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How important are such groups?
Fighting social isolation literally changes your genes.
The science of epigenetics has conclusively demonstrated that peer support networks can be a life-changing or life-saving experience to an extent surprising to many immunologists and psychologists.
Suicide now kills more Americans than car accidents, according to the latest CDC findings. At the National Conference on Mental Health, on June 3rd, 2013, it was noted that every day 22 vets take their own lives.
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 15-24.
It is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 24-35.
It is the 4th leading cause of death for ages 35-44.
The mortality rate of untreated depression and bipolar disorder is self-evident. It is not a character flaw, it is not a personal weakness, it is a serious medical condition involving the center of our nervous system which is responsible for our every breath, every thought, every word, every heart beat, and movement.
We are not talking about sadness, a normal part of the human experience, but about a reversal of the survival instinct that's taken for granted. In severe depression, the survival instinct becomes a death instinct, and behaviors will focus towards that goal.
Untreated depression can literally cause brain damage (http://rt.com/news/271987-depression-damage-brain-study/), and there is a severe drop in cognitive functioning which makes even small problems overwhelming. The hippocampus, which is key to memory, is actually reduced by some 15-25% in severe depression. Because even small problems become overwhelming, the inability to resolve everyday issues we face daily creates a helplessness and stress that dangerously exacerbates the condition.
More than 20 million American adults live with depression --10% of the U.S. population. 2.3 million live with bipolar disorder. If you're suffering from bipolar disorder or depression, you're simply not alone. In fact, in women ages 40-59, 1 in 4 are now taking antidepressants.
Support Groups Can Change Gene Expression Which Triggers Bipolar Disorder and Depression
Although DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) (http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home) support groups are 94% effective in helping bipolar or depressed members with treatment adherence, another important benefit is the ability to create a social network with others sharing a condition friends or loved ones may not understand because they simply haven't "been there."
In The Social Life of Genes: Shaping Your Molecular Composition (http://www.psmag.com/health/the-social-life-of-genes-64616/), David Dobbs writes:
“If you actually measure stress, using our best available instruments, it can’t hold a candle to social isolation. Social isolation is the best-established, most robust social or psychological risk factor for disease out there. Nothing can compete.”
“You can’t change your genes. But if we’re even half right about all this, you can change the way your genes behave—which is almost the same thing. By adjusting your environment you can adjust your gene activity...
“Despite these well-known effects, Cole said he was amazed when he started finding that social connectivity wrought such powerful effects on gene expression."
What this means is that the same gene expression that cause a bipolar or depressive condition to manifest itself can be countered by a positive and supportive social environment to the point the same genetic trait is reduced in severity and can even become manageable.
This is how, and why these groups WORK.
The Lethality of Loneliness
We are social animals. We were never meant to be alone. Air pollution increases yours odds of an early death by 5%, obesity by 20%, alcohol by 30%, and living with loneliness by 45%.
There are absolutely no member fees, no one will pass the hat. Family and friends are encouraged to come. We are peer run support groups (http://www.dbsasangabrielvalley.org/). Our address:
Pacific Clinics East
902 S. Myrtle Ave.
Monrovia CA 91016
Mondays 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
IMPORTANT: Please understand that there are no mental health care professionals herein, this is not a clinical group therapy, therefore we are not equipped for schizo-affective disorder, schizophrenia and similar cases. We are merely a peer-led support group. Please contact NAMI (http://www.nami.org/)or professional help in such cases.