John Smee September’20

Free Mental Wellness Support Available

By John Smee
During my interview with Jason Balgopal the phrase “walk a mile in my shoes” came up over and over again.

And that is, in a nutshell, the essence of the services offered by Mental Wellness Peer Support Groups. A peer-to-peer support group that has grown from one meeting per month to hosting a meeting everyday Monday to Friday. The meetings are for those who face, or support those who face, mental health challenges.

And now due to Covid-19 they have moved their meetings online to provide virtual peer support.

Regardless of obstacles as a result of Covid the group(s) continue to thrive.

Started in 2015 by Jason, who from 2004 – 2014 was “challenged with a really strong case of depression”. While he was able to access the support of therapy and psychiatry he found there was nowhere to go to just simply talk with like-minded people.

With someone who has “walked a mile in my shoes.”

Someone other than his wife or extended family who are not doctors and could only help so much.

And so Jason started the Mental Wellness Peer Support Groups to be “one thread in a web of support.”

Modelled much like Alcoholics Anonymous – however, without a formal 12 step program or religious overtones – the group focuses on providing a safe space to talk and most importantly to share experiences and successes.

The group is more about support than therapy. Some people come week after week. Others come for six or seven weeks – get what they can from the group and move on.
The key, Jason tells me, is that “we don’t tell people what they should do, because we’re not doctors we try and phrase things in a suggestion ‘this worked well for me’” etc.

The group setting provides a safe space for members of the community to talk about mental wellness and mental health challenges and also to get feed back in the form of empathy and best practices from other people with lived experience. Those who have “walked a mile in their shoes”

Each session is general in nature. Again in keeping with the theme of support not therapy, no one particular mental wellness challenge dominates a group.

Each group is hosted by a facilitator , they “are members of the group. They are people who have had a wellness challenge, or continue to face one themselves. Our facilitators are going to be getting mental health first aid training this autumn. Our facilitators have real-world experience in peer-to-peer support.”

When they can, Jason tells me they are planning on returning to in- person meetings but for now things will have to remain virtual.

Before each meeting a video is played explains what the group is and what it is not.
For more information One group member has even chosen to include her “testimonial” about how the group has helped her.
To attend a meeting;
Or to simply get more information

All links are live in the electronic version of the paper.