After completing an informational course 4 years ago, with others who are affected by bipolar, Ivor and another member wanted to continue meeting with the group as they found sharing their experiences had helped them. They decided to set up a peer support group for continued support. When the sessions started, the numbers attending were not consistent week to week, sometimes members were not well enough to attend regularly, so they decided to open the group to those experiencing any type of mental health difficulty or illness. After a period of time, venue costs started to have an impact on whether the group could still run, the group was close to ending. On recognition of the value the group had on its members, Ivor looked for a different venue to continue weekly sessions. A local library in Middlesbrough were happy to provide some space, meaning the support for each other could be continued.
Speaking to members of the group, one shared: “I have been coming to the group for 4 years. We come together and discuss how we feel and ways to cope. It helps me to be with others who have similar experiences to myself, they understand me, as it’s hard to explain how I feel to people who haven’t experienced mental health difficulties or illness themselves. If I am feeling anxious, I know I can get support from the group. I look forward to Tuesdays and attending the group. It also reassures my husband when he is at work that I am being supported, he knows I’m ok”.
Another member shared: “Having bipolar, I find that when I am unwell I can start to become isolated, coming to the group helps to keep me well. At the group we voice our thoughts, talk about how we can prevent episodes, how we feel when we are not well, any worries, and we also share ideas, strategies, advice and learn from each other. On my own I didn’t know where to turn to, but the group helps me to think about and try different strategies to keep well. I know at the group I am understood. Bipolar can affect me where I can become isolated and lonely, but the group gives me purpose to go out and be away from the house, to a place where I can share how I feel, with people who understand, no judgements made. Coming to this group is valuable to my recovery”.
A member who had recently moved to the area explained, “Being new to the area, a carer for my wife and having depression and anxiety, I wanted to meet with others who I felt comfortable with. After 2 weeks of attending this group I’m feeling the benefits of meeting new people and sharing experiences. Confidentiality within the group has helped me be more open, and in this short time I already feel part of the group”.
The group meets at Hemlington library, Middlesbrough 1.30 – 3pm every Tuesday