Treating depression with fellowship


For those experiencing depression, sometimes, the holidays can be especially rough.

Financial pressures, awkward familial interactions and Seasonal Affective Disorder are just a few of the challenges put in front of millions of Americans every year.

But finding a support system of people who understand what they’re going through can be make a difference, according to local leaders of a support group meant to help those who might be struggling.

Many in Santa Clarita have turned to Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance meetings offered locally, which provide a nonjudgmental space to talk through struggles.

“We want them to feel comfortable when they are here,” co-founder Jeff Fox said.

Mainly, the group aims to ensure those dealing with these trials don’t feel isolated, and providing support is vital, said Fox, who said one of the reasons he got involved was peer support for people like himself, who struggle with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This time of the year,” he added, “it gets real hard.”

Additionally, the group helps members walk away with a better understanding of their depression or disorder, according to group facilitator Dennis Bartash.

“The group definitely serves as a source of fellowship between the people,” Bartash said, who himself has bipolar disorder said. “It helped me, and I felt the need to want to help other people.”

The Santa Clarita group branched off an existing chapter in Northridge. When organizers saw the need in the SCV, they decided to start a group in Canyon Country about a year ago, which will be chartered soon.

Soon, the founders are looking to set up another chapter at College of the Canyons to cater to students’ needs.

“Bringing the group on campus would be really helpful for students,” Larry Schallert, assistant director of Student Health and Wellness/ Mental Health at College of the Canyons, said Wednesday.

Though data does not show any more suicides occur during the holiday months than any other time during the year, according to The Dana Foundation, Schallert said depression and stress can intensify.

Especially during this time, Schallert encourages people to take advantage of counseling sessions and surround themselves with a good community.

He also recommends self care, including eating well, limiting alcohol consumption, planning schedules well, exercising, going outside and pursuing volunteer opportunities.

Comprised of people of all ages and careers, the group includes college students, teachers, nurses, musicians and everyone in between.

“It’s amazing who it affects,” Fox said, “and how it affects them.”

The support group meets at Temple Beth Ami at 23023 Hilse Lane every Monday from 7 to 9 p.m. and is open to anyone who is experiencing depression or a mental illness. Loved ones of those facing a problem are invited to join them. For more information about the local group, call (818) 850-3272.

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