Support - to hold up, to encourage, cheer on, be there for, champion, assist, and strengthen. All this and so much more is provided by the countless volunteer support groups throughout the country.
There are support groups for diseases and conditions, for emotional problems, phobias and addictions of all types. However, all these self-help groups are driven by the same thing - the desire to provide support for people, and by people, who are essentially all 'in the same boat'.
Through meeting people with the same condition, discussing issues, sharing experiences, exploring fears and emotional issues, skills for coping with and managing the shared condition are gradually developed.
The range of support provided varies from group to group, depending on needs, numbers and available resources. Some groups hold monthly or even weekly support meetings, share educational resources and management tips, and hold regular social functions. Some groups are encompassed totally online utilising forums or message boards. Some produce newsletters, pamphlets, flyers and actively promote the groups in order to continually reach out to new people in need, yet others continue to sustain themselves by word of mouth alone.One common ailment whose emotional impact is often underestimated and whose sufferers benefit immensely from the support and services provided by self-help groups, is the Herpes virus (also known as Cold Sores).
Common issues confronted by people learning to live with Herpes are the initial shock of diagnosis and its implications; feelings of isolation and fear of the social stigma; a thirst for knowledge and practical advice; dread of dealing with family and friends reactions; and a need for emotional support, particularly from someone who has gone through the same experience.
While doctors can test, diagnose, provide information and prescribe medications, and even refer a patient for counselling if required, learning to accept and manage a condition like Herpes often requires more support than can be provided by the medical profession.
Having the opportunity to share your feelings and experiences with someone who has been through the same process can be immeasurably beneficial to someone newly diagnosed and struggling to come to terms with the virus, the associated stigma and the impact it can have on relationships.
The 'sharing of stories' can be a form of healing. Telling your story, reading or listening to another's, brings a deeper understanding of the human condition. Acknowledging fears and pain, can highlight our ability to overcome hardships and emerge strengthened and empowered by life's challenges.
The Herpes self-help community in Australia have taken their group activities to a new level with the establishment of an annual nationwide Herpes gathering. The inaugural 'Hevent 2003' was held in Adelaide last year and attracted participants from all over Australia. This years event will be held on the Gold Coast from 15-17 October to coincide with International Herpes Week (10-16 October 2004).
'Hevent 2004 - Celebrating Life After Herpes!' is a life-affirming experience, encouraging people to get on with their lives after Herpes... to celebrate life with Herpes... and even 'in spite of' Herpes!
It's a weekend social event which provides opportunities for people living with Herpes to connect, make new friends and to share experiences in a casual, relaxed atmosphere at a great holiday location. The planned itinerary includes optional tours, a boat cruise, dining out and various other entertainment options. For more info and to register, please visit the website: http://au.geocities.com/australian_hevent
The annual Hevent celebration is organised and managed by the Australian Herpes Support Network - a non-profit organisation devoted to promoting Australian Herpes support groups; providing practical advice and lifestyle tips for people living with Herpes; increasing public awareness of the virus; providing opportunities to share experiences and connect with people who are in a similar situation; offering one-on-one peer support through the Aussie H-Mate program; and, most important of all, reassuring people with Herpes that they are not alone.