"Rewriting the Myths, Redefining the Realities"
If you or a significant other in your life has
depression or manic-depression (bipolar disorder) you will want to
know about the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois and officially incorporated in
1986 under the name National Depressive and Manic Depressive
Association (National DMDA), DBSA is the largest illness-specific,
patient-directed organization in the country. The name change from
National DMDA to DBSA took place on August 9, 2002.
The mission of DBSA is to “educate patients, families, professionals and the public concerning the nature of depressive and manic-depressive illnesses as treatable medical diseases; to foster self-help for patients and their families; to eliminate discrimination and stigma; to improve access to care; and to educate for research toward the elimination of these illnesses.”
DBSA’s focus is on the person living with a mood disorder. They publish videotapes, books and brochures regarding mood disorders that are available to the public. They are intended to be easy to understand and have a message of hope and optimism.
The organization advocates in Washington, D.C. and provides a network of over 800 patient run support groups across the United States and Canada. This is important because findings show that attendees of support groups have fewer hospital stays, lower insurance costs and improved employee productivity.
Since its inception, DBSA has lead the way in educating the lay public as well as professionals about depression and manic-depression and the emerging treatments, medications and new research. Their impressive 66-member Scientific Review Board (SRB), comprised of leading researchers and clinicians in the field of mood disorders, is an example of their commitment to stay on the cutting edge. SRB represents DBSA to the media and reviews all publications and programs for medical and scientific accuracy.
In Colorado there are DBSA support groups available in five regional locations: Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, Pueblo, and Aurora. To start a new group or lead a group, one has to be a member of DBSA but anyone can attend a meeting. Attendees may join at any time. Leaders generally have educational materials, handouts, information on other mental health resources, and sometimes a limited lending library available as well as advocacy/community outreach connections and contacts.
Colorado DBSA has two main objectives: to provide verbal support and education to those with depressive illnesses and their family and friends, and to raise awareness in the larger community as to the nature of such disorders.
Colorado DBSA support groups are/do:
Free of charge
Safe and non-judgmental
Share experiences, information, and strategies for living successfully with mood disorders
Colorado DBSA groups are not:
Therapy or treatment
A place to diagnose
A “pity party”
Experts giving a lecture
A replacement for professional care
There are five reasons why self help works: the group provides a social network; it aids people in changing their roles; it teaches effective coping methods; it furnishes role models; and gives meaning to peoples lives. Attending a support group puts one in touch with others struggling with the same dilemma. A support group can help one rediscover the humor and strength that they thought had long since been lost.
Additionally, DBSA attendees discover they are not alone in the fight and that others care about what they are going through. They find out help is available, where to go to find it, and what new ideas are circulating to deal with mood disorders. It’s not uncommon to hear about some new theory or approach that is being tried, giving you a renewed sense of hope.
Participating in the group is rewarding. It helps to keep an open mind and show up on time. Maintaining confidentiality is of utmost importance. The support group is not a 12-step program or group therapy. It is imperative to respect one another, since we all come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and to respond compassionately, not judgmentally.
Attending your first meeting may feel awkward. You may question whether it is right for you. Give it a chance. If you come to 4 or 5 meetings you will see the sharing that is occurring and will soon begin to feel a part of it all. Like anything else, the goodness doesn’t happen all at once.
Nationally, DBSA can be contacted at www.ndmda.org/ or 1-800-826-3632.
For regional meeting places and times and further information contact Carol in Denver, Colorado at 303-329-9894.
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Copyright 2002 A&H Publishing Corporation