Recognizing the value of self-help groups in N.J.

Gov. Jon Corzine has issued a proclamation declaring January 2007 “Self-Help Support Group Awareness Month” in New Jersey.

In the proclamation, the governor noted how self-help groups are empowering and cost-effective community resources; how they serve as a source of social support, enabling people to deal with short-term crises and life transitions, as well as long-term disabilities; are based on a deeply rooted American tradition of local volunteer initiatives; and have been the subject of increasing research reflecting how they help people cope better with adversity and stress, according to Barbara White, spokesperson for the New Jersey Self-Help Group Clearinghouse.

The New Jersey Self-Help Group Clearinghouse, a nonprofit agency funded through the Division of Mental Health and sponsored by Saint Clare’s Health System in Denville, had requested that the governor issue the proclamation to help educate the public on the availability and benefits of self-help groups, according to White.

Throughout New Jersey, there are about 4,000 self-help group meetings that deal with stressful life situations such as addictions, the loss of a loved one, health-related problems, disabilities, mental illness, family and parenting concerns, and abusive relationships, according to White.

For those who have just received a diagnosis, lost a loved one or experienced any life-altering situation, self-help groups provide a sanctuary where they will be truly understood and validated by others who “have been there,” according to White.

Self-help groups are run by and for people with problems or stressful situations. They are not “pity parties” where members sit around and bemoan the adversities of life; rather, they are positively focused on healing, recovery, advocacy, coping strategies and finding community resources, according to White.

The N.J. Self-Help Group Clearinghouse is offering two free workshops on Jan. 13 at Monmouth County Library Headquarters, located at 125 Symmes Drive in Manalapan.

The first workshop, “Developing a Self-Help Group,” will run from 9:30 a.m. until noon. It is designed for laypersons who would like to organize any type of self-help group, according to White. Scheduled from 1-3:30 p.m., the second workshop, “Basic Facilitation Skills,” is for those who are facilitating or plan to facilitate any type of self-help group, according to White.

Registration for the workshops is free, but seating is limited and preregistration is required. To register, call the N.J. Self-Help Group Clearinghouse at 1-800-367-6274 or visit its Web site at