Support groups for people with depression – Australia

Throughout Australia, various non-government agencies, charities, local councils and other organisations run support groups for people experiencing depression. Many people spoke of their participation in such groups. Support groups proved to be a valuable resource for some, especially for those who felt unsupported by or unable to talk to their family and friends, or who wanted to connect with others with similar experiences.

Many men, particularly those reluctant to discuss their emotional experiences in other contexts, found male support groups valuable. They provided a safe environment for these men to share their experiences with others who ‘understood what depression was like’, offered emotional support, allowed people to discuss experiences and strategies that were helpful and those that were not, aided in learning and developing new skills, and proved to be an invaluable source of information. Some people who found the experience very helpful stayed on and remained involved for long periods of time. For Colin, participation in a male support group helped him to overcome his shyness and build self-confidence that he felt he had lacked his entire life. He also believed that helping others in the group was integral in regaining his self-esteem. For other men, being able to openly acknowledge their experiences of depression, share with others and receive support was a very positive experience.

For Colin, sharing his experiences of depression with other men in a supportive and trusting…

Age at interview 74

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 67

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Ron appreciated the safe and non-judgemental atmosphere of the support group that he attended for…

Age at interview 62

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 27

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Several women with experiences of perinatal depression found support groups did not cater to their needs. Discussing group members’ negative experiences that seemed to be worse, or different from their own did not help in dealing with their particular problems. Some were critical of the supposed benefits of craft activities that were offered in their respective support groups. A few new mothers also commented that getting organised to just attend support groups, amongst all their other daily tasks, further contributed to their distress, which diminished the beneficial aspects of attending such a group. However, for many being able to have 24 hour contact with a volunteer when they felt the need to talk to someone was critically important. Such services are often run through non-government organisations.

Emma says that attending a postnatal depression support group did not help, but telephone counselling through a non-government perinatal depression support group was invaluable.

Age at interview 33

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 32

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While struggling with the stress of motherhood, Jane found the experience ofsharing in the ‘joys of motherhood’ by attending playgroup with other mothers difficult. For her, participating in the structured environment of a psychologist-led support group for women experiencing perinatal depression run by her local council was particularly helpful. Being able to share her experiences with other women who were also finding motherhood difficult and being able to listen to their stories was useful.

Jane, who lacked family support, found sharing her experiences of struggling with early…

Age at interview 39

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 29

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A few people spoke of the importance of being emotionally ready to take part in a support group. For some a support group was only helpful after a significant amount of time had passed since the event in their lives that had contributed to their depression. Rosie described the emotional journey that followed the death of her older son. Initially her profound sense of loss meant that sharing stories of loss with other bereaved parents was impossible. However, she found that with time she regained emotional strength and was able to better understand and support others with similar experiences.

Rosie joined an organisation for bereaved parents following the death of her son. While telephone…

Age at interview 48

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 44

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A few older people said that they thought a support group would be beneficial for them, but due to mobility issues were not able to attend.

Comodors psychiatrist suggested he join a support group, as he was resistant to other treatments…

Age at interview 77

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 65

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People whose families had supported them throughout their experiences with depression discussed the possible benefits of support groups for the families of those with depression. Often their family’s distress compounded the problems that they themselves were experiencing. They commented that their families found coping difficult without external support and access to information. Dani, whose parents were her main support, thought they would benefit from participating in a support group.

Dani thought that while her parents were reluctant to attend a support group that it would have…

Age at interview 24

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 14

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Family, friends and partners

Many people spoke about the impact, both positive and negative, of friends, family and partners on their wellbeing. When supportive, families and friends were described...

Work and education

Work Many people spoke of the impact of depression on their working life - its effect on their ability to carry out their duties as...