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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Changing the conversation around mental illness. Author: Michelle Obama

Let's Change the Conversation Around Mental Health

Michelle Obama

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has been a passionate voice on so many important issues, and I'm grateful that she is using her day as Guest Editor to shine a bright light on mental health, particularly children's mental health, and on the tens of millions of people who suffer in silence - people like Ryan Rigdon.

Ryan joined the Navy when he was 20 years old, and he was deployed to Iraq for the first time a few years later. He served on a team that disarmed roadside bombs and IEDs, and when those bombs exploded, they would rush to the scene to clear any remaining explosives while sorting through unimaginable wreckage and carnage. In recognition of his incredible valour, Ryan was awarded a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation Medal. 

But when Ryan returned home to his wife and two young daughters after his second deployment, the war stayed with him. He had constant splitting headaches, nightmares and panic attacks, and his ears just wouldn't stop ringing. He would pace his home at night, worried that his family was in danger. One evening, he finally hit rock bottom. After laying awake in bed crying, he got up, headed to the bathroom, and prepared to take his own life.

Through my work with service members and veterans as part of Joining Forces - the initiative Dr Jill Biden and I launched to rally Americans to honour and support our veterans and military families - I've seen that Ryan's experience isn't unique. Like Ryan, some of our heroes on the battlefield struggle with the wounds of war - both visible and invisible - when they come home, but hesitate to ask for help. 

Of course, it's important to remember that most of our veterans don't experience any mental health challenges at all. 

But the veterans and service members who do struggle are not alone - not by a long shot. In fact, roughly one in five adults - more than 40 million Americans - suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition like depression or anxiety. These conditions affect people of every age and every background: our kids and grandparents, our friends and neighbours. 

Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it. But that simply doesn't make any sense. Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it's still an illness, and there shouldn't be any distinction. We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together. We don't consider taking medication for an ear infection something to be ashamed of. We shouldn't treat mental health conditions any differently. Instead, we should make it clear that getting help isn't a sign of weakness - it's a sign of strength - and we should ensure that people can get the treatment they need.

That's why the Affordable Care Act expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections for more than 60 million Americans and required new plans to cover depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for kids.

That's also why my husband put more mental health counsellors in place for veterans and signed a bill to help prevent veteran suicide. 

And that's why, last year, we worked with an organisation called Give an Hour and a coalition of other partners to launch the Campaign to Change Direction to raise awareness about mental health, give people tools to help those in need, and change the conversation about mental health in this country. This campaign includes leaders from every sector: business, government, nonprofits, medicine, education, the faith community and so many others. 

As part of this effort, we released a list of Five Signs to help people recognise when someone needs help. Signs like agitation, withdrawal, hopelessness, a decline in personal care and a change in personality can be indications that someone is dealing with a mental-health issue. By recognising these signs, we can help the people we know get the help they need before it's too late.

That brings me back to Ryan. Thankfully, Ryan didn't end his life that night. Instead, he summoned the courage to tell a co-worker that he needed help. They reached out to the local VA [US Department of Veterans Affairs], and Ryan got the medication and counselling he needed to start getting better.

Just as people in Ryan's community stepped up for him, we need to step up for people in our lives. We need to learn to identify the signs of mental-health issues. We need to have the courage to reach out and have tough conversations with our friends and family members -- and get help ourselves when we need it. And we need to recognise that our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and start treating it that way. 

Visit to learn the Five Signs and find out how you can join this movement. 


Young Minds Matter is a new series designed to lead the conversation with children about mental and emotional health, so youngsters feel loved, valued and understood. Launched with Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, as guest editor, we will discuss problems, causes and most importantly solutions to the stigma surrounding the UK's mental health crisis among children. To blog on the site as part of Young Minds Matter email

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Growing older with bipolar disorder

Are you over 50? Anyone can find something of value in this recent article by bp magazine. Enjoy!!!

Fast Talk: Growing Older with Bipolar

Whether I like it or not, I'm growing older and I'm growing older with bipolar. And with my wellness plan intact, I can only think of the possibilities!
By Julie A.  Fast, February 2016

My body is finite. It's getting older, and at age 50 I have no choice but to face the reality of my aging body along with my aging mind. I'm not ashamed of getting older. But I am well aware that I need to be more appreciative of, and careful with, my life and body—starting now.
My face didn't show any wrinkles until I was in my late 40s. It's genetic, and the result of having a mom who was emphatic about sunscreen. I've always looked much, much younger than I am. But last year, time caught up with me and I suddenly started looking my age. For the first time in my life, I found myself staring at my reflection in the mirror, scrutinizing the lines around my mouth and eyes, and almost—almost— falling into the Hollywood-style pit of wanting and needing to look younger.
I knew life had caught up with my face when a participant in one of my workshops looked at my business card and said, "Why do you have a picture of your daughter on your card?" I wanted to say, "What? That picture is only a few years old! How could you say something like that to me?" Then I realized that anyone who has such poor social skills deserves my pity more than my outrage. I also asked myself why it hurt so much. Did I really expect aging to pass me by?
Aging gracefully requires a conscious decision to face reality and then give the finger to a world that says older people are not beautiful. With bipolar disorder, I know that burdening my already fragile mind with the added pressure of trying to look younger would be just too much, a truly slippery slope that would probably end up with my lips going halfway across my face like the Joker in Batman!
Instead, when I see an older woman looking back at me from my mirror, I choose to look directly at her instead of turning away. I don't avoid her; I embrace her. Getting older—especially when you have bipolar—sure beats the alternative.
I'm lucky to have parents who personify the positive rewards of lifelong exercise and healthy eating. My father ran half marathons throughout his sixties. My mother gardens up to five hours a day in the summer, and she still looks gorgeous. She started medication for her depression at age 61, and I know this has been an important part of helping her age gracefully, as well. Their health reminds me that we don't have to fall apart as we get older. Their actions remind me that it's never too late to get healthy. What I do now creates the person I will be at 70.

​Growing older is a privilege I don't want to waste. 
I want to make sure I treasure my time here, and my loved ones.
I do worry about how getting older will interact with my bipolar, largely because living longer means I will outlive people I love, and I don't know how I will handle that. I'm concerned about how my mother's aging—she's my biggest supporter—will impact my balance and emotional stability. But you know what? I've spent the past 20 years building skills to manage my bipolar and I know they will get me through the future.
Growing older is a privilege I don't want to waste. I want to make sure I treasure my time here, and my loved ones.
Last week my mother gave me a ride to a speaking gig because a pinched nerve in my back from an old bike wreck made it too painful for me to drive. We had two hours in the car together, and as I sat in the passenger seat, I felt so lucky and blessed. After all we've been through together, here I am at 50 years old, alive and well, and my 72-year-old mother is still around to take care of me during my time of need.
Time is moving forward even as I write. Whether I like it or not, I'm growing older and I'm growing older with bipolar. As I start this next chapter, I'm embracing my relationships and looking ahead to a promising future. With my wellness plan intact, I can only think of the possibilities! I can still make the most of this life—and so can you.

Bring it on!

Julie A. Fast is the bestselling author of Loving Someone with Bipolar, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and Get it Done When You're Depressed. She is an award winning columnist for bp Magazine ("Fast Talk") and has one of the top bipolar disorder blogs on the internet. Julie is the bipolar disorder management specialist on the Oprah and Dr. Oz website She was the original consultant for Claire Danes on Homeland. Julie is not only a leading expert on helping those affected by bipolar disorder and depression, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995 and successfully (as best she can!) manages the illness with medications and the strategies in her books. Julie knows firsthand about living with and loving someone with bipolar disorder within her own life and helps family members, partners and health care professionals understand and support those with the illness. Julie is a highly in demand family and partner coach, speaker and educator who is passionate about changing the way the world views and manages mood disorders.​

Monday, February 8, 2016

DBSA offers online support groups with web-conferencing

DBSA's news to all chapters today:

Our new online support groups start tomorrow night! They are a great opportunity for chapter participants to get additional support between your in-person meetings. They are on a great new platform which allows web-conferencing as opposed to the chat room format we previously used. Learn more at and spread the word!

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