'; setTimeout(function() { var videoIframe614303470428231832Actual = document.getElementById("video-iframe-614303470428231832").contentDocument; videoIframe614303470428231832Actual.open().write(videoIframe614303470428231832Content); videoIframe614303470428231832Actual.close(); }, 500);


Holiday blues: depression and suicide prevention



Help available for dealing with depression

A life lived with depression can feel like a "deep, dark place," said Steve Brannon. But with a variety of pathways to recovery, hope is never out of reach — even during the toughest times.

Society often views depression in extremes, said Brannon, state director of Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Tennessee, as depression is often seen as an untreatable illness — or not as an illness at all. Depression should be taken very seriously, he said, but it shouldn't be approached in a "fatalistic" manner.

"Depression is treatable, and it responds quite well to treatment," Brannon said.

Describing depression as the "common cold of emotional mental disorders," Paul Deschenes — clinical psychologist and director of counseling services at Union University — said most people experience depression at some point in their life.

Deschenes said depression can be caused by a variety of factors, including the weather or the loss of a loved one. Because depression can be genetically based, it has the potential to be passed from one generation to the next, Brannon said.

In many cases, feeling depressed is normal, as no one is happy all the time, Deschenes said. What is not normal is when the grief and sadness continues indefinitely and begins to interfere with major areas in a person's life — signaling a more significant form of depression.

"They might experience things like negative thinking, self-criticism," Deschenes said. "They might experience feelings of hopelessness. Some people have thoughts of self-blame, and generally the thinking gets very negative, pessimistic. They might see the glass as being half-empty rather than half-full."


Additional symptoms can vary and even seem contradictory, Brannon said. Some people develop an increased appetite when they are depressed, while others may lose their appetite. Some people may sleep more often, while others experience insomnia. Some people may voice their thoughts of hopelessness, while others may not say a word.

Brannon said that a person with depression may stop bathing or using proper hygiene, and he or she may stay in the same clothes for weeks at a time. Deschenes also noted that a person may feel a loss of energy in accomplishing everyday tasks, as well as experience a decreased sex drive.

People who are depressed are more likely to develop other health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, Brannon said. Their lifespan also can be shortened up to 25 years.

"It might affect their relationships," Deschenes added, because people experiencing depression often decline invitations for social engagements or drop out of church. "Ultimately, left untreated, some depression might get so bad that it turns to suicide."

Deschenes said a depressed person often wants to sit at home and be alone with their thoughts, which can fuel negative feelings. As a result, he said people should get out of the house and begin taking small steps to return to a healthy level of functioning.

Steps forward

Picking up an enjoyable hobby or volunteering can help ease depression, Deschenes said. Because depression can cause distorted thinking, spending time with positive people can halt irrational and harmful thoughts as well.

Exercise also can help people overcome depression and could be as effective as medication in some cases, Deschenes added. In addition, he encouraged people to return to church if they have stopped attending, as a person's faith speaks to issues such as hope.

"Whatever help an individual goes for, we recommend that folks not only be very religious about medication but also go to counseling," Brannon said.

With new medical treatment options introduced regularly, Brannon said treatments can include transcranial magnetic stimulation, in which part of the brain is stimulated with magnetic waves. While the success rates can vary, he said the results have been encouraging and the technology is expected to continue improving.

Brannon added that people with depression should develop a support group. The individuals who form a person's support group need to check up on how the person feels emotionally, know whether the person is taking his or her medication and be available to talk whenever the person may need them.

The support group also needs to be able to recognize the symptoms of depression, as well as know when the depressed person is in need of medical attention, Brannon said.


Noting that teenagers and the elderly are more susceptible to suicidal tendencies, Deschenes said people should not be afraid of causing a suicide by asking if someone is suicidal. If someone is hinting at suicide or displaying suicidal tendencies, he said family and friends should approach the situation seriously and take the person to a mental health professional.

People also should not think that a suicide is inevitable for someone experiencing suicidal thoughts, Deschenes said. Most of the time, a person averted from a suicide attempt and helped by professionals can regain and lead a normal life.

"When people get into a deep, dark place like Robin Williams did, trust seems to go away," Brannon noted, as a dangerous sign of suicide is when a person stops trusting others to help them manage their depression. "It is times like that the support network has to realize that they can't help this individual they love — they need someone to call."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached at , is a valuable resource for people contemplating suicide, Brannon said.

Support group

Brannon noted that Jackson also has a mood disorder support group, called "A Better Tomorrow." Meeting at 6:30 p.m. each Monday at St. Mary's Catholic Church, the group provides encouragement, education and information services for people with depression, as well as their family and friends.

The group often becomes like an extended family for members, Brannon said, as people with depression can understand what other group members face.

"It's something about being understood that's healing in itself," Brannon said. "That is so valuable for someone living with depression. You can't put a price on that."

To learn more about the Jackson depression support group, visit the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Tennessee's website at dbsatennessee.org. The alliance also can be reached at .

Reach Beth Knoll at . Follow her on Twitter @merribethknoll.

What to know

• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached at , is a valuable resource for people contemplating suicide.

• Jackson's mood disorder support group, called "A Better Tomorrow," meets at 6:30 p.m. each Monday at St. Mary's Catholic Church. The group provides encouragement, education and information services for people with depression, as well as their family and friends.

• To learn more about the Jackson depression support group, visit the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Tennessee's website at dbsatennessee.org. The alliance also can be reached at .

Steve Brannon(Photo: Submitted)

Paul Deschenes(Photo: Submitted)


Allen Doederlein reflects on 2014


1 Comment


Allen Reflects on Thriving in 2014

As DBSA’s 2014: The Year of Thriving comes to a close, it seems appropriate to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this past year, and to think about what’s yet to come.

At the beginning of 2014, we outlined our vision of a future where every adult and child living with a mood disorder has the opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive. To some, this was a message of hope; to others, it seemed a goal almost impossible to imagine. I completely understand how some of my peers might find total wellness to be an unattainable goal. Indeed, I too have experienced times in my life when the only reality I could imagine was the intense pain of depression. In fact, I experienced times this very year when thriving seemed so very far away for me personally. But amidst messages about the danger and drain of people with mental health conditions, and my own concurrent thoughts of self-loathing and self-stigma, to know that there was a community that would hope for the return of my best self was a blessing. To hold hope when we cannot carry it ourselves: this has always seemed, to me, the fundamental purpose of peer support. DBSA was founded on a model of peer support, and DBSA will always be about creating opportunities for peer support, and through peer support—the thousands of people meeting in communities across the country—we are creating a world in which all of us may be reminded of our potential, our strength, and our best selves.

For me to return to a place of thriving took a lot of time and work and collaboration. It also took some luck. For I have been very lucky: to have found clinicians that do not put limitations on what my life can be; to have the support of loved ones and colleagues who remind me of who I am, not what condition I live with; to have insurance that gives me access to quality health care that covers both my physical and mental health; and to find inspiration in my work and the amazing people I have the privilege of working with, and for, in my role at DBSA.

Such good fortune—in clinical collaboration, in supportive community, in access to resources, in meaningful work—are what I, and the DBSA Board and staff, want for everyone, not just the very lucky.

So in 2014, we asked our peers, families, clinicians, researchers, politicians, and the public to expect more. We asked our community to promote and seek full wellness—because better is not well, and everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive. 

I am proud of the work DBSA accomplished in 2014, and I encourage you to review our 2014: Year of Thriving programs. I believe that we did open minds—and even a few doors—to the possibility of thriving. A few highlights include:

  • In January, DBSA welcomed the Balanced Mind Parent Network into our family of programs to enable us to provide critical support for parents and to create a thriving future for children living with mood disorders.
  • In April, Target Zero to Thrive asked clinicians and peers to set zero, not just reduced, symptoms as a new standard for successful treatment. 
  • In May, DBSA kicked off our six-month Positive Six: Thrive campaign, challenging us to make a small change each month to support our health.
  • In June, DBSA completed a third contract with the VA to train their Veteran peer specialist workforce.
  • In August, DBSA joined forces with DBSA New Jersey to host the From Surviving to Thriving weekend of public and chapter educational events featuring a special interview with Demi Lovato.
  • In September, DBSA hosted Better Is Not Well—a peer and professional panel that explored ways to elevate mental health treatment to complete wellness.
  • This fall, DBSA hosted a series of webinars on Treatment Choices, Health Care Reform, and Restoring Intimacy.
  • In November, DBSA issued the WHO-Five Challenge to mental health professionals to integrate wellness measurements, like the WHO-Five, into their practice.

But so much more must be done. So we ask,

“What needs to happen for us to have wellness change from being a possibility for some to a probability for most?”

It will require:

  • Better Treatments: DBSA will continue to work with our esteemed Scientific Advisory Board to integrate peers into the development of new and better treatments— medical and non-medical. And, to connect our peers and parents to studies that hold the promise of a brighter future for ourselves, our children, and our peers.
  • New Measurements: DSBSA will continue to promote widening the definition of treatment success to include not just elimination of symptoms, but presence of wellness.
  • Access to Quality Mental Health Care: DBSA will continue to advocate for the rights of all adults and children living with mood disorders to receive access to quality mental and physical health care.
  • Increased Expectations: DBSA will continue to spread the message that better is not good enough. That wellness IS possible. That everyone deserves the opportunity to not just survive, but thrive.
  • Peer Support: DBSA is committed to continuing, and increasing both the availability and quality of, life-saving in-person and online peer support for people who have diagnoses, parents, family, and friends.
  • Inspired, Imperfect Action: DBSA will continue to ask ourselves, our peers, our parents, our clinicians, our legislators, and our communities to take action. It may be small. It most certainly will not be perfect. But it will be progress—action inspires action, which in turn inspires more action.

We made some significant strides this past year, but we do not fool ourselves by believing that these first steps have produced monumental change. That will take persistence. That will take courage. That will take time. That will take hope. That will take ALL of us.

It is through thousands, indeed millions, of inspired, imperfect actions that we will slowly transform these small steps into big changes and create a future where wellness is no longer a possibility for only some lucky few, but a probability for all.

Thank you for joining us on this journey,

– Allen

1 Comment





Advocacy Alert

TennCare and the state budget process have been in the news. Cuts to funding for mental health in Tennessee have been proposed.

Gov. Bill Haslam said recently that he's talked with nine Republican governors who have expanded Medicaid for low-income people in their states. Haslam has been criticized for refusing last year to agree to $1.4 billion in federal funds to cover about 180,000 uninsured Tennesseans. After the TennCare state budget hearing, Haslam told reporters that he talked with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell this week and that he plans to make a decision about expanding Medicaid by Christmas.


Can we afford more cuts? 

This week, the NAMI Tennessee Policy Committee reviewed the proposed state budget cuts. These proposed reductions call for the elimination of funding for our Peer Centers for a savings of $4.5 million as well as eliminating funding for adolescent outpatient substance abuse services and adolescent day and evening treatment services - cuts totaling $1.4 million. Additional proposed cuts will eroded our mental health system even further. 


The next 12 days are critical


Please join NAMI Tennessee and other mental health advocates by saying yes to Medicaid Expansion and no to additional cuts for mental illness. Visit your local legislator and share this message now. We have a brief window before Christmas for our message to be heard. Your voice matters!  

Find your local state legislators  


Day on the Hill will be March 18, 2015 


Visits to legislators in their home districts make a huge impact. Visits now impact the budget process before the Governor presents his budget to the legislator and the public debates in the Statehouse begin. We also have a chance to impact the budget process and provide education to legislators by participating in Day on the Hill. We hope that you mark March 18, 2015 on your calenders and join us for this day of advocacy


Larry Drain's first letter to state legislators



The first letter

Dear legislator:

My name is Larry Drain.  This is the first in a series of letters you will be receiving over the next couple of months written by myself or my wife Linda.  Our concern is Tenn Care expansion, rather it be the Tennessee Plan Governor Haslam has talked about or another alternative.  We hope to explain why we think it is a good idea and convince you to support it when it comes to the General Assembly at the start of 2015.

You may be familiar with our story. http://wp.me/p4E9xY-3W. Briefly my wife and I separated to maintain her Tenn Care after we found out without Tenn Care expansion my retirement income (which still leaves us far below the poverty level) would be enough to cost her her Tenn Care and access to the medication and treatment she needed to stay alive and have any quality of life at all. On December 26 we will have been separated for one year. I would be glad to speak with you further about our story if you think it would help.

Several months ago I started writing Governor Haslam on an almost daily basis asking him to consider expanding Tenn Care (http://deargovernorhaslam.wordpress.com). Those letters can be read at the link above. On November 10 I delivered to Governor Haslam’s office a petition asking for Tenn Care expansion signed by over 47,000 people..

The decision you will be facing is one of the most important you will ever make. Studies show that as many as 900 people will die in Tennessee this year from lack of insurance. Michelle Fardan’s daughter Monika was one. Monika was 34 old. She had a broken toe and literally died from the complications from it. She died from being poor. It shouldn’t have happened. It didn’t need to happen. No one else needs to die.

The voices of people in the coverage gap largely go unheard. The coverage gap are those people who don’t make enough money to qualify for insurance through the ACA, who would qualify for insurance had Tenn Care been expanded but because of Tennessee’s failure to accept federal funding for expansion are without insurance. Close to 60% of them are the working poor. Many others are disabled. I am in the coverage gap. I make $5000 too little. I have been told I need an operation but without insurance that will never happen.

I don’t know if you know any of your constituents in the coverage gap but if you don’t I hope you will attempt to meet them. The decision you will soon be making is so important.

You are in my and my wives prayers. Thank you so much for your time.

Until the next letter.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain