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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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7/12/2009 10:51:00 PM
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance provides peer support to those with mood disorders
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Henry Willey wants to start a depression support group in the Prescott/Prescott Valley area.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Henry Willey wants to start a depression support group in the Prescott/Prescott Valley area.
DBSA Monthly Meetings
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Yavapai County Chapter is now offering free, open and confidential peer-support for those with mood disorders.

The meetings schedule is:

• Prescott: 3 p.m. on every first Thursday of the month at the Prescott Public Library (Goodwin Street entrance) Elsea Room.

• Prescott Valley: 10:30 a.m. every third Friday of the month at the First Step Building, 3343 N. Windsong; or 1 p.m. every fourth Wednesday of the month at New Horizons Independent Living Center, 8085 E. Manley (this is a fragrance free building; visitors must refrain from scented products).

Paula Rhoden
The Daily Courier

After a lifetime of undiagnosed bipolar disease, Joel Kobren could no longer handle the mounting pressure of unemployment and looming eviction. On Dec. 17, 2008, he put a .38 Special handgun to his chest and pulled the trigger.

The hollow point bullet tore through his chest, collapsing a lung, fracturing two ribs and shattering a shoulder blade.

It took Kobren more than an hour to accept the fact he was still alive and to call a friend.

After two weeks in the hospital, Kobren voluntarily checked himself into Aurora Behavior Health Services in Peoria.

Finally, after 58 years, doctors diagnosed him with bipolar disease, a diagnosis that truly changed his life.

Kobren said he was no longer an "underachiever" who could not keep a job or maintain a relationship; there was a real reason for his "mood swings."

As part of his therapy, Kobren started looking for a self-help group. He said "suicide survivor" groups were really grief groups for families and friends of people who committed suicide - not people who survived a "failed fatal depressive episode."

Kobren said he could not find what he really needed - a depression group.

"Even people in the system didn't know that grief groups are not suicide groups."

Kobren's search led him to the national Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Unfortunately, Apache Junction, where Kobren lives, or the East Valley, does not have a DBSA chapter.

Officials at the national organization put him in touch with Henry Willey, president of the DBSA Yavapai County Chapter.

Though the local chapter received its charter in March, Willey is more excited about the formation of a state DBSA organization.

Willey said the local DBSA is the only chapter in Northern Arizona. Since it is the Yavapai County Chapter, he said, "We would like to expand into the Verde Valley, Sedona and Chino Valley. What we need are people to facilitate the meetings. All it takes is a short training session.

"Arizona never had a state chapter. This will allow for the creation of other local chapters around the state. The paperwork is ready to go," Willey said.

Though the two men have never met face-to-face, Kobren said they spend a lot of time talking on the telephone.

Kobren is the vice president of DBSA Arizona and serves on its board of directors.

The message of DBSA is that peer-support is available.

Willey said other agencies provide support, "but they don't work specifically with mood disorders. However, we try to work together with the other groups."

According to Willey, the DBSA includes 400 chapters in the United States and is the largest peer-support organization that reaches the most people.

"DBSA is not a 12-step program and it is not a therapy group. It is just peers helping peers," Willey said. "Personally, I have been bipolar since elementary school but was not diagnosed until I was 35 years old. I have been through everything."

Peer groups allow people to talk to others dealing with depression or bipolar disease, and learn what may or may not work, Willey said.

Kobren said, "DBSA gave me the avenues to fulfill the goals I set as part of my recovery. As an organization, it has opened doors and been very welcoming. At the same time, there is no pressure. DBSA does not expect anything from me. It just opened the next door for me to go through when I am ready."

The DBSA is a free, open confidential group. While peer facilitators conduct the meetings, Willey said mental health professionals often provide education about depression and bipolar disease, treatment and medications.

Willey said people do not need a confirmed diagnosis to attend a meeting. He said family members and friends are welcome at meetings.

Willey said people attending a support group could expect to have their questions answered, hear about other people's experiences, and learn that they are not suffering alone.

"It is better to ask for help than to suffer alone," Willey said.

Anyone interested in more information about the local DBSA chapter should email dbsayav@yahoo.com.


Symptoms of mood disorders
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance website provides information about mood disorders, how to find support, advocacy, educational programs, training and services, and research and clinical trials.

The website is a good starting point to learn more about depression and bipolar disease.

According to the DBSA website, marked by changes in mood, depression and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) are both treatable, medical illnesses.

Depression involves an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters and neuropeptides.

Depressive episodes often follow stressful events. However, depression is often the result of genetics and a stressful environment.

The symptoms of depression include:

• Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells.

• Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns.

• Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety.

• Pessimism, indifference.

• Loss of energy, persistent lethargy.

• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness.

• Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness.

• Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal.

• Unexplained aches and pains.

• Recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

Treatment for depression may include support groups, medication, talk therapy or other strategies.

Doctors often refer to bipolar disorder as manic depression because a person's moods can alternate between the "poles" of mania (highs) and depression (lows). These changes can last for hours, days, weeks or months.

The DBSA website indicates that nearly six million adult Americans are affected by bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically begins in late adolescence, although it can start in early childhood or later in life.

The illness tends to run in families and appears to have a genetic link.

Bipolar disorder differs significantly from clinical depression. Most people with bipolar disorder talk about highs and lows, ranging from extreme energy to deep despair.

The symptoms of mania, the highs of bipolar disorder include:

• Heightened moods, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence.

• Excess irritability, aggressive behavior.

• Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue.

• Grandiose thoughts, inflated sense of self-importance.

• Racing speech, racing thoughts, flights of ideas.

• Impulsiveness, poor judgment, easily distracted.

• Reckless behavior.

• In the most severe cases, delusions and hallucinations.

The symptoms of the lows of bipolar disorder are those associated with depression.

It is during the periods of bipolar depression that most people seek profession help and receive a diagnosis.

Additional information about depression and bipolar disorder is available at DBSA.org.


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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Article comment by: David Gress

Les, nice to hear about the formation of a depression/ bipolar group in Prescott. I currently attend a 2 hour weekly meeting here in Phoenix. I suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks. There are several meeting in the Valley and many of my friends from group attend more than one session a week. I would delighted to attend your group and share resources. I have a second home in Prescott and will be moving there after my divorce.

Sincerely,

David Gress


Posted: Saturday, September 07, 2013
Article comment by: karee dandelski

Would someone contact me and let me know if these groups are still happening. 928-978-6405. Karee

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Article comment by: Claudia Breding

Are these meetings still being held?

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009
Article comment by: Henry Willey

For more information you may also call (928) 632-4727 We are looking to expand throughout the state especially in Camp Verde, Chino, Cottonwood and Sedona. Contact us.

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009
Article comment by: tricia

Thank you for sharing your story, that takes a lot of courage, I can relate and the hardest part is admitting that you need support and acceptance, at least, it has been for me.

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009
Article comment by: joelkobren@yahoo.com

Thank you for your comments. It was a privilege to be asked to participate in such an important article. Thank you Paula, for writing it.

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009
Article comment by: Inspiration to all

Thank you Mr. Kobren for sharing your life with us. May you be an inspiration to others. So often people are ashamed and hold on to their challenges, afraid of being different BUT we all have them.

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009
Article comment by: No name provided

I never really knew what I was feeling and this really helped me understand and helped me realize that I am not alone and that really opened my eyes.



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