An overview of the activities of the support group for parents of children with disabilities

By Martina Durljanova

Our support group is a “Respite Group” as parents of children with disabilities often call it. It’s about hero parents, who left themselves far behind others, in the ravages of time, to be the backbone of the family. But that’s what every parent does, right? However, the parents of children with disabilities do not only have the burden of the family but also the burden of invisible community barriers, the burden that society makes to make their difficult situation even more difficult, the non-acceptance of the extended family, the separation from all social gatherings, events and socializing.

Thanks to the “Peer School for Mental Health” project, we opened a support group where space was opened not only for socializing but also for psychological support and a place where the darkest sides that were hidden for a long time in these parents are revealed, topics that they never had the opportunity to discuss. To talk, directions they didn’t know could be opened and conversations they didn’t know could happen.

Through the twelve meetings that started in November of last year until June of this year, we discussed numerous topics. We started with mental hygiene as a topic, so after the mental cleansing we continued to delve deeper into new topics and discover the dark sides of endurance (the expected and assertive one), how it gives rise to anxiety and depression, quiets self-esteem and all this contributes to the stress in everyday life increases so that in the end they cannot cope with the (lack of) support and (lack of) acceptance from the environment and institutions, but also the most difficult thing, the support from the family, which they rarely have. And that whole process is repeated constantly, with every new incident, outside or at home, with every single event related to the child.

Fortunately, we have created a comfort zone, where parents are eagerly waiting to come and talk about new topics, but also to return to some of the old ones, because every day is a new story, a new challenge that they currently have to face, so with the help of the psychologist, they discuss them, go into details about how they felt then at that moment, and how they feel now while they are telling. And let’s not neglect the support from the group itself, which helps each other to deal with problems more easily. The desire of the parents to continue leading the group even after the end of the project is great, so we would not stop here but would continue to move at the same pace and further to meet their needs.

The project „Peer school for children and youth mental health“ of the Youth Association YMCA Bitola has been implemented in the frames of the regional program for local democracy in Western Balkans2 Reload2, financed by the European Union (EU), implemented by United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The project is co-financed by the Municipality of Bitola. The project has been implemented by the YMCA in cooperation with Poraka Nova and Amos.

For participant’s impressions, you can read here