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As a person who lives with recurring clinical depression and also is the facilitator of a local Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance support group for people with mood disorders and their loved ones, I thank Mark Hanna for his eloquent description of depression and plea for public understanding of this disease and compassion for people living with it ("Robin Williams' death holds lessons for the living," Aug. 18). Additionally, I thank Pastor Hanna for generously providing space for, and encouragement to, our support group.

People experiencing depression often isolate ourselves when we most need others nearby to help us "break through" or counter our distorted thinking with more realistic thinking and to convince us to seek help. Support groups can supplement professional treatment by providing hope, freedom from isolation and practical strategies for coping. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance provides peer support groups for people with mood disorders and their loved ones. There are four such support groups in the Baltimore. More are needed.

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I would love to encourage and discuss formal DBSA facilitator training for anyone interested in volunteering to start such a peer support group. This is an important way you can provide the compassion and understanding Mr. Hanna requests in his commentary.

Go to DBSAlliance.org for more information on contacting local support groups.

Vicki Hoagland, Baltimore

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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