Experiences of depression and recovery in Australia

Support groups

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Last reviewed January 2016.
Last updated January 2016.


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