KEEPING CALM: Kath Ives says writing in her journal is one of the many ways she looks after her mental health.
KEEPING CALM: Kath Ives says writing in her journal is one of the many ways she looks after her mental health. Liana Walker

LOOK INSIDE: The unique role of peer mental health groups

PEOPLE come and go, roles change and numbers fluctuate.

Peer-led mental health groups take on a unique structure according to Kath Ives, who is currently performing a leadership role in Stanthorpe-based group Happy Chat.

Mrs Ives said the group was ever-changing due to the nature of mental health and illness.

"The group has been running for about five years now,” she said.

"It just depends on people's own mental health and circumstances. I am doing my stint at the moment because I am well.”

Mrs Ives has a lived experience of depression and also cares for her husband with schizophrenia.

She said people need not be ashamed of their mental health problems.

According to the Australian Medical Association, 45 per cent of Australians aged 16 to 85 will experience a common mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety in their lifetime.

"They majority of people recover if they get the help they need and if they don't recovery completely there is a level of recovery,” she said.

"Reducing stigma is the first way to helping people ask for help and support when they need it.”

While the number of people who drop in on any given week may change, Mrs Ives said the welcoming, friendly environment was constant.

"We link up with the Foodbank and put on some really nice food, and you might have a game of pool, a mindful meditation or a game of chess,” Mrs Ives said.

"It's really about maintaining friendships and making sure people aren't isolated.”

Warwick psychologist Mark Cary said peer support groups had an important role in a holistic response to mental health treatment, but were not a substitute for professional care.

"I think they fill a niche and they are a great thing but sometimes you need specialist mental health care like social workers and psychologists who provide that expert advice,” he

said.

To get involved or donate money to the Warwick Demented Artists Gorup, contact Corina Graham on 0478647331.

Happy Chat have drop-in sessions every Tuesday from 10:30am at 15 Hilton St in Stanthorpe.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by this story, you can get immediate help 24/7 - phone Lifeline on 131114 or beyondblue on 1300224636.



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