From a gathering of 6 friends in a suburban Chicago home to a thriving organization serving 4 million people annually, DBSA has seen tremendous growth in its first 35 years. Here are the milestones that reveal where we’ve been — and set the stage for where we’re headed in the decades ahead.


Rose Kurland’s Meeting

Rose Kurland plants the seeds of what will become DBSA.

A meeting in Rose Kurland’s living room in the north suburbs of Chicago plants the seeds for a peer organization that will become the Manic Depressive Association (MDA).


First Convention Hosted in Chicago

First MDA Convention hosted in Chicago, IL

MDA holds its first convention at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel, with 50 leaders from 14 states in attendance.


Celebrating NDMDA

Congress Celebrates NDMDA

A congressional reception hosted by House Speaker Tip O’Neill with Senators Pete V. Domenici, Orrin Hatch, Daniel K. Inouye, Paul Simon, and U.S. Representative Silvio O. Conte celebrates the establishment of the National Depression and Manic Depression Association (NDMDA), formerly MDA. Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, who years earlier had lost her husband, Phil, to suicide, is the guest speaker. NDMDA uses the slogan “Honk if you’re on lithium” for its new promotional materials.


Frederick K. Goodwin, MD Receives Dr. Jan Fawcett Humanitarian Award

Frederick K. Goodwin, MD, receives the Dr. Jan Fawcett Humanitarian Award

Frederick K. Goodwin, MD, receives NDMDA’s Dr. Jan Fawcett Humanitarian Award at a gala benefit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. CBS News correspondent Mike Wallace serves as emcee of the event. The award is named for psychiatrist, educator and author Jan Fawcett, MD, who provided care for Rose Kurland and became her partner in creating a new organization focused on the needs of people with bipolar disorder.


Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, Receives Dr. Jan Fawcett Humanitarian Award

Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, receives the Dr. Jan Fawcett Humanitarian Award

Clinical psychologist and author Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, receives the Dr. Jan Fawcett Humanitarian Award with Second Lady Tipper Gore in attendance. Jamison’s memoir, An Unquiet Mind, revealed her personal struggles with bipolar disorder, which she has lived with since early adulthood.


First Large-Scale NDMDA Survey Published

First Large-Scale NDMDA Survey Published

The Journal of Affective Disorders publishes results of the first large-scale self-survey of NDMDA chapter members.




NDMDA changes its name to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) to reflect modern psychiatric terminology.


SAMHSA Grant Supports Peer Specialist Training Pilot

DBSA receives a SAMHSA grant to develop and test a model peer specialist training program.


Exploring the Role of Peer Specialists in VA Treatment Plans

DBSA meets with two Veterans Administration committees to discuss the integration of certified peer specialists into VA treatment plans.


Mike Wallace Addresses Depression in America

State of Depression in America with Mike Wallace

DBSA produces The State of Depression in America, an award-winning report hosted by CBS News correspondent Mike Wallace. Wallace’s first major bout of depression was triggered in 1984, after U.S. Army General William C. Westmoreland sued Wallace and several others for libel. Westmoreland was featured in the 1982 CBS documentary, The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception, for which Wallace served as chief correspondent. Wallace’s courage in sharing his experiences with depression was lauded by peers and mental health experts alike.



DBSA Testifies Before Congress

DBSA briefs members of the U.S. Congress on the value of peer support services for military personnel returning home from active duty.


Facing Us Community Website Launches

DBSA Launches Facing Us Website

DBSA introduces a new community wellness website, Though the site is no longer available, DBSA’s social media channels and online support groups offer a way to connect.


DBSA Launches New Wellness Tracker

DBSA Wellness Tracker App Unveiled

DBSA unveils the DBSA Wellness Tracker, giving peers a practical tool to record daily mood, medication, diet and lifestyle information to support their recovery and wellbeing. Though the app is no longer available, people can download the pdf.


DBSA Advances Depression and Bipolar Research

DBSA partners with the University of Michigan Depression Center to begin developing a consumer clearinghouse for depression and bipolar research, helping investigators connect with individuals who may be eligible to take part in groundbreaking studies.


DBSA Trains Peer Support Specialists Serving Vets

DBSA to train and certify VA peer support employees

DBSA is awarded one of the first Veterans Administration contracts for the training and certification of VA peer support employees.


DBSA Young Adult Council Founded

DBSA creates the Young Adult Council to address the unique needs of individuals aged 18 to 30 who live with mood disorders.


DBSA Hosts Congressional Briefings on Peer Support

In the first-ever congressional briefing initiated entirely by people living with mood disorders, DBSA meets with members of the U.S. Congress to share key findings on the value of peer support. The briefing is also the first session of its kind that focuses fully on peer support as a vital resource for recovery and long-term wellness.

Bipolar App of the Year

DBSA Wellness Tracker A Bipolar App of the Year

DBSA’s Wellness Tracker is named Bipolar App of the Year by Healthline Magazine.


I’m Living Proof Launches

DBSA's I'm Living Proof

DBSA creates I’m Living Proof, a collection of inspiring stories from adults who’ve found their way to wellness, created for tweens and teens experiencing early signs of mood disorders.

First DBSA Online Support Groups Created

Online Support Groups

DBSA teams up with Support Groups Central to launch online support groups that people can join from anywhere, providing a resource for peers who lack easy access to local support groups.

DBSA Fights Discrimination with Compassionate Language Guide

10 Ways to Combat Discrimination with Compassionate Language

DBSA seeks to end stigma and misunderstanding by publishing 10 Ways to Combat Discrimination with Compassionate Language, a free guide for clinicians, employers, families, friends, public officials, and the media.


The Veteran PEER Act

Veteran PEER Act

DBSA works with congressional leaders to develop the Veteran PEER Act, a bipartisan measure ensuring that Veterans at 30 pilot VA medical facilities will have access to certified Veteran Peer Specialists.

First Patient Engagement and Stakeholder Workshop

DBSA organizes its first Patient Engagement and Stakeholder Workshop, bringing together peers and family members with FDA staff, medical product developers, and clinicians to discuss ways to bring peer-preferred treatment outcomes into the clinical trial process.


DBSA Hosts Patient-Focused Listening Session

DBSA hosts patient-focused listening session

In the first meeting of its kind, DBSA brings more than 200 peers together with FDA staff and medical product developers for a patient-focused listening session on treatment, side effects, and wellness goals, told from the point of view of those living with mood disorders.

DBSA Conducts In-Depth Wellness Survey

With guidance from a specially organized Peer Council, DBSA conducts an in-depth wellness survey. More than 6,400 responses reveal what treatment outcomes matter most to people living with mood disorders.


New DBSA Website Launches

DBSA serves more than 4 million people annually.

DBSA unveils an all-new website, reflecting our new strategic vision, values, and core beliefs. Thanks to growing web, email, and social media traffic combined with local outreach, DBSA serves more than 4 million people annually.

DBSA Certified Peer Support Specialist Course Redeveloped

DBSA updates and improves its Certified Peer Support Specialist Course, offering quality education for those who seek to join the growing peer workforce.

Grant Paves Way for DBSA’s Supporting Youth Mental Health Program

Supporting Youth

A landmark grant lays the groundwork for DBSAs’ Supporting Youth Mental Health program, which will build our capacity to reach and support children, teens, young adults, parents, and caregivers.


DBSA Responds to Urgent Needs Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

DBSA increases online support in response to urgent needs.

COVID-19 causes extreme stress and uncertainty for millions. DBSA more than doubles the number of national online support groups while helping local support groups make the move to virtual meetings. A dedicated COVID-19 portal offers resources 24/7.

DBSA Launches Wellness Wheel

DBSA launches Wellness Wheel

Adapting a widely used concept in mental health, DBSA launches its own Wellness Wheel, helping people with mood disorders create a holistic picture of their strengths and needs in 7 key areas.