"[I wanted to be a facilitator] because I've suffered with depression mainly my whole life and because I was a drug addict -- and that is another mental illness -- and because I want to help other people get help before they get into the situation that I got into and get in trouble," White said. "I think [this group] is needed so people can come together with other people that are going [through] the same thing.
"Everybody [is not] going to have the same issues as everybody [else] because there's going to be some people in there that are going to have schizophrenia and there might not be another person in there [who does] but we have been trained to be able to help them. And I think it would be better for people, especially [those diagnosed with] depression or [if] they're battling with their mental illness or battling with addiction, to be able to come in and talk with other people that are [also] battling with it."
The support group was spearheaded by mental health advocate Bob Poston, when he saw a need for this type of program through his involvement with Bartow Against Narcotics. Along with being the BAN's treasurer and the commander of the Vietnam Veterans of Bartow County, he also is the county's representative for Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities' Region 1 office that assists in mental health, developmental disabilities and addictive diseases services for 31 counties. Starting this week, the support group -- which is free of charge to attendees -- will meet each Wednesday, 7:15 p.m., at 320 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville.
"We want to help adults with mental illness cope and overcome the stigma of mental illness," Poston said. "Statistics show that one out of four people will now have a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their life, whether it be severe depression, a diagnosis of bipolar. It's a support group. First they check in [and say their name and diagnosis]. Then after each one checks in, [the discussion] goes around again and they can say a little bit more or they can ask the group or group leader [a question] or just state any problems that they had during the week or issues that they're facing.
"We have several different charts that we use. ... We try to guide that person into coming to their own conclusion as to what they need to do. This method tries to get the individual to come up with their own solutions. ... For example, somebody might say, 'I've been having trouble with my medicines,' and somebody else in the group [might say] 'I had that problem too and I discovered when I took my medicines I didn't have as many bouts with my bipolar as I did. So you might want to consider taking it.' So if it's not on the chart, we'll go to something else called group wisdom. We'll ask, 'Is there anybody else here who may have had that problem?'
Along with White and Poston, the group's other facilitators are Levi Stewart, Roy Wilson, Don Poston, John Zirkelbach Jr., Brian Mannius, Merrell Pratt and Barbara Pratt. The nine individuals recently received training at two workshops presented by Mental Health First Aid USA and National Alliance on Mental Illness.
"The goal [of the recovery support group] is twofold. [We want] to help people cope with their mental illness," Poston said. "Some folks have a permanent issue and others have temporary depression. It might be a mid-life crisis or a sixth-month bout with depression, and then they've got somebody to talk to and a place they can come. It's totally confidential. Nothing leaves the room. Our goal is to help them through that and folks that have a long-term issue may just need the support and somebody to listen. You don't just talk to anybody about your mental illness if you have a mental illness."
For more information about joining the group or becoming a facilitator, call Poston at 678-986-1702.