By Coleen Ogden, Guest Writer
GUNNISON—”I liked learning the science behind my emotional triggers and how to control them.”
“I found out that I’m not alone in my challenges, and that broke down my barriers to help me heal.”
“I have been strengthened by the group sharing experiences; I’m grateful my wife took this class with me.”
Those were the reactions from some of the 15 people in the Gunnison Valley who participated in an eight-week course designed to help them recover from anxiety and depression.
The Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program was sponsored by the Central Utah Counseling Center (CUCC) and the Gunnison Valley Cares Coalition. Group meetings were held from Sept. 27 to Nov. 15 at Gunnison Valley Elementary School.
In 2001, Dr. Neil Nedley, an internal medicine and mental health specialist in Auburn, Calif., wrote a book called Depression: The Way Out. The book became the basis for the eight-week class, now taught world-wide, to help people retrain their brains and make different lifestyle choices in order to find relief from depression and anxiety.
The CUCC was looking for an educational program it could take into communities to help people achieve better mental health and selected the Nedley program, says Jolyn Chappell of Gunnison, a former high school health and PE teacher who facilitated the Gunnison Valley group.
At the invitation of CUCC, Chappell took a 25-hour online course from the Nedley organization in order to become a facilitator.
Chappell started the Gunnison Valley class by asking for confidentiality. She advised participants, “Do not mention anyone’s name when talking about the class.”
The class included a DVD series, an assessment test that can be taken in person or online with a trained facilitator, and a book that goes with the course.
The program only works if you work the program. Participants are expected to do assignments and be willing to adapt their lifestyle, diet and thought patterns.
Participants watched Dr. Nedley on video and then had open discussions with Chappell as the facilitator. Some of the topics discussed in the videos were: what factors contribute to depression, signs and symptoms of anxiety, nutrition for the brain, how thinking can defeat depression and anxiety, making and staying with positive lifestyle choices, stress without distress, overcoming loss, and enhancing frontal lobe functions.
Chappell said within a few weeks after the class started, the Gunnison Valley group became close-knit. “We had good, open discussions where people opened up and were vulnerable about their situations,” she said.
The group members started to ask for more discussion time. They said, “It helps to hear people who are going through what I’m going though.”
Midway through the class, Chappell administered an informal survey in which class members were asked to rate various symptoms and responses on a 1-10 scale. They were asked to mark how much they experienced the symptom or feeling when they started the class and how much they experienced it now. She said most people had improved by at least one point and some by four points.
The course teaches participants that simple things such as good nutrition, exercise and sunlight often help more than medications. If you do the program, Chappell said, there is less chance of relapse or needing to stay on antidepressants permanently.
The program “promotes good mental health and would be good for anyone,” she added. In fact, some of the participants in the Gunnison group weren’t experiencing depression or anxiety. They just wanted the knowledge of how to have better mental health.
The course can also be taken online at home, but people enrolled online miss out on the group discussions.
In the future, the Nedley program will also be offered in Manti and Moroni. Facilitators are being trained and meeting sites are being identified.
The Gunnison participants were honored with a graduation dinner at the end of the eight weeks. Several said the program had been a game-changer for them.
Chappell will be starting another class Jan. 3. It will begin with a free introductory class people can attend to see if they find the course helpful.
In many parts of the country, the course costs $200. But CUCC arranged with the Nedley organization to get the cost to participants down to $40, which covers a workbook people can keep.
If anyone would like to take the course but can’t afford it, arrangements can be made for CUCC to cover the cost.
For more information about the program, text Jolyn Chappell at 435-201-9977.