Support group encourages positive change

Frank worked at a large telecommunications company many years ago, but has since been on ODSP, and has even fallen behind on filing his taxes. He was distraught and overwhelmed when he came to the Beaches Mental Wellness group (BeachesMentalWellness.com) on its first day in January 2015.

While he had (and still has) the support of his wife, Frank often spoke about the fact that she didn’t understand his plight and she felt it tiring trying to deal with his anxiety daily. Like many, Frank didn’t have a psychiatrist (psychiatry services covered by OHIP are extremely difficult to get into), and certainly could not afford to pay for a private one even if he could find one who would take him on as a patient.

The only thing that kept Frank going was athletics. Frank is an avid swimmer, and found that the exercise kept his depression and anxiety under control, sort of.

All of us in the group have really enjoyed getting to know Frank, but more importantly, Frank has gained a lot by talking with us. Some members of the group have described how they have sought help, and how effective various treatments have been for them. Other members empathized with Frank and offered words of support.

And some group members have come to listen, to hear what has worked for others, and to learn that they are not struggling alone out there.

Over the time Frank has been attending, we have all noticed a change in him. He is no longer distraught when he comes to the group. His anxiety is more under control. He also told us that the pastor at the church where he had been volunteering asked him if he would be interested in a job in the front office. He applied for the job, made it to the second round of interviews and was waiting to hear if he had been successful.

Oh, yes, he even contacted an accountant to look into filing his forgotten tax returns.

“Frank” is not a real person. I would never divulge anything about a real person from the group without their approval – one of our rules is that what happens in the group stays in the group.

But the issues “Frank” faced are based on actual people and actual difficulties. “Frank” is a compilation of many people.

While their stories may all be unique, they are all joined by a common thread – they have found help by talking with peers. Many of the attendees regularly comment that just knowing that there are other people who have suffered as they have has been extremely valuable in coming to grips with their own challenges, and the support the group offers is fantastic.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada, in its 2010 report, noted that peer support decreased the incidence of hospitalization for clients, and improved psychological symptoms, social networks, quality of life, self-esteem and social functioning.

We are fortunate that we have a facilitator with lots of experience in peer-to-peer group support work (not me), and an inclusive and non-judgmental group of attendees.

So if you, or someone you care about, is facing a mental wellness challenge (depression, anxiety, bi-polar, schizophrenia, etc…), please, come out.

Join us every Tuesday evening from 7 to 8 p.m. at Community Centre 55.


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