Peer support program starts back up in Bunbury

GROW program worker Michelle Fiorenza hopes people attend the sessions to help improve their mental health.
GROW program worker Michelle Fiorenza hopes people attend the sessions to help improve their mental health.

A unique peer support program which aims to improve people's mental health has started back up in Bunbury.

The GROW support group does not have a facilitor as such as people are guided by a group method card which outlines how the meeting should go.

Program worker Michelle Fiorenza said the meetings allowed people to educate one another on a better way of looking at problem.

"We look at the blue book which has different wisdoms in it and was written by people struggling with mental health," she said.

"They [writers] were inadequate to deal with certain stresses in life and were asking 'what are we missing that others can glide through problems that we can't?'".

The GROW program was set up in the late 1950s by a man named Con Keogh who went to an AA meeting after he had been in hospital and was mentally unwell and could not cope with life.

"He realised the AA meeting did not suit his needs because he did not have an alcohol problem, he had a mental health problem," she said.

Ms Fiorenza said similar to AA, the GROW program was based on 12 steps, and that the first step was getting people to admit they have a personal disorder.

She said the book provides a positive slant and gives you skills to use in different situations.

"For me, before I came to grow if things weren't perfect I would just give up," Ms Fiorenza said.

But as she started reading through the blue book she found advice that worked for her.

"There is something in the book that says it is ok to make mistakes to get better," Ms Fiorenza said.

Ms Firoenza first become involved in GROW over seven years ago and while she had a break from it for a couple years, she wants to see the group back up and running in Bunbury.

GROW has also started in Busselton, with leader Alan Coyne who previously benefited from the program.

"Back in 2001 I had a motorcycle accident and received severe brain injuries, as a consequence I came out of Shenton Park Hospital after being in a coma for three months and I was depressed," he said.

"I did not realise I was.

"With head injuries you automatically go onto antidepressants, because I was not focused in my mind at the time I should not have been allowed out of hospital had I known what was going to happen in the future."

Mr Coyne said when he realised how much medication he was taking he threw away his antidepressants because he did not think he was depressed.

"Obviously that is not the way you come down from antidepressants, I just crashed big time. My doctor was helping me and she asked if I had ever heard of GROW."

Mr Coyne said he went along and met GROW program worker Michele Fiorenza in 2008 who helped him recover.

"I went along to GROW with no self confidence and one of the things that Michele kept reminding me of, was part of the program was learning about the program," he said.

"It helped me with my self confidence, just everything. It brought me out of depression.

"It is just a magnificent thing, you do not have to be depressed to appreciate or get something from GROW.

"I went through a pretty horrendous life experience and it was GROW that saved me and now all I want to do is give back."

People interested in the program can attend sessions on a Monday from 10am -12pm at the City of Bunbury Library in the activity room.

There will also be a night session held at St John of God Hospital conference room 1 from 6-8pm.

For more information you can call Michelle on 0422 840 336.