New support group for mood disorders

The Mood Disorders Association of B.C. has initiated a North Island support group for people

The Mood Disorders Association of B.C. has initiated a North Island support group for people suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar and related disorders. The first weekly meeting is June 30 in Campbell River, but facilitator Douglas Sewell hopes a group can eventually take shape in Courtenay as well.

“It’s very much needed,” Sewell said. “Something’s got to be done about this stuff. I know it’s difficult for people that have mood disorders. They don’t want to go to a first event.”

“Usually the first conversation is the toughest,” said Lisa Murphy, Island Health’s director of mental health and substance use for Central/North Island. “It’s like any difficult conversation, I think, initiating it is the toughest part.”

Roughly one in five Canadians will suffer a significant episode of depression during their lives. In Sewell’s case, he has struggled with bipolar disorder since his teen years. A combination of medications has helped. But he has also managed to break the habit of “auto-pilot thinking” by way of mindfulness, a meditative practice that helps put a stop to “ruminating thoughts.”

“It’s about breaking out now and moving in the present,” Sewell said. “That’s why mindfulness for mood disorders is just like the miracle treatment. They combine it with cognitive behavioural therapy.”

An initial resource could be a family doctor, though participating in a support group might be an easier first step for someone suffering anxiety or depression.

“It takes a lot of courage, and a lot of self-disclosure, really, because you’re going there for a reason,” said Catherine St. Denis, acting executive director at the Mood Disorders Association. “We have people who say that the support groups saved their lives. It’s anecdotal evidence that support groups work. How can you hear anything better than, ‘The support group saved my life?’ Often, our support groups are the only place that people can speak openly.”

The first group meeting begins at 2:30 p.m., Thursday, June 30 at the Campbell River Community Centre, Room #2.

Sewell hopes to incorporate guest speakers at the sessions. In time, he also hopes groups can form for youth and for families.

“Support groups are about sharing the journey,” Sewell said.

The association is looking for a volunteer co-facilitator to help start a support group in Courtenay.

For more information, contact Sewell at 778-418-2012, 250-204-7077 or

Visit or

In Courtenay, Island Health offers a public education service Tuesdays from 1:30-3 p.m. at 941C England Ave. These sessions could, for instance, focus on stress reduction, mindfulness or early symptoms of depression.

Murphy also encourages the public to use the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.

“It’s a very, very safe way to start the conversation,” she said.

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