Self help groups are autonomous groups affiliated to Bipolar Scotland. They are informal, friendly and are open to people with bipolar disorder and their families, friends and carers. Occasionally at a group there may be someone who believes they have bipolar disorder but they do not have a formal diagnosis.

Most groups meet monthly, generally in the evening although there are exceptions. Group meeting days are Mondays – Thursdays. Visit the page of the group you are interested in to get the full details.

When you first arrive at the meeting it is likely you will meet the group facilitator(s). Facilitators are in charge of the meeting and will set things up, introduce the meeting, ensure the meeting runs smoothly and that people get a fair chance of speaking at the meeting. Because these duties are largely about organising and running the meeting, facilitators need not be experts in bipolar disorder nor do they have to have bipolar. Most of our facilitators have some relevant experience of bipolar, not necessarily personal, but it is not essential in order to perform well in the role. You may be greeted by the facilitator or by a group member. Some groups have refreshments at the start of the meeting, others at the break.

At the appointed start time, the facilitator will bring the group to order and the meeting will start. People will be seated in a circle. In a city centre meeting there may be 20-30 people but in smaller towns there may be more like 5-10 people. Attendance varies at all groups and can be affected by weather, football, what’s on TV, holidays etc. Some groups do a round of introductions which involves people saying their name and possibly a word or two about why they are there.
Groups have their own agreements compiled by the members that set out how the groups will run and what behaviour is unacceptable. This is sometimes known as the groundrules or comfort agreement. This may be displayed or referred to and additions/changes can be made. If you are in any doubt about what is acceptable behaviour, you can ask the facilitator. Generally people will be asked not to attend under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs; to be respectful of people especially when they are talking; to switch off mobile phones; etc.

Group meetings usually take one of two formats. Sometimes groups have a guest speaker for the evening. This will be someone with expertise on a topic relevant to bipolar disorder, for example, welfare benefits, medication, money advice, nutrition etc. Usually a guest speaker will take up the first half of the meeting. The second half will be for open discussion.
The other format is when the whole meeting is devoted to open discussion. People will raise any issues or concerns they have and others will offer their observations, insights, thoughts and advice based on their own experience with bipolar disorder. Generally, when the group is working well, people will feel heard, understood and supported. Those contributing take pleasure in supporting and helping someone who may be struggling with bipolar disorder or issues resulting from the condition. It is everyone’s goodwill and contributions which make the group gel and work well.

The key thing to note about all our groups is that they are confidential. Whatever you say in the group stays within the group. This is very important and everyone can play their part by being very careful not to discuss the group outwith the group. Group members take the confidentiality of the group very seriously.

As a new member feel free to contribute but also you should feel no pressure to speak if you just want to listen and observe; that’s fine too. You can take someone along with you and you can take a break or leave whenever you need to.
The group should end on time.

If you have any issues or problems with any of the groups, you can take these up with Bipolar Scotland on 0141 560 2050 or e-mail Graeme Bowman, Development Officer at graemeb@bipolarscotland.org.uk Our address is Studio 1015, Mile End Mill, Abbeymill Business Centre, Seedhill Road, Paisley PA1 1TJ.

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