Showcasing: The Grow Group Program
Living Well domain
- Putting people first
- Making it local
Grow is a national peer support and mental wellness program where people with lived experience connect to learn skills, share progress, share hope and support each other through their recovery journeys. Grow also offers personal leadership development within a community of likeminded persons. Grow is jointly funded by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, fundraising and private donations.
Experiencing mental health issues can be a socially isolating experience. Seeking help in traditional service settings can often be met with waiting times, strict assessment criteria, long referral processes and out of pocket expenses. Grow was established in 1957, as a grass roots organisation. Founders were drawn together by their lived experienced of mental health issues with a desire to form a community where people could support each other through a 12-step program of recovery, prevention and personal growth.
Grow uses the expertise, recovery journeys and leadership of people with lived experience of a mental health issue to currently sustain 35-40 Grow groups around NSW and over 150 groups in Australia. In NSW, Grow groups can be found in Sydney, Western NSW, Far West, Murrumbidgee, Central Coast and Far North Coast. People can self-refer without a formal diagnosis and attend a local meeting each week in their community.
The eGrow program also offers a unique experience by offering online peer support meetings via video conferencing at different sites across Australia. This reformed approach allows participants who are unable or choose not to attend a physical Grow group, for personal or other reasons or geographical limitations, to access the support they need.
Over the course of each meeting the group engages in a series of discussions, interactions and readings that follow a structure and focus on shared testimonies, progress, problem solving and taking on tasks. The structure is based on changing thinking and behavior and offers strategies to manage crisis, think by reason, take responsibility for one’s actions, realise personal worth and improve relationships. An important element of the Grow program is supporting others with their own recovery journey.
Participants in the Grow program report several positive outcomes for their mental health and wellbeing. These include; improved friendships, relationships, connection, learning strategies to cope and manage symptoms and maintain wellness. As there is no group professional facilitator, all members are involved and have the opportunity to develop leadership skills, within a safe environment. The 2017-18 Grow annual report noted the following outcomes:
- 60% of Grow members reported significantly less need for hospitalisation due to mental illness
- 54% of Grow members who had considered suicide said Grow helped them overcome suicidal thoughts
- 96% of Grow members would recommend Grow to someone else
Grow will continue to expand the Grow Group program, to be offered online as a way to reach people who may not wish to access face to face groups or not be able due to location. eGrow mental health online supports have been offered to people in Victoria and Queensland and this service will expand to NSW in late 2019. Another program for expansion in the future by Grow is the Get Growing Schools program which was developed to meet the needs of young people who also experience mental health challenges and is based on the adult Grow Program. The program was first completed at Lithgow High School in 2017 and is being expanded into the Far North Coast region of NSW.