“WE’VE been around for a long time,” said Maree Twomey, organiser of the Hawkesbury support group ‘Bipolar Bears’.
“I want people in the Hawkesbury to know we still exist.”
About one in five Australians will experience a mental illness and most of us will experience a mental health problem at some time in our lives.
Ms Twomey and her group have been meeting at Meeting Room 1, GP Clinic on the grounds of the Hawkesbury Hospital for eleven years.
They used to meet monthly, but now they meet every two months since Ms Twomey was diagnosed with cancer.
“But I’m still running the group,” she said.
Ms Twomey, who suffers from bipolar and depression, said the group is “the only mental health support group in the Hawkesbury”.
She hopes by getting the word out there to secure sponsorship from an individual or company.
“Our previous sponsor was Marie Bashir, [former] Governor of NSW. She was our patron for many years and though I’m glad she’s retired I’m sad to lose her,” she said.
A local psychologist pays for the annual fees for the group’s website, but the rest of the costs - including paper and printing expenses - Ms Twomey covers herself, out of her disability pension.
“Plus every month we get a guest speaker and I’ll buy them a bottle of wine or some flowers,” she said.
“We would like a small amount of money per year to purchase that sort of stuff, because its very hard for me to maintain that only my own.”
Around 12 to 15 people come along to the Bipolar Bears meetings, and many of them have been involved since the group was established in 2007.
“I really love the people in the support group and I really want to be there and continue to support them as long as my health holds out,” Ms Twomey said.
“I want people in the Hawkesbury to know we’re still around. People with bipolar disorder, depression, and their family members can come along.
“It’s not all sitting around a table and talking about our bipolar disorder or depression; there’s a social aspect to it. We have picnics and go out to dinner.
“We gather a lot of information and present that. It’s educational, informative, and they’re a great bunch of people, very friendly. Together, we just want to make a difference to mental health in the Hawkesbury.”
The group meets on the last Friday of the month, every two months, rotating between a dinner or planned outing, and the hospital.
The next meeting of the Bipolar Bears is scheduled for Friday, September 28, when members will meet for a meal. The meeting after that will be Friday, November 30 at the GP clinic on the grounds of Hawkesbury Hospital.
Contact Ms Twomey for information on 0400 149 881 or visit www.hawkesburybipolarbears.com.