Group helps balance the tough times

By Melissa Nightingale

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EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE: Whanganui District Health Board chair Dot McKinnon listens to mental health patients talk about their experiences.
EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE: Whanganui District Health Board chair Dot McKinnon listens to mental health patients talk about their experiences.

A Rangitikei man says he spent "five years in darkness" before a mental health service pulled him out.

"Five years, I sat in total darkness because there was nobody to help me," the man told Whanganui District Health Board members at their first meeting of the year on Friday.

"This is the first year that I've been able to come out of the house, reintroduce myself to the world."

The man's trek back to the light was brought about by support group Balance Whanganui, in partnership with the health board.

Balance Whanganui has been running a programme called Wellness Fridays, in which a group of Rangitikei-based people get together for activities.

Group members made the trip to Whanganui on Friday to share their experience with the board, as part of a "patient stories" scheme in which they have a patient share their experiences at each full board meeting.

"It's very important to us that we don't get just filtered information," board chairwoman Dot McKinnon said.

"It's been, at times, very emotional when people tell you about some of the things that have been happening to them."

Wellness Fridays get the group of people who suffer from mental health issues out of the house and socialising with others.

One woman said in a video she had been "quite isolated", and since joining the group "found my confidence has increased".

Another man spoke of his anxiety and depression, and feeling himself "not being worthy to life in general".

"Since I was tied up with the Wellness Fridays group ... it's given me a meaning for life. On Fridays it gives me a purpose to get out of bed, get ready," he said.

"We've all got something in common. The overall goal is still the same."

The woman from the video told the board the members of the group "all build up to Friday".

"It takes a lot to get over it the next day ... the exercise group is full on."

She said the group covered all aspects of health - mental, spiritual, and physical.

"We've all seen improvement in all of us, comparing our tummies and muscle tone."

The woman said she had no personal transport, and the group had been a "life-saver" for her. "I think this initiative is absolutely fantastic."

The WDHB provides a mini-bus to transport everyone.

Another man said the service taught them skills they could use at home and pass on to their own family members, to help them be "the best support for us".

The group has become tight-knit, and members feel able to share their feelings with each other in a way they couldn't necessarily do at home.

The group of roughly 10 people sat in the boardroom while a video was played, in which some of them spoke about Wellness Fridays' effect on their lives and health.

Then board members asked questions of the group, who took turns sharing insight into their personal feelings and experiences.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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