A Self - Help Support Group is a voluntary group of persons who share common needs or problems, which are not addressed by other segments of the society. The group members assume the primary responsibility for functioning of the group. They meet at regular intervals and interact face-to-face with each other. They share their experiences, strategies, successes and failures and find solutions to their problems. Members can be a great source of support to each other. These advantages have led to the emergence of self-help groups in a variety of areas.
SAA promotes Self-Help Support Groups for persons with mental disorders and their care givers. There are separate groups for the two categories with separate styles of running. For practical considerations, groups for persons with mental disorders and their caregivers meet on the same day, same time and at the same venue but in different rooms. When there is a guest lecture on a subject of common interest or some other social activity, both the groups participate together.
SAA promoted such groups have experienced and trained non-professional volunteers as facilitators and one or two active group members, work as anchor persons. Besides sharing of experiences, experts’ lectures and discussions on topics of interest are arranged in group meetings. With mutual support, members of the groups are able to combat the feelings of isolation and helplessness that often come to them. Support groups work towards mutual problem solving, and sharing information among members. The groups provide support to members in managing the illness and opportunity to learn from each other’s’ experience. These groups are the primary places where members get up-to-date information about the illness and need for its treatment. The groups promoted by SAA for the benefit of members focus on self-help and members are discouraged from discussing unrelated issues.
Self Help Support Groups are only a complimentary aid and not a substitute for professional care. The groups have rules, what can be discussed, what cannot be discussed, how to interact, who speaks when, etc. Diagnosis or medications are not discussed. Nobody is forced to speak; it is completely voluntary. Members are expected to maintain confidentiality about personal details discussed during the meetings. Every comment made when a member shares an experience is to provide encouragement and endorse his/her effort to cope. No one in the group is a leader; everyone, including the facilitator, is only a participant.
Peer Support Groups
In SAA promoted Peer Support Groups of persons with mental disorders, named ‘’Ekalavya’’, the participants are explained the importance of compliance with professional advice for recovery. The members are encouraged to continue to see their mental health professionals and to take medicines as prescribed. Participation in group meetings helps in recovery and decrease in medication but attending group meetings is not a substitute for medicines and is not a guarantee against hospitalization. Members in need of high support, are encouraged to seek advice from mental health professionals in addition to seeking group support. It is also explained to the members that that at some point during their recovery journey, there could be temporary setbacks requiring increase in medication or even re- hospitalization.
The group members follow the Recovery Method developed by Dr. Abraham Low, founder of Recovery Inc., USA which focuses on reducing the symptoms of anxiety, panic and depression. For experience sharing, a 4 stage format developed by Dr. Abraham Low, is followed:
- The event coped with is described.
- The symptoms experienced during the episode are narrated.
- Tool/s of Dr. Low used to cope up with the situation are shared.
- Conveys how he/she would have faced the episode without knowing the Recovery Tools.
This is followed by self-endorsement and comments by the rest of the group members. This pattern is followed by everyone who likes to share within the group.
Caregivers’ Self-Help Support Groups
While facing challenges and ordeals of caregiving of their family member with mental disorder, caregivers get frustrated, tired and isolated. The ordeal saps their energy and they feel so helpless, that they desperately need support which can come from caregivers’ self-help support groups. Self-help group members understand what fellow caregivers are going through and would not let them feel alone. The caregivers benefit from the group in terms of support, compassion and empathy shown by other members.
The care givers’ group is the primary place where member of the group can get up-to-date and correct information and insight about the mental illness, its treatment and care of family members with mental illness. Attending regular meetings of the caregivers’ group help the caregivers realize that they are not alone; they get an opportunity to vent their feelings in a safe non-judgmental environment. They get time and space for mutual support and learn from each other, how to provide care to a family member who suffers from mental disorder.
Caregivers’ groups provide an opportunity to caregivers to share experiences in care giving, in overcoming feeling of blame, shame, isolation and the pain of stigma. The group helps members to build a sense of hope and security and they provide support to each other in times of distress and emergencies. Caregivers also get access to factual information which helps in removing misconceptions. They acquire problem solving skills and learn coping techniques to handle ups and downs
SAA promoted Self-Help Support Groups in Pune
- Kamalini Kruti Bhavan, Lane No. 30 & 31, Dhayari, Pune 411041.Contact persons: Milinda Bhalerao-020-64700920, Kadambari Kulkarni-9420861795