John Massolio, Jr., and his wife Jane, are the Founder's of DBS Tampa Bay, Inc. (formerly known as DBSA Tampa Bay, Inc.), which has been in existence since 1985. John continues to educate the public and try to erase the terrible stigma associated with mental illness.
In remembering his childhood, John Massolio often says that he had three goals: to have fun, make some money and help people. He thought that if he could achieve those three things, he would have accomplished quite a bit. Throughout his lifetime, John has achieved those goals and so much more. He often says that he owes his success in part to being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder over 36 years ago. "If I hadn't been diagnosed with this illness, I don't know if I would have met the people I've met, had the opportunities that I've had, and achieved what I have been able to do."
John was a high profile business executive for a major life insurance organization with a well-established career when he was finally diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. In retrospect, he believes that he had the disorder much earlier, but due to the fact that a fast pace, high productivity, long hours and risk taking are valued in the industry and that he had been able to "hold it together," it was not recognized as such.
In 1979, John experienced his first major episode while in Florida on vacation visiting family. He was given a treatment plan and prescription, but once he returned home to Chicago, Illinois, he threw his medication away as he lived in denial. Those who cared about him were concerned but somehow John was able hold everything together. Two years later, everything came to a grinding halt, when John experienced a major episode aboard an airline en route to a business convention.
He had just been charged with trying to turn around a challenging division and felt that the airplane wasn't flying fast enough. When he complained to an airline flight attendant, the co-pilot came back and John gave him a shoulder block. His business associates were able to convince the airline staff that he would be okay and that he was not a threat to them. Once at the convention, John proceeded to lock himself in a hotel room and eventually, woke up in the quiet room 3 days later. It was at that point, after hitting rock bottom, that John was ready to get his life back on track. After accepting his diagnosis, and beginning treatment and medication, he began the road to recovery.
It wasn't an easy road. At the time, John lived in the Chicago, Illinois area, and the nearest support group was 45 miles away. However, John was determined to meet other who had experienced some of the same issues. This group was one of the first groups of what would later become the DBSA which is the National organization based in Chicago, with Chapters located through-out the United States. Through the experience of attending this meeting, John felt that there must be others who would like to form support group to discuss issues, share experience and develop a network of individuals committed to supporting each other on the road to recovery.
When John and his family were transferred to Florida in 1983, he discovered that there weren't any groups like he had experienced in Chicago. With the help of the local Mental Health Association and a psychiatrist at the University of South Florida, John and wife Jane founded the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, the first such group in the State. After forming this group and continuing to stay involved with the DBSA, John went on to help other areas of the state form groups while serving on the National Board of Directors and as the 2nd President of the National organization. Eventually, the Tampa Bay Chapter was responsible for the creation of 7 sister chapters in the state of Florida.
In addition to actively recruiting and forming these support groups, John answered hotlines, letters and gave lecture to local community groups, high schools, civic associations, medical students, and many other groups of individuals about the need for support groups for individuals with a metal illness and the need to recognize that one’s life isn't over after being diagnosed with a mental illness.
John has dedicated his life to serving the needs of individuals with a mental illness. He has been awarded the Cesar Medina Award for Outstanding Community Service in 1987 as well as the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award in 1994. He has advocated for individuals with a mental illness in Washington, DC and has continued to help anyone who needs assistance, often sacrificing many hours of his day to selflessly serve those in need. John feels determined to bring his message of recovery to all who need help because he has had the good fortune of experiencing a successful recovery.
He often says, "Not many people would take this path, but I’m glad that I did. If I didn't do this work, who would? "John as served as a member of the Human Rights Advocacy Committee, the Florida Protection and Advocacy, on FACT Team Boards and other such organizations and has continued to remain active with both the Tampa Bay Chapter and the National DBSAlliance.
In 2002, John agreed to come out of retirement to accept a position as Consumer Affairs Coordinator for Florida Health Partners, a Prepaid Mental Health Plan for Medicaid Medipass recipients that is comprised of 5 community mental health centers and Value Options, a national managed behavior health care plan. John works directly with Medicaid recipients and is able to continue to offer his message of hope for recovery through support groups established at the mental health centers, in the community and by providing educational sessions regarding mental illness to area high school students.
John continues to answer the call to service that he has followed his entire life. He leads by example as and is a true role model as demonstrated by his remarkable recovery, commitment to service, and continuing efforts to "light a candle" in what can sometimes be a very dark environment.
In 2023, after operating as the largest chapter of the DBSAlliance for many years, the organization has recently changed their name and is proudly going forward as the Depression Bipolar Support Tampa Bay, Inc. Recognized as the number one organization for Peer to Peer in-person support group meetings in Florida and the South Eastern US.
Additionally fulfilling their corporate mission of weekly Peer to Peer Support Groups and educating families and individuals with regularly held free lecture / workshops for the general public and also including the largest lending library of self-help books on the West Coast of Florida. `