Bipolar Babe Mental Health Peer Support by Andrea Paquette

Bipolar Babe Mental Health Peer Support by Andrea Paquette
Photo Attribution: 
Goldstream Gazette

Peer support in my eyes is an effective and valuable tool for comforting the highs and lows that come with a mental illness.  I first started a support group for teens out of my home in 2009, and I simply contacted everyone I knew and invited those aged 15-25 to come and share their experiences.  I recall it being fabulous and fulfilling for all group participants and it continued on and off for a few months.  Soon an opportunity arose from the Vancouver Foundation to apply for an actual grant before and I did so on my own and was successful in securing $500 for a period of 3 months.  I rented space at the now Quadra Village Community Centre and recruited even more youth and we had 8-10 attended regularly; I called them the Teen2Twenties and the program still exists today under the umbrella of the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia (BDSBC).

Approximately two years ago, I felt a need for an adult group as many approached me, so I began another group at the same location, but by this time I was Executive Director of BDSBC.  I put a call out for participants and it seemed that for weeks all but women aged twenty-five plus attended thus began the Women’s 25+ peer support group!  Some may have thought it was bias, but even more voiced it was special and unique.  There is something wonderful about women gathering and discussing their feelings and reaching out to one another.  Women have expressed to me that they feel extra supported in the group setting and enjoy the female dynamic espousing a certain love for a mental health security net that is weaved by a loving sisterhood.  I have now left that group and facilitate the two others, but feel safe that I have cultivated it and it is ready to grow with other facilitators that I trust and love dearly.

The latest addition to our pod of great peer support is the Westshore mental health support group.  It is located in the heart of Langford and began on January 14, 2014.  It seemed numbers were bleak to begin, with three attending the first evening but being a training-ground day, I didn’t mind.  However, Black Press was kind enough to write a story in the paper in the Goldstream Gazette and put our little support group on the front page!  We have been getting ten participants a night ever since and we seem to be getting new faces every week!  Westshore is special to me as there is a lack of mental health services in the area and people have been very grateful.  I also had the pleasure of discussing the support group on CFAX with Terry Moore and a couple of new friends showed up and are very eager to become a part of the group. 

I have never felt so content in all of my life facilitating the Teens2Twenties and the Westshore Group as it has been fulfilling and wonderful to say the least.  There are facets to one’s security net of wellness and I assure you that peer support ought to be one of them.  Items such as medication, nutrition, exercise, and routine may be key for many, but peer support is just an added ingredient in a recipe of wellness and recovery.  The groups are encouraged to share their own stories, concerns, and experiences with each other to create an environment for healing and self-expression. A key objective of the peer support program is to emphasize each individual’s strengths to empower them to make choices that will better their lives through self- care, self-esteem and lifestyle.

It is empowering when a participant expresses that they often self-isolate but are able and willing to come to group for they feel safe there.  Another has told me that group is her life-line and she feels that she would not be well without it.  The stories of success and recovery have been amazing and I am so proud that the society’s peer support groups have helped so many people.
If you are interested in attending one of our support groups please contact Andrea at babe@bipolarbabe.com and ask for more information or let us know you are coming!
All groups support those with any mental Illness or those struggling with a perceived mental health issue.  We are here to help you.

Peer Support Location Details:

Teen2Twenties:
• Every Wednesday
• 7:00-8:30 PM
• Quadra Village Community Center at 901 Kings Road, Victoria, BC

Women’s 25+
• Every Tuesday
• 7:00-8:30 PM
• Quadra Village Community Center at 901 Kings Road, Victoria, BC

Westshore Support Group
• Every Tuesday
• 7:00-8:30 PM
• Centennial Centre, 2805 Carlow Road – Off Goldstream, across from Spencer School

Thank you and hope to see you there!

Visit www.bipolarbabe.com for more information.

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