by Peggy Rice
The first time I walked into peer support group for people who struggled with depression, I immediately felt safe. The group at the table understood me, even though all I did was introduce myself. They fought the same battles I did, but were in different places on the journey. Some were more depressed than I was; some were mentally healthy. But all could relate to the struggles I faced: the hopelessness, the darkness, the loneliness. They all “got” me.
That’s one of the things about Support Groups offered by Fresh Hope. The people who attend either have a mental health issue or love someone who does. They “get” me. Even if the diagnoses are different as we go around the table and introduce ourselves, we all have faced the challenge of living with a brain disorder that has interrupted our lives. We all have faced stigma, maybe been afraid to tell anyone what we’re feeling for fear that we’ll be judged as less than capable, less than whole. We all have felt the isolation and burden of a mental health diagnosis in our lives.
But one huge advantage that Fresh Hope offers that other support groups don’t is that they offer Hope. Hope that we can live well in spite of having a mental health diagnosis. It’s not just a group that gripes and complains about what we’re going through, but one that is grounded in the sure and confident Hope of Christ. Hope in the saving work of Christ on the Cross. While the group won’t preach, and it’s not a Bible study, it is established in values and recovery principles (we call them Tenets) that are Biblically –based.
The group offers a safe place to share what is going on in my life, and offers me encouragement. The members share what worked for them in similar situations, so I can see how to apply practical steps to my recovery. They offer accountability, and a place where it’s safe to be honest about my struggles. They celebrate with me and my successes. They keep my confidence – “what is said here stays here.”
The teaching topics are relevant to mental health challenges. We use a variety of resources – books, videos, discussion questions. We spend time relating to each other, either as those with a diagnosis, or as loved ones. We also share as a large group, so that we can learn what others are going through, and the perspectives of each other in the battle.
I’m a facilitator for my local Fresh Hope Group. I’m someone with lived experience – a peer – who is in a healthy place in my own mental health journey. I’ve gone through training offered by Fresh Hope in how to facilitate a small group, and I genuinely care about each member who attends. I feel called by God to this position, as a way to give back to the Lord for the healing He’s done in my life. I’m blessed to be part of a Fresh Hope Support Group.
If you struggle with a mental health challenge, or if you love someone who does, you might consider joining a Fresh Hope for Mental Health Support Group. Check out https://freshhope.us/fh-groups/find-a-group/ You’ll find them offered in person in many different places in the US, indeed around the world, and online groups for those who don’t have one in their immediate area.
May God richly bless you as you journey toward mental health wellness!