NZ's first BPD support group forms

SARAH ARGYLE
Last updated 05:00 03/07/2014
 Lynoor Birrell, left and Jennifer Beckett

CHANGING BEHAVIOUR: Lynoor Birrell, left, and Jennifer Beckett hope that the private support group they run will change the behaviour of girls battling borderline personality disorder.

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A pair of psychologists have started the country's first support group to address one of the leading causes of suicide for adult women.

One in five New Zealanders battle borderline personality disorder (BPD) , a disease characterised by self-harm, overwhelming emotions, fear of rejection, abandonment and impulsive behaviour.

Jennifer Beckett and Lynoor Birrell run the group for women aged between 17 and 30 who suffer from the condition.

Beckett says suicide statistics in New Zealand are both high and unacceptable.

According to the latest Coroner's Report New Zealand 541 people committed suicide in 2013 alone.

BPD is one of the leading causes of female suicide in those aged 20 to 24, Beckett says.

Mental Health Foundation spokeswoman Paula Taylor says people with BPD are frequently in significant emotional pain and struggling to manage their feelings.

"We believe that no-one who experiences a mental health problem has to cope with it alone. We think support groups are a great way for people with BPD to connect, help each other and share strategies for recovery."

Beckett says symptoms to watch out for include suicidal behaviour, difficult to manage emotions, distress and eating disorders.

"They get triggered very easily and have a high emotional reaction. It's more prevalent among the female population and so our group is just focused on them.

"In a nutshell people with BPD are sensitive to others around them, feel their emotions as intense and overwhelming and find that it takes time for an upset mood to return to normal."

Families often struggle to cope with the disorder, she says.

"They often feel like they're walking on eggshells." .

Birrell says the stigma attached to mental illness in general makes it even more challenging.

"Clinicians often treat borderline disorder as depression but treating the symptoms without the condition is dangerous because it can generate another episode."

She says the group has a focus on firm therapy pushing for change while teaching girls to accept who they are.

Beckett says the pair do not have funding to run the group and at the moment a fee is charged assessed on a case by case basis.

Go to albanypsychology.co.nz or email jennie@albanypsychology. co.nz to find out how to take part in the programme.

If you are in crisis contact the 24 hour, seven days a week Lifeline helpline on 0800 543 354.

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