By AMANDA DA SILVA
Five years ago this month, Upper Beach resident Jason Balgopal created a mental wellness peer-to-peer support group.
“I noticed the demand because it was initially a monthly group and very quickly people had asked that it become a weekly group,” Balgopal said.
Following the success of the Beaches group, there was a need for another group in the Danforth area. The Danforth group has been operating since January of 2019.
The Beaches Wellness Group meetings are at Community 55 on Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the Danforth Wellness Group meetings are at Neighbourhood Link on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
As Balgopal celebrates five years of success with the program, he said it is ready to expand to a new area.
“We believe the next location would be in Scarborough,” said Balgopal. “We are open to hearing from people where the demand is.”
The invite for the weekly meetings is open to anyone who has mental wellness issues, or their family members, and needs the support to talk about it and get new perspectives from other members. It is a free program and just requires a visit.
The meetings are similar to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in structure where there is a guest speaker in the beginning and then the floor is open for members of the group to share their stories and gather insight.
“People find that the group is very helpful for them for a couple of reasons,” Balgopal said. “They don’t have to continue to burden their family, there is so much you can tell your wife or mother and then that person gets burnt out. They also realize going to the meetings that they are not alone.
“The groups offer them a way of getting other techniques to deal with the issue they may not otherwise have,” said Balgopal.
To Balgopal, success in this program is reached when members have taken away from the group as much as they need and move on forward.
Balgopal hopes that in the future the mental wellness programs can grow into a vast network to help more people.
“I think this group can expand all across the country,” Balgopal said. “It’s a free program that’s run by volunteers that helps people and is readily accessible. The only thing that is needed is awareness.”
One way that people can contribute to awareness for mental health is participating in Bell Let’s Talk Day. It is on Wednesday, Jan. 29, and it encourages everyone to participate and be a part of the conversation.
Bell donates five cents of every call and text made by Bell customers (with no additional charges to their accounts,) every tweet or retweet with #BellLetsTalk, every view of the Bell Let’s Talk video posted on either: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and use of their Facebook frame or Snapchat photo filter.
Since it’s launch in 2010, Bell Let’s Talk has partnered with more than 1,000 organizations providing mental health services throughout Canada.