Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror Douglas Sewell and the North Island Mood Disorders Society now has an actual office at 900 Alder Street (in with Volunteer Campbell River) and is ready to welcome drop-ins five days a week to support those with conditions like depression and bipolar disorder.

‘If you’re in crisis, you just can’t wait’

Mood disorders society finds new home, expands offerings in Campbell River

The North Island Mood Disorder Society (NIMDS) had simple beginnings. One local man wanted to lend his support to a few other people like himself and start a small support group.

“There’s a real blank in the community in terms of offerings when you first start having difficulties with depression or bipolar or whatever it is you’re having difficulty with,” says Douglas Sewell, managing director of NIMDS.

He knows the struggle all too well. He was diagnosed at age 15 with bipolar disorder.

“I guess I’ve just passed 50 years,” he says, “because I’m 65, now.”

But about a year ago, he realized he could do something about a gap he saw in the mental health services framework in Campbell River.

“It can take four to five weeks to get an intake at mental health,” Sewell says, “and if you’re in crisis, you just can’t wait four to five weeks. You need help and you need it now. I mean, there’s the crisis line, but they can only do so much on the other end of a telephone line.

“But we can give people a place to go until they eventually get drawn into the system and give them a support system of peers they can be a part of even after that.”

Sewell freely admits that while they provide what he sees as an essential service in the layers of mental health supports within the community, they don’t have all the answers for people and they have their limitations.

“We aren’t doctors. We can’t offer professional advice on medications or treatments or anything like that. We’re here as peers. We’re people who have bipolar or have had depression – someone you can talk to when you don’t know how the system works who can help you get through it.”

They have been holding once-per-week support group meetings at the Schizophrenia Society offices on Mondays for the past year, which has been going great, but Sewell says it was time to “take the next step.”

“We’ve decided to incorporate it as a full-fledged society and are now just beginning to offer this new idea of drop-in mornings so we can hopefully be more available to people who need us – when they need us.”

His original intent for the group was just to grow it into a larger group of people with similar issues so they could better support each other. But it turns out that’s not the way it needed to work.

“You end up having emotional ties between members and it becomes not as easy for new members to come into the group,” Sewell says. “Ideally, it turns out – in our case, at least – that a support group operates best at about six or seven people. Every time we’d find ourselves with more than that, we’d find people leaving the group because they weren’t feeling connected.”

They’ve been fundraising using “tag days” outside local grocery stores to finance their activities, Sewell says, and although it’s been going “pretty well, actually,” he says, they’re looking for more options.

“We tried to put on a concert down at Spirit Square, but that didn’t really work out, and we’ve tried some other things, but it’s really hard to get the word out there,” Sewell says, “so if anyone has any ideas for us, I’d be happy to listen to them.”

You can get in touch with Sewell by email at nimooddisorders@gmail.com or by phone at 250-914-5377 or visit them on the web at nimooddisorders.com for a direct link to their fundraising page to help out financially or learn more about what they do.

Or you can just pop in Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to noon at 900 Alder Street (in the Volunteer Campbell River office just below City Hall) and have a chat.