The PLC Grow Group:
The Grow group meets at the Positive Living Centre each Friday afternoon (between 1.00pm and 3.00pm). It’s a mutual self-help peer-support group for HIV positive folk who are living with mental health issues. Each meeting is a reconciling of tight structure with flexible discussion, allowing each member to report on progress, open up problems to be addressed with sensible advice, and working together on sharing a practical, do-able task to be tackled by the next week’s meeting.
We also have readings on mental health and from the wide constructive archive of Grow materials, and objective discussion on that material. Yes, it’s a 12-step program, but not like Alcoholics Anonymous, with its strict perspective about surrendering to a higher power and invoking God. Grow’s essential spirituality is based first and foremost on a belief in persons, and is open and inclusive to people of all faiths. It draws on the long history of the Grow program as a proven method for working through mental issues.
The benefits are real, long-lasting, measurable, helpful for your everyday life, enabling control, and beneficial to your relationships with others. The support is open, honest, and friendly, plus it extends outside the meeting to understanding, encouraging phone-calls and catch-ups.
What is Grow?
Grow has been around for 58 years, with groups all over Victoria, formulating a research-proven approach, putting together a huge set of resources to help you with your personal development and growth toward maturity. Its five main dimensions are: a Group Method (how meetings are run), a Program (written resource materials), a caring and sharing community, Leadership, and an organizational structure. Truth, character and friendship are at its core values. Its 12 Steps range from admitting that we have a personal disorder in our lives, to growing daily closer to maturity. All group meetings are strictly confidential, so you can open up about anything. When I felt safe enough, I shared with the group about my suicide attempt, electro-convulsive shock therapy, eating disorder and childhood sexual abuse. They helped me work through, then past, these road-blocks to recovery, in ways I wouldn’t have believed possible even a year ago. Grow acknowledges that recovery is a process, not an outcome, and is therefore different for everyone, so you set your own pace and choose what you want to focus on.
As you may already know, those of us living with HIV have significantly higher rates of anxiety/depression and other mental health issues, so it’s especially important to have practical supports in place. We’re also more likely to be isolated and feel alone, so a ready-made circle of friends, and a safe non-judgmental environment, is crucial (and a relief). The regular well-structured weekly meetings allow you to plan out, and then chart, your progress in dealing effectively with mental illness, and to stockpile advice and tools to deal with problems as they crop up, in a timely and useful way. You’ll make new friends, empathetic and reassuring folk it’s easy to share concerns and experiences with. A quote from the Grow Program: “You alone can do it but you can’t do it alone”.
What It’s Not:
The Grow group is not a social group, although we’ve developed firm friendships and a strong rapport, and we regularly have social events. Our meetings are for practical work on issues, sharing discussion, collaborating on how to approach recovery and developing a healthy balanced life with a positive outlook. It requires a commitment, a determination to change and mature, and to take charge of dealing with mental health issues. It’s worth it. On the other hand, it’s not a psychiatric forum nor clinical consultation: it doesn’t replace a community mental health clinic or advice from mental health professionals, and it’s not a venue for swapping guidance on medication or other treatments.
Being able to talk to others going through the same or similar experience of living with mental health issues is of itself a huge relief, an invitation to friendly connections and a way of working towards resilient recovery.
How to Join:
Interested in joining in? Contact Leigh or Dean, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, or speak to the friendly PLC reception staff .