I'm writing my story in hopes that it will inspire others to share their story. I don't know if there is a "book" in everyone but I know for certain there is a story in there. I encourage you to share your story of overcoming some of life's challenges. Someone needs to hear what you have to say. They are waiting!
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:
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:
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,
I'm sharing the news of my being among national Award Winners for accomplishments over the past year. It has been a pleasure to serve as State Director and local chapter President. And I consider it an honor to be recognized by DBSA national.
I appreciate all the wonderful support I was given by my fellow officers, Board members, and the chapter membership throughout the year. You may view the announcement on the national web site athttp://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=peer_chapter_spotlights
Congratulations to our 2013 Chapter Service Award Winners!
The DBSA Chapter Service Awards recognize exemplary service by DBSA
chapters, state organizations, and their leaders. Winners will be honored at the 2014 Chapter Leadership Forum in addition to receiving a cash award.
Steve Brannon of DBSA Jackson (TN) and DBSA Tennessee - Outstanding
Steve is an excellent role model for pursuing a wellness-focused life while living with a mood disorder. He fights stigma by openly sharing his journey in the local newspaper, on DBSA’s website, and on his weekly online newsletter. He has worked with the local police department to help educate and train police officers for crisis response teams. Steve was selected for DBSA Peer Advocacy Training and was a representative of DBSA for Hill Day in Washington, D.C.
At his local chapter, DBSA Jackson (TN), Steve gently encourages, trusts, and believes in support group participants. He instituted a monthly “share your inspiration” night in which group members report on what keeps them going, creating an environment of hope and personal growth. Steve is dedicated to further advancing DBSA’s mission into surrounding communities and across the state. The number of support groups has doubled in the past year under his direction, encompassing all major cities and some smaller cities across the state. He has traveled hundreds of miles at his own expense to conduct local chapter visitations as state director. Steve’s passion for the advancement of DBSA’s mission in Jackson and the state of Tennessee is so strong that he has diligently dedicated his time and resources for over a decade.
DBSA Tennessee - State Organization Service
DBSA Tennessee's amazing accomplishments made 2013 a rewarding year!
They supported chapters in their state by hosting educational presentations and training programs, giving them the tools necessary for successful chapters. With help from DBSA Tennessee, five local chapters were interviewed on television or radio to promote DBSA to the community. Leaders encouraged one chapter’s community outreach, resulting in a city-wide Mental Health Day declared by their mayor. DBSA Tennessee’s robust plan to help new chapters in the startup process helped find free meeting locations, assistance in affiliation fees and paperwork, and provided a sponsor from an already established chapter to assist the new chapter.
Five members of DBSA Tennessee attended DBSA’s Peer Advocate Training in Washington, D.C. and then created an advocacy plan for their state including a campaign against proposed budget cuts to close all 45 of Tennessee’s Peer Support Service Centers. DBSA Tennessee is a growing, thriving organization. With its advocacy for peer support and local chapter start-up, community outreach and commitment to peer education, DBSA Tennessee is one of the most energetic affiliates of DBSA.
DBSA Murfreesboro (TN) - Rookie Chapter Service
DBSA Murfreesboro began in July of 2013 with support from DBSA Tennessee.
The chapter started out with one support group, which saw its attendance
double in fewer than six months, becoming one of the fastest growing local
chapters in the state. The growth of the chapter can be attributed to the forces behind it that work tirelessly to get the word out about the group. Flyers and pamphlets are distributed to agencies and health care providers, the Salvation Army, local hospitals and businesses, and more. DBSA Murfreesboro provides post-hospitalization support for those who would otherwise have none. Educational materials, resources, and wellness tools are provided to each chapter participant. They have also started a family and friends support group.
Members of DBSA Murfreesboro participated in the state chapter meetings and backing of their U.S. Representative. For a chapter that achieved all of this in six months, DBSA Murfreesboro has a fine resume of accomplishments, but they consider their greatest success to be the level of support offered to each person who walks through their doors.
DBSA TENNESSEE WAS RECENTLY NOMINATED TO RECEIVE THE DBSA OUTSTANDING STATE ORGANIZATION FOR 2013 AWARD. BELOW IS ONE OF THE LETTERS OF NOMINATION FOR THAT AWARD.
OUTSTANDING STATE ORGANIZATION FOR 2013
As one of the fourteen existing state chapters, DBSA Tennessee is one of the most energetic. The chapter has proven itself active in encouraging local chapters, advocating for mental health and educating and reaching out to the community, both those in need of support and communities at large. The state website, which drew over 10,200 hits in 2013, maintains a complete list of chapters and support groups across the state of Tennessee, including contact information, addresses and meeting times in order to better connect those in need with support groups.
From an educational standpoint, DBSA Tennessee assisted its local chapters with two state meetings. These meetings included educational presentations which introduced chapter leaders to an organization to provide legal assistance to the neediest consumers as well as providing training programs for peer support. These programs proved beneficial to chapter leaders by giving them the tools necessary for successful chapters. The state chapter also recruited participants for Peer Advocate training in July, with chapter members volunteering for training and committing to the success of 2014’s advocacy initiatives.
In 2013, five members of DBSA Tennessee attended the DBSA Peer Advocate Training in Washington, DC. Two trained Peer Advocates represented DBSA at Mental Health Day on Capitol Hill. These members also created an advocacy plan for the state of Tennessee. Additionally, DBSA Tennessee led a campaign against proposed state budget cuts to close all 45 of Tennessee’s Peer Support Service Centers leaving 3500 people per month out in the cold. The campaign included recruiting local chapter members to send Christmas cards to the governor. The statewide goal of this grassroots effort was 300 cards. This campaign was the first concerted effort a statewide organization waged on decisions affecting peer support centers, letting the governor know that our state deserves and needs what peer support centers add to the mental health system in Tennessee. Both the State Director and the Assistant Director serve on the Consumer Advisory Board of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. DBSA Tennessee was a sponsor for the statewide annual conference of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, a mental health care advocacy organization. As a sponsor, the state organization provided for two scholarships and maintained a DBSA chapter exhibit at the state conference.
A community outreach effort was initiated by a local DBSA chapter with the encouragement of the state chapter. A coalition between DBSA and a local NAMI chapter to reach the community of Chattanooga resulted in a Mental Health Day (as declared by the mayor) in the city. The chapter initiated a day devoted to mental health including a multimedia presentation and panel of local experts giving a question and answer session and booths set up by local providers. The primary organizer, a chapter leader of DBSA Chattanooga, presented, with multimedia, the steps to creating such a community event at the state organization meeting held later that month. DBSA Tennessee led and supported five local chapters—Chattanooga, Madison, Bolivar, Memphis and Jackson, to participate in radio and newspaper interviews to promote and reach out to the community, including one live in studio television segment.
By and large, DBSA Tennessee’s most impressive accomplishment is their plan for helping new chapters in the startup process. Starting a new chapter can be a daunting task, but DBSA Tennessee has made that process much smoother for those wishing to start a new DBSA chapter. DBSA Tennessee has a solid plan in place for assisting those individuals. This plan includes helping new chapter leaders find a free location for meetings, provides assistance in affiliation and incorporation process with money earmarked for this purpose, assigns a sponsor from an already established chapter to assist the budding chapter leader, gives printed material and information to the new chapter, trains the facilitator and furnishes personal support to the new leader. New chapter locations are listed on the national website under the established chapter sponsoring them. After three successful months of meetings, DBSA Tennessee pays forward a portion of the affiliation and one time incorporation fee for the new chapter. Once the new chapter is established, it then pays into the fund for future chapters. This plan has proven successful in the creation of the new chapter in Murfreesboro which was successfully built to nearly double the initial attendance and has enlisted the financial support of State Representative Scott DeJarlais. Initial work is completed for new startup chapters in Clarksville, East Nashville and Knoxville with interest and steps taken by the cities of Columbia and Union City. Additionally, new support groups have been established in Memphis, Jackson, Madison, and Chattanooga.
DBSA Tennessee is a growing, thriving chapter of the National DBSA organization. With its advocacy for peer support and local chapter startup, community outreach and commitment to peer education, the chapter is, indeed, among the most energetic in the organization.
A BIG Thank You to everyone for a very successful Hill Day. Over 700 people attended the event this year – 25 of them representing DBSA. See if you can find yourself in this fantastic picture!
This was DBSA’s first year partnering with the National Council for Behavioral Health and we certainly made our presence known. Our goal was to make sure the Peer voice was heard. And heard it was! We received recognition at the closing reception as the state and/or organization with the most peers in attendance. And we were listed among the top ten tweeters for the event.
Give yourself a big pat on the back, soak your tired feet, but don’t rest on your laurels, because this is just the beginning. Look for e-mails from me in the very near future outlining how you can grow your advocacy efforts on the local, state and national level.
I am honored and proud to be part of such a dedicated and enthusiastic group of people. Let’s keep the momentum going.
Advocacy and Communications Manager
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
S.L. Brannon D.Div..