Mental health support group launches

An Upper Beach resident is starting a mental health support group after living for years wishing there were something like it available in the Beach or East End.

Jason Balgopal struggled with depression for years, and always wished there were some sort of similar groups available for people to share stories and offer mutual support.

“For a number of years it was a great struggle for me to just get up and do what everyone else does in life,” he said.

“[This group is] an outgrowth of what I would have wanted when I was really suffering from depression.”

Talking with others is a great benefit to those suffering with mental health issues, but it’s often quite difficult to find a safe forum to do so, he said.

“I find when I talk to other people who are similarly situated, it really makes me feel not alone. You kind of derive a bit of strength from that,” said Balgopal.

“People feel more comfortable that there are other people like them out in the community, and in hearing those stories they will hopefully find commonalities and get support from that.”

The group, modelled loosely after Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, is open to anyone suffering from mental health issues or their family members. Meetings will follow the AA format, with a guest speaker and an opportunity for sharing personal stories with the group.

The speaker for the inaugural meeting will be Andjelka Palikucin-Reljin, a certified clinical psychologist. A speaker for the second meeting, at the end of February, will discuss accessing services.

Balgopal said he was inspired to start the group after the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health posted a series of videos on YouTube of past clients, including him. He said the reaction from friends and acquaintances showed him there was a need for more support in the community.

“If just telling my story could help people look for help themselves, then that’s really powerful,” he said.

The group is set to launch the day after the Bell Canada Let’s Talk event, which promotes open discussion about mental health issues. Balgopal is unsure how many people will come out for the local group, but believes there is definitely a need in the community. The first meeting will take place from 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 29, at Community Centre 55.

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