Depression has been regarded by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the three major diseases of the new century. According to the WHO, there are at least 85.6 million people with depression in South-East Asia. By 2020, depression and heart disease will have become the top two conditions that affect human lives.
Now Women Anonymous Reconnecting Mentally (WARM) is trying to do something about it. Since December 2017, we have been supporting women’s mental health, and we have become a necessary part of their lives. We are the first and only support group in Taiwan, working to improve and inspire women’s lives for the better.
Mental illness is extremely stigmatized in Taiwan. Treatments of depression in Taiwanese clinics are poorly covered by health insurance, which only covers about 2 percent to 4 percent of the expenses. On top of that, a single therapy session can cost around $100 to $120.
In WARM, we meet up every Sunday, providing women a safe platform to discuss anything plaguing their mental health. Generally speaking, in Taiwan, a therapy session is 50 minutes a week and a doctor’s visit is about 10 to 20 minutes a week; once we leave their clinics, we are all on our own again. WARM is trying to break that cycle and create a community that offers support 24/7. We share encouraging posts in our Facebook group and interactive questions or weekly challenges, such as: “look into the mirror and say ‘I accept you’ three times, then comment below and get a chance to win this exclusive WARM gift.” We make sure we incentivize women every single day without fail.
We see how women are empowered by listening and sharing. We have witnessed how topics, which were previously considered “unspeakable,” “weak” or something to “be ashamed of” for women, are being discussed openly. Sensitive topics such as rape, abortion, body image and abuse are boldly discussed in WARM. We have given our members a voice and a place to talk about their traumas. More importantly, WARM is a place for them to find closure, support and healing. WARM exemplifies that mental health is as important as physical health; no one chooses to be sick voluntarily.
Recently, we have been featured in the Taiwan Observer, Taiwan News, Taipei Times and ICRT. This shows how much society needs us and the important jobs we are doing. We are not a group therapy but a support group. We do not offer professional treatment to “fix” people; we guide our members to seek professional help outside of the group. The WARM meeting style is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) format, providing a safe and effective platform for women to share and encourage each other. It has been proven by past meetings that our structure is more than helpful to our members.
We hold our weekly meetings at MOWES in Taipei, a community space run by and for women. Besides our weekly Sunday meetings, we have various events dedicated to mental health at different venues with a wide selection of partners to collaborate with. We are the true example of what happens when people unite, speak up and raise our voice for ourselves. Together, we can fight anything, even the profound stigma of mental illness. WARM is trying our best to not just be a support group, but a cause for destigmatizing mental health. Our ultimate goal for WARM is that, hopefully, WARM won’t need to exist one day. When that day comes, we hope we can walk up to a stranger, and say “Hey, I don’t know you, but I support you.”