Yasmeen Butt, Founder of The Support Group is a counseling psychologist by profession and a member of International Council of Professional Therapists London (UK). She is one of the most popular Laughter Therapists.
Tell us about The Support Group and its services?
The support group works to promote mental health and wellness by providing group therapy workshops for organizations and local communicates.
We started with the mission of breaking down the stigma and discrimination towards mental health challenges. We ensure that people suffering from depression, anxiety and stress are addressed, accepted and valued.
We provide services in 3 major areas.
1- Individual (in Person) and Online Counseling
2- Open Workshops of group therapies. Some of our most popular therapies are, Laughter Therapy, Art Therapy, Guided Meditation & Emotional Focused Therapy
3- Solution-focused group interventions for organizations.
How did you come up with the idea of The Support Group?
I personally went through an intense experience of depression a year ago when my mother passed away. I was on therapy and medication for depression and anxiety. It nearly made me suicidal. It was an acute case of Primary Care Giver Syndrome because it started when my mother fell ill and eventually died of that illness.
According to stats, 400 million people around the world are diagnosed with depression every single year. 60 million out of them die every year; 50 thousand with the suicides alone. Even in Pakistan, it is reported that 35% of the total population is suffering from depression and 64% with stress.
Lahore has the highest rate of depression among all other cities in Pakistan, and only 2% of the total population suffering from Depression seeks professional help. We just couldn’t wait anymore. It’s the most suited time and location to start a campaign to establish an acceptance towards mental health challenges.
Do you have a prior experience in that field?
Yes, I am a practicing counseling psychologist by profession with over 8 years of working experience. But for the major part of my practice, I have been involved in organizational psychology. Which gave me a chance to learn about the workplace stress and its harmful effects on the quality of life and emotional well-being of employees.
Tell us a little about your team?
Well, we are a bunch of Therapy enthusiasts who deeply believe in showing support and empathy to those who are emotionally wounded. It took me a while to find people who share a similar mindset and are equally investing in a deep emotional and spiritual level with the cause.
Are you all therapists/psychologists?
No. We are often asked this questions. Well, I love the diversity in my team. We represent distinct backgrounds, HR, Marketing, Mass Communications but with similar interests. I am very lucky to have a team which genuinely cares about the cause and are continuously supporting me in enhancing the quality of the service.
Tell us about the paradigm (CAM) Complementary and Alternative Medication?
Over the years there has been immense development on ways to promote a healthier lifestyle which are alternative to medicine. The trend started with exercise. The workout fad was extremely popular and is the first example of people becoming aware that they need to find healthier ways to look after their body. This lead to further development into yoga, hot yoga, Pilates, etc. Then these further developed into therapies which were developed to cater to the mental strength of a human. This lead to the birth of laughter therapy. A treatment which is both fun and effective
We provide Laughter Therapy workshops to heal Depression, Anxiety and Stress. It’s a 40 minutes exercise which is conducted in the form of Group therapy. It helps people relax and lose the toxic energy.
People often report having headaches and joint pains as a result of stress. They try to treat it with pain medication and relaxants. Often people try to cure it with hot beverages like coffee, smoking, tea or green tea. Complimentary & Alternative to Medication Therapies helps people relax and cure stress without being dependent on the substance.
Tell us a little about your open workshops and where are they held?
Our most popular workshop is Laughter Therapy which is a 90 minutes activity. First 30 minutes we practice guided meditation for stress management and then we laugh for constantly about 40 minutes which is a remarkable exercise for lungs. Almost as good as 30 minutes of running. After the laughter therapy, we have 20 minutes of exercise in which everyone in the group shares their feelings about life, any event they want to share. It’s incredible to see that only 90 minutes help people really bond with each other.
We keep these activities at various locations but mostly at our office. We are currently incubated at National Incubation Centre LUMS and gather every Saturday for the workshops. Our schedule is regularly updated on our website www.thesupportgroup.pk and our facebook/twitter/Instagram/Snapchat Channels which come with the name of “The Support Group”. You can also sign up for our free Monthly Newsletter by signing up on our website.
How is the response so far in Pakistan?
It’s wonderful so far, People love it! I have often heard our participants say it’s one of the most relaxing group therapies they have attended in Pakistan. We have had the experience to work with some famous organizations and their response was very positive. At the same time we are very open to feedback. After every session, we sit with our clients and carefully listen to their experience and how we can improve it in the upcoming workshops. So our practice is continuously evolving and it will keep evolving with the sole purpose of truly serving people suffering from depression, anxiety, and stress.
Why did you choose to work on only Depression Anxiety and Stress?
More people are dying of depression and stress than Cancer and Cardio-Vascular diseases, not to mention that the reason behind most illness is stress.
In Pakistan, we have rehabilitation centers working on drug addiction and mental health institutions for severe mental health challenges. But unfortunately, there is no platform or facility which only takes care of day to day stress and depression. So we found an opportunity to contribute in a field which requires the most attention.
In which areas do you feel Stress Management Therapies are most needed?
Stress is a culture-bound syndrome. It touches everyone at least once in their life. From a school kid to a college applicant. A mother taking care of her family to a father earning for the family. An office boy worrying how he will provide for his family, to a CEO thinking how to grow his ecosystem.
So, everyone facing signs of stress can benefit from stress management therapies.
Can you name few signs/symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, and Stress?
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Hopelessness, Guilt
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Trouble sleeping
- Disturbed Appetite
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms
If a person has any of the above symptoms what should be the first step in order to seek help?
That is an excellent question because the first step often seems to be a challenge at first. I ‘d like to share it with all the readers, that if you feel that you are facing any of the above symptoms or you feel that anyone from your friends and family is suffering from depression, anxiety or stress, my encouragement to you is that please find a nearest most counseling facility to have a proper diagnosis.
Since the digital age has made it very simple to locate help, so just Google, counseling centers, psychological help, you will find a list of psychologists available in your location.
What is the simplest way of identifying someone is going through an emotional or mental health challenge?
The easiest way to identify is to spot a challenge in any of the following areas,
- Health, sleep, weight gain or weight loss.
- Professional Life, relationships at work, lack the ability to focus at work
- Challenge in Spousal or romantic relationships
- Relationship with friends and family.
If you feel that your depression or stress is affecting any of the above, it’s encouraged that you seek a proper diagnosis.
What is the long-term vision of The Support Group?
Well, our vision is to introduce a therapeutic culture in Pakistan which brings together people from all walks of life showing care and support for each other. While our mission is to establish mental health care facilities which specifically provide therapeutic services for Depression, Anxiety & Stress.
Any message for the readers?
Among the many physical challenges in life, mental health challenges, like Depression, Anxiety, and Stress are one of them. Since there is a stigma attached to seeking psychological help and it causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need. So I strongly encourage the readers to educate yourself and others, take this as an opportunity to play your role in this society and help raise the stigma from seeking psychological help.