Helping mental health sufferers
Chelsea Nicholson wanted a safe place to talk about her bipolar disorder with people who could understand what she was going through.
But the 27-year-old struggled to find support in the community, so she decided to set up a group for people with depression and bipolar disorder to share experiences and learn about mental health.
Ms Nicholson said: “It definitely has helped me. I know of the different resources I otherwise wouldn’t have known.
“Also, some of the ways that people help themselves wouldn’t be information they would necessarily get from a doctor or a psychiatrist because they aren’t going through the same thing.
“It’s just nice to be free and let go. If you talk to your doctor about hearing voices, they might just get very worried and want to put you on pills.”
She decided to start the support group for depression and bipolar disorder, which causes periods of depression and elevated moods, after a “slight episode” last year.
Ms Nicholson, from Paget, said: “I was hearing voices saying you can fly, you can fly.
“As I had lapsed my medication and I was in such a high mood, I believed them and I was going to jump off the balcony of the fifth floor of the building where I was working at the time.
“Thankfully, I had some colleagues who convinced me that I probably couldn’t fly.”
She was sent to the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute for an assessment and slowly learnt to get a handle on her mental state.
“When I came out of MWI, I was asking them what is there for people like me who have bipolar. My family was great but they didn’t understand what I was going through.
“I didn’t necessarily want to go to a psychiatrist or a counsellor. I wanted to talk to other people who have something similar to what I have and share our stories.”
She wasn’t able to find anything to fit the bill and after a couple of weeks decided to set up a support group with the help of a counsellor at Benedict Associates. The support group met for the first time in February and about 50 people attended.
Ms Nicholson said: “The reception to the first meeting was really good. It was mostly through word-of-mouth so it was quite a good turnout.
“We started to advertise a bit more because I know for people with depression it can be hard to get out and leave the house.”
The meetings do not follow a strict format; some feature guest speakers, while others are group discussions or social outings.
Ms Nicholson said: “Most importantly, we provide a safe place for people to talk and relax without feeling judged.”
Although the group is mainly for people who have, or suspect they have, depression and bipolar, family members are also welcome, especially when there are guest speakers.
Ms Nicholson added: “Other weeks could be just for people with depression and bipolar because I know that it’s a bit difficult if you suffer from anxiety or anything else to find something out there for you.
“Hopefully you could come to one of our meetings and maybe listen to a guest lecture or one of our meetings and find a little bit of help through that.”
Ms Nicholson said the group is also not limited to people with depression and bipolar disorder “because there is not very much out there in terms of mental health support groups”.
She said: “Don’t feel like you have absolutely no place to go. We may not speak specifically about your condition but we have lots of different guest speakers who can speak about mental health in general.”
She also urged people not to feel ashamed about what they may have done in their past.
Ms Nicholson said: “We don’t care, we’ve all done things. We’ve all had different ways of coping throughout this and we’ve expressed that, we talk about that. There is no judgment.”
And she added: “I want all of Bermuda to know that there is help and support out there for those with depression and bipolar disorder. Please do not suffer in silence.”
The support group meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at the Red Cross in Paget from 6pm to 7.30pm.
Tomorrow’s guest speaker is Hannah Jones, a registered dietitian with Island Nutrition.
• or more information, contact Chelsea on 707-1336 or e-mail email@example.com
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