An Interview with Karen Fallahi
An Interview with Karen Fallahi

March 16, 2012

Karen Fallahi

Karen Fallahi
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Colorado Springs

Dana Foundation: During this year’s Brain Awareness Week (BAW), you’re planning an open house at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) of Colorado Springs. What can attendees expect?

Karen Fallahi: Attendees at our Open House this year will be pleasantly surprised to find us settled into our new location in Colorado Springs. They can peruse the shelves of our more spacious Resource Center Lending Library where we will be hosting our 13th annual observance of Brain Awareness Week. Visitors can take advantage of our extensive library, which continues to carry the latest in the way of free publications about brain research and the treatment of mood disorders. Our center staff will be on hand to help attendees find information on a number of topics such as bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders, and related illnesses.  Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn more about our organization, our free self-help support groups, and other programs designed to educate and raise awareness in the community.

DF: For several years, your organization organized a public lecture during Brain Awareness Week. How early did you start the planning process? How did you decide on a topic and the speaker(s)?

KF: We first included a public lecture in our annual BAW observances in 2005. Entitled, “Physical Aspects of Mood Disorders,” and presented by Richard H. Cox, M.D., Ph.D., Provost, Colorado School of Professional Psychology, Colorado Springs, the lecture was so successful that we planned to include lectures each year.

It was a “no brainer” (excuse the pun!) that we decided on topics relating to mood disorders. As an independent affiliate of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), the nation’s leading organization focusing on the most prevalent mental illnesses, DBSA Colorado Springs’ mission is “to improve the lives of people living with mood disorders.” We work to accomplish this goal by providing a number of programs, including self-help support groups, which help people with depression share personal stories, learn coping skills, find out about resources in the community, and get back on the road to recovery.

DF: How do you publicize your events?

KF: In addition to flyers that we distribute at our support group meetings and send via e-mail to local, like-minded organizations and mental health professionals, we also submit articles to local print media and post events on our website, 

DF: You’ve used volunteers to staff events. How do you recruit them?

KF: As an all-volunteer organization (no paid staff) that offers all services free of charge, we have had no problem staffing our BAW events. The majority of our volunteers are people with mood disorders, and we have found that volunteering is one way to help people get back on the road to recovery. It makes a big difference when a BAW event attendee has the opportunity to talk to someone who is living successfully with depression and knowledgeable about his/her disorder.

DF: What benefits are there to being a BAW partner?

KF: As a longtime BAW partner, we take great pride in being counted among local and international organizations and institutions working together to draw attention to the importance of brain research. We were the first DBSA affiliated chapter to participate in BAW, and we believe our association with the Dana Alliance and the campaign has enhanced our standing in the community, helping us to change how people perceive and understand brain disorders.

DF: Your organization’s awareness efforts are year-round. What other programs do you run throughout the year?

KF: DBSA Colorado Springs sponsors a number of community outreach programs that operate year-round. In addition to the nine specialized weekly support group meetings, we participate in 12-15 health and educational fairs each year, sponsor a monthly lecture series, offer a teen depression and suicide prevention program to local schools, hold weekly informational meetings for patients at the two local psychiatric hospitals, offer year-round depression screenings, provide volunteer opportunities at our Resource Center, and accept court-ordered community service volunteers with mood disorders. We also put out a quarterly newsletter and operate an excellent lending library.

March 2012