Treating depression at a self-help group: Gary's story

Meeting others who understand your situation can be helpful when trying to deal with depression. A self-help group supported artist Gary Molloy, 48, from London, and gave him the strength to express himself.

Gary Molloy

“I’m an artist and I have bipolar affective disorder. Due to the side effects of my medication, I have high cholesterol, blood pressure issues and have put on weight. I was given one-to-one therapy from a counsellor-in-training I knew. When our sessions ended, she recommended I try a self-help group.

That’s the power of the group, we can express ourselves in a safe space away from the people who are involved and who know you

I found it difficult to express my feelings, so the concept was very daunting. I met with the head of the group beforehand and decided to try it. “The group I joined was a general mental health group. The people were varied, aged from their 20s to 80s and from all social backgrounds.

There’s a topic we discuss each time, such as expressing emotion, and people often share their stories, which is comforting. It’s very important that it’s strangers. People might think – why can’t you talk to your family? But that’s the power of the group, we can express ourselves in a safe space away from the people who are involved and who know you.

'Harmonia' by Gary Molloy

'Harmonia' by Gary Molloy

For the first few months I was quite quiet, but everyone was kind and reassured me that it takes a while to get used to it. It became a family dynamic, like a healthy family. Five years on, I feel very comfortable, connected and integrated within the group.

Sharing is so powerful. If we contain our negative feelings and thoughts, I think we trap them; if we let them out, it can really ease our symptoms. Hearing what happened to another person and how they dealt with it was so helpful with my depressive periods. “Your environment is key. If a plant is withering, you need to move it into the sun or change its environment. I started exercising and eating well, and set up a support network of people that I can express myself to.”

About self-help groups

It can be helpful to meet people who understand what you’re going through, and receive support from them or pass on advice or techniques that have worked for you. There are groups around the country for depression specifically and mental health in general.

Find mental health groups in England and Wales from the charity Mind.

Find your local Heart Support Group online, or call the Heart Matters Helpline on 0300 330 3311.

Get support from other heart patients through our online community.

More useful information