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Staff photo, Brooke Self
A member of the 'Ups and Downs' group sits and listens to the therapy meeting. The group meets every Wednesday as a support for anyone suffering from a mental illness.

Local support group lifts bipolar and depressed

STAFF WRITER

BARSTOW • In a brightly lit, large conference room at the Barstow Mental Health Clinic, a small group meets to discuss their personal struggles with clinical depression and bipolar disorder.

“Ups & Downs” has met for the past 15 years as a free group therapy available to all in the community with any type of mental illness.

“We’re a support to each other,” said Cynthia, who declined to share her last name but has led the group for the last 12 years. Another member, David, who also declined to share his last name, calls her an “unsung hero” of Barstow for her role in leading and helping many who have struggled throughout the years.

“In 2000, this group saved my life,” David said. From a rough childhood in East Los Angeles, marital problems that led to a divorce and tendencies to alcohol abuse, he said he was ready to end his life.

“I came here, I had seen a psychologist, but when it came down to it, it was group therapy that helped me,” he said.

Georgina Yoshioka, program manager for military forensic services, said that group therapy allows individuals to apply and grow from what they learn in one-on-one therapy and connect and build relationships with peers who can relate.

“A group helps establish a bond and relation with others who may not have the exact situation but can give guidance and support and you can learn, one, I’m not alone,” Yoshioka said.

It’s estimated that 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older, or one and four adults, suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health website. Only 6 percent of the population suffers from a severe mental illness.

At the Barstow Counseling & Mental Health Center, the clinic serves more serious mental illnesses: schizophrenia, clinical depression, bipolar disorder and children with attention deficit disorder and oppositional defiance.

“The majority of what we see in the Barstow Clinic in fact usually need medication to retain recovery and independence in the community,” David Denkers, program manager for the Desert Mountain Region, said. In Barstow, county services helped 1,100 people or about 3 percent of the population in the city in 2011 according to Manuel Gomez, a research and statistic analysis expert for San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health.

However, county services are not the sole provider of mental health assistance in the community and the majority of people suffering with a mental illness can be diagnosed from a primary care physician, Denkers said.

The county does offer several programs related to mental health, including a new one to help individuals who are suffering from both a mental health disorder and alcohol or substance abuse, referred to as co-occurring disorders, will begin in January.

Cynthia at the “Ups & Downs” club believes many groups in the community dealing with substance abuse don’t relate to her and that’s why she appreciates her group specifically.

“We’re here for anyone, you don’t have to have a diagnosed illness. You just have to have a need and that’s why you come,” she said.

The group meets every Wednesday at 805 E. Mountain View Road. at 2 p.m. They hope to begin meeting at 7 p.m. come January to include individuals who work daytime hours, but said they are seeking a facility or business that will allow them a room to meet in.

For more information on the “Ups & Downs,” contact (760) 256-9685.


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