Anxiety and Depression Support Group
Our Peer Support programme includes a structured Anxiety and Depression support group that aims to bring people together who can share their experiences, of anxiety, depression and other aspects of mental health difficulties that affect wellbeing. Self-help groups provide our members with the opportunity to help and support each other as equals, exchange ideas and tips, share their personal stories, teach, learn and grow together. It’s your chance to talk without being judged, an opportunity to learn about how others in similar situations manage their symptoms, and to connect and feel encouraged by people who know what it’s like to feel the way you do.
Peer Support members, Steven and Jenny, share their experience of the Anxiety and Depression support group and how it has benefitted their wellbeing.
How did the two of you meet?
Steven: I met Jenny at a Community Living Well Anxiety and Depression Peer Support group. After suffering from depression for many years, I felt very isolated. I went to see my GP and was immediately referred to the Community Living Well service. My support worker and I put together a plan of action to take advantage of the services on offer including primary care liaison support, peer support and one-to-one support. I was in a very bad way at the start but when I met Jenny, I was starting to feel more able to express how I was feeling. I could recognise that Jenny was under a considerable amount of stress which I could relate to. We supported each other through the different issues we brought to the group.
Jenny: Before I joined the group, I had been desperately trying to find support. I found one of the Peer Support brochures at the St Charles Centre and it immediately appealed to me as I had been looking for a talking group. When I met Stephen, I immediately felt that we were on the same page. We had both suffered for so many years yet wanted to be survivors. There was a calmness about you that I found very comforting. I am constantly in awe of the wisdom you share with the group, and you have said so many things that have really stuck in my mind.
What brought you to the Anxiety and Depression support group?
Steven: From a young age, I had always felt like I was an observer. I was withdrawn, living in my own head and rarely engaged with others. For that reason, I wanted to be in a group so that I could get the chance to say what I have always wanted to say. I felt the need to share my struggles with a variety of people so that I could get a range of perspectives on my situation.
Can you remember what it was like attending your first support group?
Jenny: I was in a very bad place when I first attended the group. I remember the sensation of coming out afterwards and thinking that it was very helpful. There were many tears and it felt like the beginning of a journey. I have friends who are sympathetic, but it was empathy that I had been searching for. I remember thinking that we may all have different struggles, but we all suffer the same pain and that is why we can support each other.
Why do you come back to the Anxiety and Depression support group on a regular basis?
Jenny: I appreciate the depth that comes with attending a regular group. I like the fact that you can pick up from where you left off the week before. It’s nice to have a core set of people present. I feel like I have made friends with the members.
Steven: On the one hand, I am pleased that as time has gone on, I have started to get to know people better. Previously, when relationships were forming with others, I had a habit of retreating in order to protect myself. The desire to talk was bursting through me but I felt blocked off from others.
On the other hand, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to an anonymous person. I like seeing new people at the group as they bring a new perspective and I gain reaffirmation from their experiences. The group is a mixture of genders and ages. I think this is important as its good to have a collection of people who are from different backgrounds. We come together from different walks of life. Yet in that moment,we talk about things you would never talk about with your nearest and dearest. You display emotional honesty by talking about what is really going on beneath the surface. Then you disperse and go off and live your life with the knowledge you have learnt from the group.
Jenny: It is nice to know that the group is there whenever I need it – it isn’t time limited. It can be anxiety inducing to know that support is coming to an end as you feel pressure to cover everything in a short space of time.
Steven: Yes, I agree that the fact that it has no end point is a fundamental benefit. It is reassuring to know that if something was to go wrong a few months down the line, I could access the group again.
How do you connect with other people in the group?
Jenny: I find it comforting to know that we’ve got each other’s backs. Members that I have spoken to didn’t feel like they had that before. I connect with them because they also feel things very deeply.
Steven: There are people there that you just click with; those who you can communicate with just through a look. Meeting kindred spirits opens up your world and makes life more fulfilling.
What have you learnt from the Anxiety and Depression support group?
Steven: Being in a group and hearing something you have already learnt or previously thought has its own power. It cements your understanding and confirms the belief.
With the benefit of hindsight, what do you wish you knew earlier on in your journey that you know now?
Jenny: I wish I had known about this group sooner. The fact that it is continuously available makes all the difference.
Steven: Yes, knowing how much it can benefit you really makes you think, why delay in signing up? Don’t do it so late in the day! Because then you are left trying to catch up on what you have missed out on.
The Anxiety and Depression Peer Support groups take place weekly across the borough. To find out more information please email [email protected].
If you are experiencing some of the issues mentioned…
To attend an Anxiety and Depression support group you will need to refer yourself to the Peer Support service. Please fill out the form available here or call 020 3317 4200.
This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 edition of the Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive inspirational stories of recovery, just like Jenny and Steven’s, straight to your inbox, four times a year!