Free, group therapy offers a way through
Matamata residents don’t have to live under the dark cloud of depression or deal with any mental health issues by themselves – they can get help from a group.
Local psychologist Les Conway has had many successes with Matamata residents through his group therapy.
‘‘We have a great deal of success stories with people overcoming their addiction dependencies and also learning to cope better with mental health challenges and alleviating depression so that people can find more positive engagement with life rather than living under a dark cloud,’’ he said.
The psychologist uses his three decades of experience to educate the group on ways to deal with many mental health issues.
‘‘The group is very effective at providing support and an exploration on how things can be done differently.’’
He also monitors group participants to ensure their needs are being met and they are progressing. The group also provides safety for those at risk of self-harm because those issues are monitored.
Conway also knows the benefits of participants hearing from people in the group who have had success with various challenges, rather than just listening to him.
‘‘It is the art of shutting up,’’ he said.
‘‘Someone who has experience with anxiety and has mastered it is the best person to talk about it and demonstrate what it’s like to come out of it.’’
He said there are a lot of benefits in attending the free, confidential group sessions. It gives the participants more social skills and helps them to open up, although he stresses that participants can do it at their own pace.
He recognised that people are often shy in a group situation at first but the participants are gentle with it.
‘‘We stress that people can divulge what they want to divulge.’’
There is no set number of visits, as Conway recognised that some participants might just attend until they have found the right way to address one specific problem, such as OCD or anxiety, while others, like those living with bipolar, will need ongoing support.
The group has been running for two years and is now being subsidised by Conway’s psychology clinic which has been running in Matamata for three months.
Conway has three decades of experience in helping people deal with mental health problems and addictions, and especially where those combine.
If the group can’t provide the right resources, Conway can use his links, including with Waikato Hospital, to help get the right support. Conway has most recently worked with the Waikato District Health Board.
The former engineer said his passion for helping people inspired him to volunteer for Youthline – a suicide prevention phone line. This then inspired him to gain various qualifications, including a masters in psychology. Matamata’s David White is a White Ribbon amabassador.
On the morning of September 23, 2009, White’s daughter Helen Meads was murdered by her husband Greg at the stables on their Matamata farm. It was the final chapter in years of control and abuse.
‘‘I’m proud of my daughter Helen,’’ White says.
‘‘She was a wonderful person who was cut down in the prime of her life by a controlling and violent person. There is some justice in knowing that Helen’s killer is behind bars, but I need to do more than that.
‘‘I need to make sense of the awful situation we found ourselves in, and do my part to ensure the violence against women is both understood and ended.’’
As part of his mission to change attitudes, White wrote the book Helen, the Helen Meads Tragedy.
‘‘This book is an attempt to shine the light on abusive relationships. As parents, Pam and I didn’t recognise the warning signs, we didn’t know what to do, and tragically, neither did our daughter. If we had known to look on the Women’s Refuge site, Helen would have understood that the most dangerous time is when you are leaving an abusive relationship.’’
The White Ribbon Ride is an initiative to tackle this country’s crippling domestic violence record. Violence affects one in three women. This week-long motorcycle tour happens every November – White Ribbon Month. A lead group of riders steers convoys through towns in the North and South Islands, picking up support riders along the way. In many regions, local riders will lead the White Ribbon ride into their town.
Events are organised in every town, ranging from school visits, marches and breakfasts, to fashion parades, quiz nights and Dads and Lads days. Every event is an opportunity to bring this issue into the open and get people talking.
In 2013, thousands came out to meet the riders and hear their important messages.