Mood swings? A new group aims to help |

Mood swings? A new group aims to help

When Abigail Weissman was struggling with her mood disorder in Dallas, she turned to the national Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance for help.

“I learned a lot about mood disorders and volunteered for their answering service to help others with mood disorders and their families,” the retired social worker and information technology person said. But when she moved to Nevada County four years ago, there was no local chapter of that group here.

“The need was here and I felt like it would be good to have a chapter,” Weissman said. So she turned to her friend, fellow mood-swing sufferer and banker Kathy Salivar, to do so.

“I believe in giving back to the community, so I’ve been looking for something that was meaningful to me,” Salivar said. “It’s about supporting each other and our mood disorders.”

The first meeting of the local chapter will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the Madelyn Helling Library conference room in Nevada City. People diagnosed with mood disorders, those who think the might have one, and patient supporters are invited.

The initial meeting will be informational at first and group professional advisor Dr. Eric Rubinstein will be introduced. The psychiatrist’s role will be strictly advisory to group facilitators, and he will refer people as well.

“It’s very much a peer-run organization,” Weissman said. “There’s a strong emphasis on not dwelling on the problem but rather what works to manage the disorders.

“DBSA has guidelines that make it clear to the players that we’re not here to complain or describe every problem,” Weissman said. “The guidelines are designed to make the group function and not go off on a tangent with one person.”

The national organization’s guidelines say support groups are, “not a pity party,” a substitute for therapy or a place to be lectured. Instead, the free meetings are a safe place to hear how people dealt successfully with their disorders, so that, “people use information they’ve gained from others at the meeting to make their own judgments about correct strategies for themselves.”

The support groups are confidential and led by group members. A facilitator guides discussion, provides focus and keeps makes sure the group follows the guidelines.

In those groups, mood swing patients can hear that they are not alone, get a better understanding of their malady, and get mutual acceptance from those in the same boat.

Education is the other main component of any DBSA Chapter. Weissman and Salivar have access to national brochures which give tips to people just diagnosed, family members dealing with a patient, and what mood disorders are.

“Mood disorders are physical illnesses that affect the brain,” one brochure said. “Their exact cause is not known, but it is known that an imbalance in brain chemicals plays a role…They are not your fault.”

Another explains that the support groups can help decrease hospitalizations, provide a place for understanding and discovery and give a forum to share mutual experiences.

Weissman said she will also invite area professionals who deal with mood disorders to listen, “so they have an easy way to learn,” about dealing with patients. Those people could include police, mental health court employees, clergy and educators.

“The proper treatment of those with mood disorders could be different than when dealing with others,” Weissman said. “We’ll be working with government officials to try to advocate for services for those with mood disorders,” as well.

She expects subsequent, monthly meetings of the new group will be held at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. The time of those meetings will be listed in future support group listings which run in The Union on Saturdays.


To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail or call 477-4237.

WHAT: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance group meeting

WHEN: 6 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Madelyn Helling Library, 980 Helling Way, Nevada City

INFORMATION: Call 274-8400 and leave a message. For information on the national DBSA and what it does, log onto

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