Mental Health Peer Support Group

Independent Perspective 1720 with Marie Therese on the "Mental Health Peer Support Group"

HostWelcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Marie Therese, Primary Organizer and Facilitator of the Mental Health Peer Support Group. And I'm your host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program Marie Therese.

Guest:  Thank you Ernie for having me.

Host:  It's our pleasure. Your group has been around in one way or other for many years, although you had a different base of operations for a while; old timers might remember you as the Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Bipolar Group but you decided to simplify and now and be more inclusive and now you're the Mental Health Peer Support Group. Could you please tell first, if you could remind us when and where you meet, and we can repeat it at the end of the show?

Guest:  Sure. We meet every Monday night at the WNYIL. We meet from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in person, which is a nice feature because many of the peer support groups that are out there are not meeting in person at this time. We run the group for any anyone with any type of mental health challenge. You don't even need to have a specific diagnosis. Again, it's peer run. So, we're there as peers to support each other in every way that we can. Anything that anyone shares at the group is completely confidential and will never be repeated. Everyone gets a chance to share with whatever is on their mind. We do keep track of time to make sure that everyone gets the same amount of time to share. Some of the comments in anticipating this interview today, I asked the group important things to mention. And some of the things that they highlighted were that we're an accepting group. It's very conversational, we're very welcoming. And people often feel like family. We have a relevant topic that we have every other group and in the off groups when we don't have a topic, we have an open discussion group where you can talk about anything you'd like. The topics generally are suggested by group members. And we do try to send those topics out through email before every group that we have a topic and we read them together at group. One of the things we do tell people who are checking out our group for the first time is you don't have to say a word. You can come, you can listen, see if this is a good fit for you. Even if that involves a couple of times coming to a group and just listening. We encourage each other to share and we work hard on giving each other positive feedback, which makes a big difference when you are revealing some of the challenges that you go through in your life. It's been especially important during the pandemic to be there for people when people have not had contact with a lot of people otherwise. We generally average between 12 to 15 people. If we get more than 14 people, we split the group in half to make sure that everyone has a chance to talk during that two-hour timeframe.

Host:  Well, that's a lot of information. If people have questions, where can they call to get a hold of you?

Guest:  They can call me at 716-435-0238 and when they call I'm just there to answer any questions they might have, to give them basic information, also to get their email address if they're comfortable giving it to me, and then I can put them on an email list. They'll get a reminder email before every group. And when we have a topic, I send that topic in advance as well.

Host:  Great. And in case people didn't have a pencil handy if you could remind us of the when and the where of the group.

Guest:  Yes, every Monday night at the WNYIL at 3108 Main Street. We meet from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. And when the center is closed for any Monday holidays, we do have a phone group.

Host:  Wow. That really sounds like you've thought out everything.

Guest:  Well, we, we try.

Host:  Well, it certainly sounds like a well-planned and well involved group and we very much appreciate you sharing the information with our listeners.

Guest:  Well, thank you for having us and anyone who would like to come to our group is certainly welcome.

Host:  Thanks so much.

Guest:  You’re welcome.

Host:  Certainly. You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today was Marie Therese, Primary Organizer and Facilitator of the Mental Health Peer Support Group and your host was yours truly, Ernie Churchwell.