In response to "Grasping for Hope", the writer in her last sentence touched on the very heart of the matter: The stigma of mental illness has, and still assigns valuable, gifted, contributing members of our community with mental illness to the shadows and fringes of society, further perpetuating an erroneous stereotype that unfortunately still permeates throughout our community and beyond. As a result, few of us "shadow people" venture out of these confines because by doing so, we often risk more than what we stand to gain.
The writer is absolutely right when she states that the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Colorado Springs can not meet everyone's needs. We need much, much more, and losing the St. Francis Behavioral Health Inpatient Program poses a serious loss to the city. A double blow is the fact that DBSA Colorado Springs' very existence has been further compromised with the water break at St. Francis on Friday, December 30th, which means the Center may close earlier than the March 31, 2011 deadline. The repercussions and effects of these untimely events, I believe, will be felt in the not too distant future if there is nothing viable to replace this widening hole in the system.
In light of the above, and although not a replacement for medical help, at least DBSA Colorado Springs is still one resource in town offering support groups for people diagnosed with depressive illnesses, having grown from just one group for adults way back in 1994, to offering 10 specialized groups today for people with mood disorders: Veterans, Teens & Young Adults, three Women's Groups, (one of which is for Women Survivors of Sexual Assault), Dual Diagnosis, two regular Adults Groups, a Family & Friends Group, and a Later Life (Seniors) Group. At present over 150 people attend any one of these groups every week.
Without a doubt, the majority of people who attend DBSA support groups have additional diagnosed illnesses, and disorders, and accompanying issues as well. The fact that DBSA Colorado Springs is an all volunteer nonprofit organization with no paid staff with all its programs offered free of charge is commendable enough. Even more so is the fact that it is consumer-run, meaning that this organization is made up of the very people it serves. No one understands better the need to have more specialized groups than we do and we know there are shortfalls. Yet, our strength and ability to expand and ehance our programs depends on those who believe in our cause, whether diagnosed with depression, a family member, or someone simply attracted to our mission, to join our ranks as volunteers so that we can grow where needed. In addition, we must engage other citizens in our community who can financially and/or otherwise ensure that we continue to provide the programs you and I need in order to move out of the shadows, into the light, and re-gain our rightful place in the community as fully embraced members of society.
In closing I thank you, dear writer, for the important message you so well conveyed in your letter of December 30, 2010.
Karen Fallahi, President
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) of Colorado Springs
January 2, 2011
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