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Thursday, June 28, 2012

All Inclusive?

What about consumers being totally accepted at church? Other "outside" groups of Christians found help from church leaders to become recognized, supported, and embraced inside their church.  I believe it is time that God's love, and a Christian welcome, be extended to the innocent suffers of mood disorders. Scores of them are Christians sitting next to you in the church pews . . . but still in the closet.

BP zine Coming out PB Closet

Saturday, June 23, 2012

STIGMA -- TALK OR WALK

The following article comes from the Spring Edition of BP magazine. As many of you know by now, I am working to push back against stigma in my own personal way of being well and living well. The article I share with you shows how misunderstood mental illness is in our "educated" society.  I recruit all of you to follow your wellness program, attend our meetings, and speak up and push back against stigma.   

Stigma—Talk or Walk

By Lizzie Simon

I've always thought that stigma toward people with mental illness comes from ignorance. And when I'm confronted with someone who simply doesn't know much about mental health, I can explain myself, my story, and my viewpoints and stay pretty relaxed through the conversation. After all, there's plenty of stuff I'm ignorant about, and I generally like to give people the benefit of the doubt concerning what they may or may not know about bipolar disorder.

But what happens when the person expressing stigma is extremely intelligent? For me, what to do becomes far more complex and uneasy.

Recently at a party, I was introduced to a small group of people by someone who praised my book DETOUR: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D. One of the women in the group asked me what it was about. I told her that it was a cross-country memoir in which I interviewed people who had been successfully treated for bipolar disorder.

"Successfully treated?" she asked, pulling me aside to talk further.

This woman was incredibly articulate and well educated, a university professor. And yet, her thesis was that mental illnesses didn't really exist—that wellness through medical treatment was a fantasy conjured up by the marketers of medicine. In her view, the ways in which people are diagnosed and treated for mental illnesses are nothing more than shoddy methods devised by health-care and pharmaceutical institutions with profit motives. These methods, she said, stripped individuals of their sense of self-reliance, their humanity, and their money.
 
I agreed with many of her points: you don't have to be a PhD to know that our mental health-care system is woefully flawed. And only the most naïve among us are without suspicion of "Big Pharma." But I was deeply upset by her statements that those of us who believe we have illnesses and therefore pursue wellness are cogs in a vast exploitive machine. For me, it seemed downright cruel to deny the success people with mental illness have in achieving wellness.

My reaction: I was stunned. What can you do in these situations? Do you battle it out or just walk away? Is it worth it to try and "convert" the individual, or is it better to stay focused on what you believe and be surrounded by people who support your beliefs?

I wondered how she could look me in the eye and think that I had been stripped of my own humanity and my self-reliance. I wondered how she figured that any person with mental illness could somehow get by without retaining these qualities. In fact, I told her, people who pursue wellness must continually express this self-reliance and personal advocacy. They have to constantly monitor moods and triggers; they have to navigate their way through the mental health-care system; they have to take responsibility for the ways in which their illness may have impaired their work and their relationships; they have to constantly and consistently pursue wellness. You want self-reliance? I'll show you self-reliance. I had to build my life up from total devastation at the age of 17, after I became horrifyingly ill with bipolar disorder. That's self-reliance.

But I didn't say these words. I couldn't somehow. Instead, I told this woman that I have had contact with thousands of people suffering with mental illness and with their families, that there is no question in my mind that these illnesses are real. I tried to persuade her, but she didn't budge from her rhetoric. It was almost like she had an edge on me, simply because she had only an intellectual relationship to the subject, whereas mine was personal, emotional, political, and intellectual.

I started to worry, is this what everybody at this party thinks? Is this what all of my friends really think? Looking back, I didn't stay as calm as I should have. I didn't make the points I could have. I let her get under my skin, and in doing so, I allowed her to shame me, and shame the work to which I've devoted most of my professional life. Of course, you can't operate socially with shame in the system; it's like spilling coffee into your computer (which I have also done). Everything goes blank.

In the end, I invited the woman to attend one of my lectures and to meet a few families who are struggling with mental illness. I wanted her to test her judgmental and reductive comments against actual human suffering, to expand her vitriolic attack on American health care, business, and politics and thereby acknowledge the painful reality of millions of Americans with due empathy and respect. She said she would email me—we'll see.

While considerably trying, it is meaningful to speak with people who don't agree with me. Not only is the experience a key ingredient to my personal growth, it's also an essential component of a healthy democracy. And I know that we can lessen stigma by being examples, and sources of information, in our communities. I always encourage people to share their stories. I have shared my story with tens of thousands of people through lectures and through Detour, and I have been rewarded in a million ways, a million times over, for my offering. But I'm not immune to stigma.

Once in a while, I guess, I can expect to get stung.

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Lizzie Simon is a writer, producer, and frequent guest lecturer for colleges and organizations. She is the author of DETOUR: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D, a memoir that chronicles her cross-country adventures, interviewing people with bipolar disorder about wellness.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Steve Brannon becomes State Director, DBSA Tennessee


A news release:  On Saturday, June 2, 2012, Steve L. Brannon was installed as the State Director of DBSA Tennessee (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) in Nashville. Presidents and officers of its 12 local chapters from across Tennessee were invited to the special meeting.  The founding State Director of DBSA Tennessee, Gary Miles, recently retired from the directorship.  Brannon served as Assistant State Director for the past 6 years and was unanimously elected as the new State Director.
On the national level, DBSA Tennessee is a unique chapter.  For it is one of only 15 states to develop its organization to create a state level chapter within Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, national, based in Chicago, IL.  State chapters offer a specialized type of service to the local chapters for growth and development and provide a vital relationship and degree of communication with the national office.  Tennessee’s 12 local DBSA chapters provide one, and some two, support/education group meetings each week.  The DBSA Tennessee state office estimates that their local meetings attract an annual attendance of approximately 8,000 attendees.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization with approximately 450 local chapters, nationally, that provide nearly 1000 support groups for people suffering with depression and bipolar disorder, their family and friends.  The meetings have an embracing atmosphere, where each participant can get information about their illness, and learn how to get help. Additionally, with its outreach efforts, DBSA sponsors online and "face to face" support groups. DBSA's scope includes outreach, education and advocacy regarding depression and bipolar disorder. Its national office employs professional and volunteer staff and operates with the guidance of a Scientific Advisory Board.
The national operation answers more than 3,000 calls per month on their toll-free information and referral line and receives over 21 million hits per year on their combined websites. Each month, DBSA distributes nearly 20,000 educational materials free of charge to anyone requesting information about mood disorders. DBSA reaches nearly five million people throughout the country with their educational materials and programs, exhibit materials, and media activities.

Anything is Possible

Anything is Possible
Life holds no promises as to what will come your way.
You must search for your own ideals and work towards reaching them.
Life makes no guarantees as to what you'll have.
It just takes time to make choices and to take chances and to discover whatever secrets might come your way.
If you are given and utilize the abilities you have,
    you will constantly fill your life with special moments and
    unforgettable times.
No one knows the mysteries of life, or its ultimate meaning.
But for those who are willing to believe in their dreams and in themselves,
    life is a precious gift in which anything is possible.
Nichole Mullins