Last week, Lily and I drafted a request to use the survey cited in A first national survey of knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and autism in France. Teacher Betsy looked over our email this week and after some corrections, we sent it out to the primary authors: Isabelle Durand-Zaleski, Jan Scott, Frédéric Rouillon, and Marion Leboyer. I was not expecting much as these people are published researchers and probably do not have time for a few kids in high school.Fortunately, I was wrong. Within two days, Dr.Isabelle Durand-Zaleski responded to our email telling us that “I shall be both honoured and interested by your proposed research.” I am extremely excited to see how our conversations progress and hopefully, she will allow us to use her survey and give us some advice on how to distribute it.
This week was a lot of waiting around for email corrections and responses from the other researchers. In order to keep myself busy and feel productive, I decided to look into treatments and ways that people with bipolar disorder can get help. Instead of looking at case studies, I searched for organizations and support groups that deal with mental illness. After some browsing, I stumbled upon the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance). DBSA runs support groups across the nation that help those dealing with depression and bipolar disorder cope with their illness. The support groups are led by Peer Specialists who “use their lived recovery experience to assist others in regaining hope, making the most of their chosen paths to wellness, and moving forward to achieve their goals.” The use of Peer Specialists instead of trained psychiatrists is unique and comes with its share of benefits and drawbacks.
The biggest benefit is that these Peer Specialists are able to empathize with those in their support group and vice-versa. The Peer Specialists live with mental illness everyday and go through the same struggles that those in their support groups go through. I imagine that it is very reassuring for those with bipolar disorder or depression to see an example of someone living a healthy and productive life with mental illness.
There are a few drawbacks to using Peer Specialists exclusively. They may not be able to tell if someone’s illness requires immediate medical attention. Peer Specialists have little to no knowledge of medication and may not be able to give treatment when one’s illness is life threatening.
My father’s bipolar prevented him from holding a steady job and because of that he was not able to afford medication and treatment which made his bipolar worse. This created a vicious cycle that he was unable to escape from. Free treatment options and organizations like the DBSA are not perfect but they are better than nothing. I look forward to learning more about organizations like DBSA that are working to combat stigma and give treatment to those in need.
<i>DBSA Logo</i>. Digital image. <i>Dbsalliance.org</i>. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2015. <http://www.dbsalliance.org/images/DBSA_logo_fb.png>.