People fighting depression TOGETHER

HELLENIC ASSOCIATION FOR MOOD DISORDERS “MAZI” (“together” in Greek), is a non-profit organization established at 2010 by the majority of people with personal experience (patients and relatives) with Mood Disorders, friends of these people and professional experts with a special interest to participate in the effort of the association. The aim of the association is to support, empower and inform people suffering from mood disorder, their families and friends. The main vehicle for achieving this goal was the creation and support self-help groups for people with Mood Disorder.

In various foreign countries such groups (self-help or support groups) already count several years of experience and have proven their importance for effective self-management of Mood Disorders (in addition to any treatment). MAZI aspired to fill this gap in Greece. At this moment there are 3 groups in Athens and one in Thessaloniki. The ultimate goal is the creation and support of a nationwide network of regional annexes empowerment of people with mood disorder and mental health promotion.

During the meet ups of MAZI’s self-help groups, the participants share their experiences, personal feelings, information and strategies that have been developed to deal with mood disorder and live a fulfilling life. These sessions are about peer-support through sharing personal experiences, knowledge, concerns, worries and strategies.

Participants are people who have been diagnosed with mood disorder (Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Bipolar Disorder I and II and cyclothymic disorder). The groups often include relatives and friends of people with mood disorder. These groups do not have a therapeutic clinical role and therefore do not replace or supersede any medical, psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment that the participants may receive.

There are no expert lectures and no self-pity parties. These self-help groups are meet ups of optimism, hope and encouragement. The specific objectives of the programme are:

  • to support and encourage members in regaining control and improving the quality of their lives and their relationships.
  • to provide an environment of emotional support, which reduces isolation and alienation, moderates despair and increases optimism, personal responsibility and self-acceptance.
  • to help members extract greater joy and satisfaction from life, in spite of difficulties, obstacles, frustrations and setbacks.
  • to help members learn and practice new, more effective and satisfactory ways of relating to others.

It is a collective and individual responsibility of each group member to make the discussion a safe place for sharing. We respect confidentiality, treating each other with respect, courtesy, understanding and compassion. Anyone wishing to share something has the opportunity to do so, with no participant monopolising the group’s time. The group allows each participant to speak without interruptions and side conversations. Everything said there, stays there, following the prime rule of confidentiality which must be respected and observed by all. This rule is only lifted when a member declares that it intends to do harm to himself/herself or to others.

It is OK to share, but whoever doesn’t want to, is not obliged to do it. We are all equal, and no distinctions are permitted on the basis of gender, race or age. Everyone has the right to their own opinion and tries not to impose the accuracy or uniqueness of these views. We use the “I” language (or “I message”), we don’t teach, command or advise others. We only share our experiences, ie. “according to my own experience, it is very helpful to…” rather than “what you should do…”

This is not a program based on the “12 step” principle (ie. Alcoholics Anonymous). MAZI holds that each person has the knowledge and ability to find his personal path to ‘cure’. Hence, the groups are not based on any particular theoretical approach, except the value of established self-help and peer-support in a safe and non-critical environment.

From October 2014 until April 2016, MAZI participated as main partner in the program ''Citizens against depression". The Programme aimed to strengthen civil society and enhance the contribution of NGOs to social justice, democracy and sustainable development. This project was funded by the Greek NGO Programme “We are all Citizens” which is part of the EEA & Norway Grants for Greece.

Our main problem is the lack of our place. And this prevents us to carry out many other goals we have in order to fill the ever increasing needs of greek society on mental health. It is known that the financial crisis in our country makes it even more difficult. We need all the assistance that could be given in every way.

How do people fight the stigma?

So inspiring to read you @MAZI. I especially liked that group facilitators are trained group members and that someone can step into different roles, even skill up in a process that difficult.

There are no expert lectures and no self-pity parties. -well said. @kate_g, another edgeryder, said something similar about  how conversation in which neither party is an expert can be lifechanging.

I’m curious about the group which seems more or less open - can anyone who reports feeling down or unable to cope join you? Considering how difficult it is to make that step due to the fear and stigma attached, are you making any prior efforts to invite people in or signal somehow that this is a different approach?

Very inspiring

What an inspiring story, @MAZI.

Thank you so much to share it. Knowing many people soffering from depression and knowing how they can be judged in the wrong way, it’s very refereshing to see there is hope out there. How can people get in touch with you?

On group therapy in Ireland

Hi again @MAZI ! It just occured to me that you should connect with our community members who reported on a similar approach in Ireland.

More importantly for advancing your cause, I think it is very impactful when people who are or were once patients share deep insights about the experience. This is the case of @Sharon_Kinnane and her story is here. Curious to see if your groups might benefit from a connection abroad that helps your future projects in some way.