Dena Cohen of Teaneck knows that support groups can help people with such mood disorders as depression and bipolar disorder.
She has taken part in those groups, and she has been trained to facilitate them.
“I saw the tremendous help it was to hear peers speak with each other, give each other support, and help each other get through tough times,” she said.
“Talking with people about their experiences can really help them get through the day. Depression and bipolar disorder are not just clinical diseases; these are very human illnesses. Hearing stories from others who have gone through the trenches, who have experienced the highs and lows, will supplement any type of professional treatment people are getting.”
Now, she is using her expertise to create an online support group for the Jewish community, called “Refa’enu,” which means “heal us.”
“The Jewish community can discuss it in its own way as it relates to its own culture and heritage. I thought it would be very helpful to have something online. It’s more convenient than going to a local meeting,” she said.
People can sign up under an alias, which allows them more anonymity than they could expect in an in-person session.
Cohen stresses that “Refa’enu is not group therapy. Its members may offer support, but it does not take the place of professional therapeutic treatment. Our hope is that together, we can truly heal our community from the inside out.”
It is being publicized through local synagogues and other organizations, and so far about 20 people have signed up. “I’d like to see more members,” Cohen said.
Most of the response until now has been from people seeking advice on how to help a loved one. These people, who are connected to others who have mood disorders, are welcome as well.
But Cohen hopes group members will move to discussing things that relate to themselves firsthand.
“Accepting that they have a disease is a hard step for people to take. They’re called mood disorders, but they’re really illnesses. Anybody who has been having any difficulty with their moods are welcome to join, even if they haven’t yet been diagnosed,” she said.
The group can be found at health.groups.yahoo.com/group/refaenu/.