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,