A New Minas man knows what it’s like to struggle with problems like anxiety and depression and wants others facing similar battles to know they are not alone.
In January, 28-year-old Jesse Benjamin started a Facebook support group called Strong Valley for people struggling with mental health concerns. Easily identified from its custom-made logo, the page already has 415 members, some from other countries.
Its mantra is “True strength is admitting you need help” and Benjamin said, “it just blew up and took off.”
He is quick to point out that the group does not offer or replace professional services or advice. Benjamin said he’s always wanted to work in the mental health field but he is not a trained counsellor, psychiatrist or psychologist.
He said the Facebook support group is intended to be a forum for people struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental health problems to discuss the issues with others who have had similar experiences. Participants often offer moral and emotional support to others in the group.
Benjamin was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery a year ago February. Before the surgery, he was struck by a car crossing the road and was hospitalized.
Benjamin said it’s been a long road to physical recovery from the collision and surgery but he also experienced fear, PTSD, anxiety and depression as a result. He felt like he didn’t have anybody to talk to about it.
“I know that other people are struggling from stuff like that as well,” Benjamin said.
He decided to start the Strong Valley group for friends and family but soon realized that it might be beneficial to the general public, so he made it accessible to all. Benjamin wants the page to be a place where people can feel safe discussing mental health issues openly without being judged, ridiculed or made fun of.
He said there may be others facing the same issues who understand and who could give advice about how they handle it. Benjamin occasional does live videos about what he has encountered and how he has managed.
“They can take it in their own way, I don’t tell people what to do or what they should do,” he said. “Maybe that will help somebody else.”
He said that if he can help even one person, that would make the initiative worthwhile and make him feel good about starting Strong Valley. Benjamin said his experience with the group has certainly helped him cope. He said there has been no negativity in the group.
“People have been posting pictures and memes of stuff that kind of touch home. People are finally starting to open up and talk about their issues, which is great,” Benjamin said.
For more information, visit the Strong Valley Facebook support group page.