The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance-Greater Chicago, originated as MDA (Manic Depressive Association) as an informal support by two women, Marilyn Weiss and Rose Kurlan, whose psychiatrist, Dr. Jan Fawcett, suggested that they meet with others to share their experiences. Together, they formed a grass roots organization which has grown prodigiously. The first informal meetings started in 1978 in their homes. Then an article in the Chicago Tribune about the group brought attention to the women and their undertaking. The many phone calls forced them to initiate an answering service. Soon the group was meeting at What’s Cooking in Lincolnwood and some years later, and since, at The Devon Bank in West Rogers Park. Other locations now include Palatine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Evanston NorthShore Hospital, Brookfield, and our latest addition, Andersonville/Uptown Group. All are hosting support groups for the Greater Chicago chapter. In addition, DBSA-GC sponsors an annual Symposium for the public and professionals.
Initially the support group was only for patients (now referred to as consumers). Realizing a need, Millie Sokolec and other family members organized a Family Support Group. The original newsletter, The Pendulum, (now The Spectrum) served both groups. These two groups were eventually the nucleus of the national organization. From an office in Marilyn’s home, the founders responded to requests from other cities, all wishing to start their own chapters. Key to this growth was the new organization’s attendance at the American Psychiatric Association conventions, funded generously by Dr Jan Fawcett. MDA brochures went home with the doctors and were picked up by interested patients.
In 1982, MDA-Chicago and Dr Fawcett met with four other chapters. A move was made toward forming a National MDA. As a result the first MDA convention was held at the Palmer House in Chicago in 1984. Fifty leaders from 14 states attended. The name was changed to the Manic-Depressive and Depressive Association in order to serve the needs of those with both types of mood disorders.
In 2003, there was further name change from DMDA-MC (Depressive Manic Depressive
Association- Metro Chicago) to DBSA-GC by the National organization to reflect modern psychiatric nomenclature. No matter the name changes over the years, the mission remains the same: to help, support, and educate people and their families affected by mood disorders.
Currently there are over 500 chapters and 1,000 peer-led support groups across the nation-and the world, for people with mood disorders and their families. Each year 75,000 individuals receive services, and 5 million request information. The national headquarters remains in Chicago.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance-Greater Chicago, offers educational meetings, support groups for people with mood disorders and for family and friends. These groups are free of charge. Visit our Support Groups page to find a group near you.