ST. ANTHONY, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
T.J. Smith knows how important it is to speak out about mental health issues. Now, he’s hoping to give other people the opportunity to open up and share their experiences.
To that end, Smith is starting a Peer Support Group for people with mental health issues.
The first meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23 in St. Anthony.
The meetings will provide an informal setting for those who wish to attend, allowing them to discuss mental health in a non-judgmental, confidential environment.
Smith says he’s recognized a need for greater mental health awareness and services since returning home to live in St. Anthony in January 2018.
“I won’t say there’s a lack of services, but definitely more can be done for people in the area, especially in rural areas in Newfoundland,” he told The Northern Pen.
Smith hopes the group will supplement and provide another option to mental health and addictions resources offered at the hospital.
Smith says he frequently receives messages from people looking for help or advice around mental health.
He believes a support group would help.
“I think having a Peer Support Group where more people can come out and create a community of support with each other would be beneficial to people in recovery and fighting their battles,” he said.
Smith has been open about his own struggles with mental health issues. In January 2016, he was diagnosed with severe depression and checked into a Nova Scotia hospital to begin his recovery.
Since then, he’s decided to share his story. Smith knows talking about it has helped him.
“For years, I didn’t talk about it. I kept it in and it gets the better of you eventually,” he said. “Talking about it has been great for me.”
It wasn’t easy at first.
“I was fearful, I was uncertain what people may think, I was uncertain the reaction I might get,” he said. “So, it was very difficult to do that, but very glad I did do that. It’s been very, very helpful for my recovery and helping other people as well.”
Smith hopes his story can inspire others.
“I guess I’m an example that if you want to battle, if you want to get the help and if you want to get through it, you can,” he said. “Where I’ve been through it myself and came through it on the good side of things, I want to help other people who are struggling and reassure them that there is hope, the recovery is a long road but it’s definitely a road that people can get on.”
Smith says each meeting will be centered around a different subject, but the course of conversation will be dictated by the participants.
“It might go off on a tangent some nights, depending on what people want to discuss,” he said.
Given his own experiences, Smith knows how difficult it can be to speak up about these issues. He says no one attending will be forced to talk and they can just sit and listen if they wish.
Meetings will also be open to family members. Smith says he may have his own parents attend a meeting to give their perspective.
Smith says after the first meeting they’ll determine whether to continue with weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings.
Readers can visit Smith’s blog at http://tjsmithfight5.blogspot.com to learn more about his experiences with mental health. Smith has also started a Facebook page for the group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/mentalhealthpeergroup/
Anyone looking for more information can contact Smith at (902) 599-0086 or (709) 454-8551 or by email at email@example.com.