Two decades of grappling with depression has taught Tracey McInnes much about the insidious illness.
She’s been through the times when she didn’t want to leave the house, the stresses of daily life were too much; when she didn’t want to go on living.
Now, on top of her personal experience, her own research and further education from a depression recovery course, she has started a depression support group in Naracoorte.
Tracey and a small number of others started the group about six months ago, and have now reached the point where they want to branch out and help more people with the challenges that come with depression and related illnesses.
Tracey said the group was still a work in progress.
“We’re just testing the water to see what people feel they need, because depression can be quite different for different people,” she said.
“It’s been in my heart for a long time, I’ve been a sufferer for 20 years and I know from my research that once you have it, you’re always prone to it.”
Apart from her own experience, Tracey had another very personal reason for wanting to help others with depression.
“From the group of people I went to school with, there’s been a lot of suicides,” she said.
The suffering I’ve had for the last 20 years, it means somethingTracey McInnes
“That could have been me. I used to be one of the people doing the wrong things, I’ve had these thoughts like ‘I wish I could die’.
“(Sufferers) just get used to living that way: ‘Life just sucks and you’ve got to live with it’.
“It breaks my heart that they haven’t come through it and I have. The suffering I’ve had for the last 20 years, it means something.”
Tracey felt that if more local support had been available, those people would have had more of a chance. After completing a church-based depression recovery course, she decided to face her own demons and float the idea of establishing a support group.
She’s been pleased with the interest. After forming with an initial group of four of five sufferers of depression, there are now about a dozen people who come along when they can. The group is also open to family and friends of sufferers who want to learn more about dealing with the illness.
Tracey said the knowledge and strategies discussed in the group were definitely beneficial. Just this week, she was having a very bad day and felt herself spiralling down, but she was able to take a step back and see the situation for what it was.
“Something caused me to hit a trigger point, but I was able to realise that. We want to help other people realise their trigger points, and see that they can deal with it.”
Tracey said anyone interested in what the group had to offer was welcome to come along and observe at a meeting, with no obligation to join.
“A lot of people say ‘I’m not ready to change’, and that’s OK, they can just come and listen.”
The group meets once a fortnight on a Friday at Tracey’s home. Contact Tracey on 0407 458 779 to find out more.
Tracey added that if people were struggling with depression, their first option should be to consult a GP. The depression support group can help, but depression is a medical illness.
“This is not ‘instead of’, it’s ‘as well as’,” Tracey reiterated.