violence but with kindness and peace.

To find more self-advocacy tips, visit DBSA’s website for free resources, wellness tools, stories of inspiration, and online support groups

Briefly Noted

Congress has been active in addressing several crucial mental health issues that are key to the DBSA public policy agenda. There have been significant steps forward on the federal level in response to the challenges of living through the covid epidemic and the issues of gun violence on our nation and, in particular, youth.

  • Last week Congress approved, and the President signed the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act” into law. As part of this wide-ranging legislation, there is significant new funding for mental health services, including expansion of crisis response programs, the Mental Health block grant, and telehealth services.
  • On June 23rd, we saw House passage of the VA STRONG bill, which includes our provisions regarding peer support services for veterans. This legislation will expand peer support services to all VA health facilities in the country over the next six years. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has already signaled its support of the legislation. We anticipate the full Senate will approve it after the 4th of July break.
  • Finally, we expect the Senate Finance Committee to propose legislation on workforce issues in early July, including language related to our Medicare Peer bill. They have already circulated draft language on youth mental health and telehealth issues. We expect them to introduce a consolidated bill later this summer.