Idiot's guide to starting a depression support group
May 18, 2011 10:04 AM Subscribe
Looking to start my own in-person depression support group, but have zero background in social work or psychology. What pitfalls should I be aware of?
posted by sureshot to health & fitness (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, so there’s a guy in my neighborhood who’s trying to launch a new nonprofit foundation, one aimed at helping men who suffer from depression. His idea is a pretty simple one: basically, to raise awareness about the ways depression affects men and to encourage guys to talk to one another more about their emotional struggles. The theory is that men fear more the stigma of depression, that they often ignore or lie about their symptoms, and that even if they acknowledge their emotional struggles, they often lack a circle of buddies with whom they can talk things out. So the goal of the foundation is to weaken the stigma, to gather men together to discuss their depression, and to hopefully form a social network where guys can “check in” with one another for commiseration and support. In other words, get guys out of the depression closet and find strength in one another.
A longtime sufferer of depression myself, I thought it was a great idea. I immediately contacted this guy to get involved. Turns out, I’m not the only one who did. He told me he’s been contacted by about a dozen local guys, all of whom are still in the closet regarding their depression, who are looking for some support. He said he’d like to meet with them as a group, but he’ll be gone all summer, traveling the country to raise money and awareness for his project. Plus, he’s always envisioned an online depression management system, as opposed to an in-person support group, and most of his initial efforts will be focused on building a web community.
So he asked me if I’d be willing to step up and organize a meeting or two, just until he returns from his travels. I’d love to do it; I’ve long been frustrated by my depression treatment options and have often fantasized about starting my own support group.
But how to go about it? I have no training in social work. And my concern is that, if I called a meeting, it might just dissolve into some meandering, four-hour mope fest.
So what should I do? How should I go about planning a first meeting? Should I do it AA-style, where everyone introduces himself and gets ten minutes to tell his story? What other models might I look at? Is it acceptable to sort of make it up as I go, admitting to the group that I’m inexperienced and have only a loose agenda?
Basically, I want to avoid a blind-leading-the-blind scenario. Any tips would be hugely appreciated. If you’ve done this before—or if you’d like to get involved (I’m in Minneapolis)—please MeMail me. If you’ve been in crappy support groups before, please tell me what didn’t work. Or if you’re in one that rocks, I’d love to hear about that, too.