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Depression support groups

Depression: Vanessa's story

Media last reviewed: 29/08/2013

Next review due: 29/08/2015

Depression can make you feel isolated. Many people with depression find it helpful to meet with other people who understand what it's like. This is called peer support.

Self-help groups for depression

If self-help groups are not for you, there may be other types of peer support for you to try.

"People often say it's helpful to be able to talk to someone who understands their perspective," says Pam Todd, membership services co-ordinator for Depression Alliance, a charity that provides support to people affected by depression. "The realisation that you're not alone is very important."

"Many people say they feel ashamed about being depressed," says Pam. "When they meet other people with depression and realise that there are other competent individuals who suffer from depression, it can really help their self-esteem."

Self-help groups allow people with depression to provide as well as receive help. "Joining a self-help group can make people feel in control of their health," says Pam. "People in these groups support one another, which can help their self-confidence."

What type of peer support groups are there?

Depression Alliance specialises in providing support to people affected by depression. It has a national network of self-help groups. Visit the Depression Alliance website for more information about self-help support groups. You can phone 0845 123 2320 to ask for an information pack including a printed list of Depression Alliance groups. Depression Alliance can help you to set up a group if there isn’t one in your area.

Finding the right group for you may require some research. If you've become depressed while suffering from a long-term illness, disability or while caring for someone, you may prefer to join a group of people with the same condition or in the same position as you. Contact an organisation that provides support for people affected by the condition. To find out how to meet other carers, ring the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.

Attending a self-help group can be a big step and often one that people only feel able to make when they're relatively well. Ask your GP, local psychological therapy team or visit the Mind website for information about groups in your area (Mind is a mental health charity).

Once you have a shortlist of groups that appeal to you, make contact with the facilitator or co-ordinator of each group. Find out where and when they meet and what sort of activities they organise to see if it's right for you.

What happens at a depression support group meeting?

Sitting and talking isn't the only thing that happens at meetings. Many Depression Alliance groups invite speakers and organise social events.

"Going to a meeting for the first time can be daunting, but groups are very welcoming to new members," says Pam.

"All sorts of people attend. A lot of men have set up Depression Alliance groups and go to meetings despite the stereotype that men are less likely to seek help than women."

Other ways of finding support and supporting others

Attending a group and talking to other people who have experienced depression is not for everyone. There are other forms of peer support that can help you cope with depression.

Pen-friends and online forums for people with depression

Both Depression Alliance and Depression UK, another charity that provides support for people affected by depression, have pen-friend schemes for members. These are especially useful for people who don't have internet access or who prefer letters and postcards to email.

Depression Alliance, Depression UK and Sane all have online forums where you can read about other people's experiences, write about your own and respond or comment to other postings.

Big White Wall is an online service for people experiencing common distressing mental health problems. It uses social networking to foster a community of people, who are supported by trained 'wall guides' so that they can manage their own mental health.

Pursuing your interests

Being with other people who share your interests can also help you feel better. You can use the internet or local newspapers to look up classes or activities in your area that you might enjoy. This could be an evening course in photography, singing in a choir or playing in a local sports team.

Volunteering

Many people experience feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem when they’re depressed. Helping other people by doing voluntary work is one good way of feeling useful and valued. There are all sorts of ways you can volunteer.

Time banks are an innovative way of volunteering your time and skills. You offer your skills in return for credits, which you can then use to buy someone else's services. For example, you could offer three hours of gardening and in exchange receive a one-hour language lesson and a two-hour beauty treatment from other members of the time bank.

Ask your GP about time banks in your area. There are some specialist time banks that have been set up by health service providers. Visit the Timebanking UK website to find out what's available in your area.

Further help and information about depression

Joining a self-help group is one of many ways to help you cope with depression. It isn't an alternative to medical help for depression. There are many treatment options (including talking therapies, antidepressant medication and self-help of various kinds) for depression.

If you’ve been feeling down for more than two weeks, visit your GP to discuss your symptoms. They will be able to tell you about the choice of treatment available and advise you on what might be the most suitable for you.


Page last reviewed: 03/01/2014

Next review due: 03/01/2016

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

tommyod said on 16 July 2014

Im really struggling with depression i dontknow where to go to get help , im struggling talking tp people face to face feel like im letting everyone down

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