The Power Of Peer Support

peer-support-groupOct 10th was World Mental Health Day and we conducted a full day Peer Support Meet to mark the occasion, the first time that we had organised it for for an entire day. As it so happened, the theme of this year’s WMHDay is Psychological First Aid and the Support people can provide to those in distress. So, you can see how relevant our meet was!

What are Peer Support Groups?
‘Peer support occurs when people provide knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help to each other. It commonly refers to an initiative consisting of trained supporters (although it can be provided by peers without training), and can take a number of forms such as peer mentoring, listening, or counseling.’ ~ Source: Wikipedia

You can learn more about Peer Support Groups on my latest column on DNA India on World Mental Health Day~ 5 Reasons Peer Groups provide a Powerful Support System

World-Mental-Health-DayThis meet was a first in many ways. Our regular monthly meets are informal meets at a cafe for a couple of hours. This was the very first full day meet organised at a hotel banquet hall, so that we could interact in privacy and without being disturb.

Also, this meet was different in that two professional caregivers joined us to answer our queries and to increase our knowledge base. These two compassionate individuals are already offering Online support via our Professional Help page. The live interaction with them in person was refreshing.

So, the meeting began on Sunday morning (Oct 9) with new members familiarising themselves with each other. I then began the day with a talk sharing my own journey, narrating my story of how I coped with the initial trauma after diagnosis and the methods I employed to regain normalcy after a long drawn out struggle.

Wise Bites~ ‘Even initially when I was in the pits, I was able to see the bigger picture. I believed that I was created to live life fully ~ Vijay Nallawala
I chose to interact with the members and address the points most relevant to them, from a peer’s point of view.

Wise Bites~ The initial part of the journey is the most difficult. The going gets better as one picks up more and more coping tips~ Vijay Nallawala

After a break for lunch, the afternoon session was reserved for the two charming and radiant ladies, Zeenat Bhardwaj and H’vovi Bhagwagar. Zeenat was the first to share her thoughts which revealed to us how much she believed in the power of Positive Thinking.

Wise bites~ We either live in the past or in the future. Can we live in this moment and enjoy it fully? ~ Zeenat Bhardwaj

Zeenat is a Certified Neuro Linguilstic Programming (NLP) Practitioner, Healer and has also zeenat-bhardwajdone her Masters in Psychology. Her talk was focused on how we would do well by shifting our mindsets to a more positive outlook. She firmly believes in the body’s incredible ability to heal itself of even serious illnesses. She cited interesting examples to make her point.

When she shared her own life journey, we realised how much strength she must have needed to retain this optimistic frame of mind despite what she had been through. She is a very compassionate human being by nature and evidence of that was provided by a Group member’s glowing recommendation of her mentoring which had turn his life around!

Wise Bite~ Don’t treat Bipolar Disorder as a heavy burden that you are carrying ~ Zeenat Bhardwaj

H’vovi Bhagwagar is a a highly qualified and vastly experienced Clinical Psychologist & Psychotherapist. She is also a practitioner of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Sensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy for Trauma patients (EMDR).

hvovi-bhagwagarWise Bites~ One Peer Support Group meet is equivalent to 10 sessions of psychotherapy~ such is the power of sharing experiences and coping tips~ Hvovi Bhagwagar

‘Since there are just 3000 Clinical Psychologists in India for 70 million mentally ill, the importance of Peer Support Groups comes to the fore. They act as a springboard toward recovery. Bipolar India is a pioneer in creating awareness and hosting such meets’ Hvovi

H’vovi explained to us how CBT is among the most powerful tools worldwide for dealing with Bipolar patients. She emphasised that since Bipolar Disorder is an organic condition, it must be treated by medicines as prescribed by a Psychiatrist. Also, psychotherapy alongwith treatment aids in recovery. Since Bipolar has no cure, managing the condition is the way to go.

She then gave us a masterclass in demystifying CBT so that we could understand its underlying principles. The link between problems, thoughts and reactions was explained to us. By altering our thought process, we could manage our emotions better.

Wise Bites~ Change your statement from ‘I am a Bipolar’ to ‘I have bipolar disorder’~ H’vovi.

To end the day on a lighter note, members were encouraged to share their skill sets or perform. So we had a vocalist singing a soulful song, a dance performance and a spellbinding storytelling session. Members have wowed to make such full day event a monthly affair.

So be it!