Urbana Champaign

Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can attend the Tuesday group?

This is an open group for those with a mental health condition as well as friends, family and support individuals.

Who can attend the Thursday night group?

This is a closed group for those with a mental health condition only.

Who can attend the Friday night group?

This is a closed group for those with a mental health condition only.

Can people who have a dual diagnosis attend the groups?

Yes.  People with dual diagnoses are welcomed in the groups.  A dual diagnosis is a mental health disorder with an accompanying Substance Abuse problem.  It is common for people with mood and anxiety disorders to also abuse substances.  However, the groups are not focused on the unique challenges of coping with a dual diagnosis.  

We encourage people with Substance Abuse Problems to attend the appropriate 12-Step groups in the community –  Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfuctional Families (ACOA), Al-Anon (for significant others of people with any substance abuse problem), or other types of groups that focus on substance abuse. 

Are the groups 12-Step programs or some form of therapy?

No.  Meetings are intended to be mutual support and education.  They are not any form of group psychotherapy, medical treatment, formal education, or exclusive fellowship.  The group does not adhere to any set of guiding principles or use any particular literature.  The groups are open to people with different beliefs, affiliations, and perspectives.  The only organization that the group endorses is DBSA.  

What is the membership of the groups like?

The groups are very tolerant and encourage diversity among its members.  Depending upon who attends on a particular evening, ages range from 18 to 75.  The groups are balanced between men and women. Attendance at the Tuesday group averages from 20 to 30 people. Attendance at the Friday group averages from 4 to 6 people. Attendance is low on holidays, but die-hards do show up.  Attendance tends to be lower during the summer months.

What is the format of the groups?

The groups begin with a Check-In.  People introduce themselves by first name and briefly tell the group about their day or week. 

During introductions, people may raise any topic they wish to discuss.  Participation in the groups is not required.  People attending a meeting for the first time often just listen to others.  The facilitator attempts to provide people with equal time to discuss their topics.  Discussions include shared experiences, factual information, advice, and emotional support.  Cross talk is allowed.

Who are the facilitators of the groups?

The groups are led by facilitators who are members of the group.  Different facilitators may rotate from week to week.  Members become facilitators through group consensus and accumulated experience.  The facilitators are trained to conduct meetings.

Facilitators are not mental health professionals.  The facilitator’s role is simply to encourage group members to participate in discussions.  Facilitators also participate in discussions themselves. 

Is there any time commitment to attend the groups?

No.  These are drop-in groups with no commitment to attend meetings.  Some people come once.  Others come weekly and have been coming for years.  We encourage people to come at least three times before deciding whether the group is for them.

Do the groups charge a fee?

No.  But the groups do accept tax-deductible donations.  Funds are used for community outreach and to defray costs for educational materials, telephone service, and occasional social gatherings. 

Do I or my relative need a formal psychiatric diagnosis to attend the groups?

No.  When people are unsure whether they have a mental illness, they are encouraged to attend groups to see whether their behaviors or problems are recognizable as possible psychiatric disorders.

While many members of the groups have a great deal of collective knowledge about their disorders, no one is a mental health professional capable of making a proper psychiatric diagnosis or providing medical advice.  We urge people to see a psychiatrist or any other qualified mental health professional to get a thorough evaluation.

Members of the group may make referrals to qualified professionals or clinics in the community. 

Must I or my relative be under the care of a psychiatrist to attend the groups?

No.  Most members of the groups are under the care of a psychiatrist.  It is presumed that someone has the stability to participate in groups and to respect the participation of others. 

There are times when members of the groups may not be seeing a psychiatrist.  This may occur when someone is new to the community or is searching for a new psychiatrist.  Members of the groups may be sources of referrals in the community.  

Must I or my relative be on medications to attend the groups?

No.  People are presumed to be on medications if they are under the care of a psychiatrist.  

We strongly encourage people to take their medications as prescribed.  However, there are times when members have trouble staying on their medications.  Medication non-compliance is a common problem for people with psychiatric disorders.  The side effects of some medications may be difficult for some to tolerate.  Others may feel ambivalent about taking their medications in principle. 

This is an important issue that is a frequent topic of discussion.  People who are not taking their medications are encouraged to talk about their feelings and experiences.  We hope that open discussion will encourage people to take their medications and to accept their illness and treatment.  

Can members talk about the specific medications they are taking?

Yes.  But the group members cannot advise people about their medications because they are not mental health professionals.  We recognize that the same medication may affect people differently.  Some people may have no medication side effects, whereas others do.  Some people may benefit greatly from one kind of medication, whereas others do not. 

Are there educational programs sponsored by the groups?

Yes.  Professionals are occasionally invited to speak.  The groups are open to suggestions for new speakers.

What are the rules regarding group confidentiality and membership lists?

Group discussions are confidential and in meetings people are reminded that “what is said here stays here.”  People are encouraged to exchange their names and telephone numbers.  Some people maintain informal phone lists of those wishing to be contacted. 

Is there literature with information and resources in the community?

Yes.  We have a literature table with items free to take.  We have different brochures and pamphlets published by DBSA and the Mental Health Center of Champaign County.  We also have current issues of bp Magazine each quarter. 

What attitude should one bring to the groups?

We realize that it takes courage and trust to come to a support group.  It can be a big step to come to a meeting for the first time.  We are a very friendly group of people.  Come to the groups with an open mind!  Each meeting is different depending on who attends and what topics are discussed.  It takes a few meetings to feel like a regular member of the groups. 

Our groups have a good reputation in the community.  The outlook of people is always positive.  Realize that the groups may not meet your needs and expectations at this time, but they may in the future.  Please spread the word if you know anyone else who may be interested in the groups.

What is National DBSA?

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.  Contributions to the national organization and the local chapter are tax deductible.  DBSA has a Scientific Advisory Committee of 65 national mental health experts who guide the work of the organization.  For more information, see the document links on our resources page. 

Can I make suggestions to improve this FAQ document?

Yes.  If you think of questions to add to this document, e-mail your suggestions to dbsaurbana@gmail.com. We want other people to have their questions answered too.

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