We asked our Birmingham and West Midlands support group leaders, Marie and Hayley to tell us more about the group.......
How long has the Birmingham and West Midlands support group being
Marie: Iím not sure exactly when it
started Ė Iíve been attending for around 4-5 years and taken on a lead role
around 6 months ago.
Hayley: The group feels like it's been
there for a long time with the lovely friendships that have been formed. I was
welcomed in 2 years ago after moving from Wales and feeling lost about my
How often does the group meet?
We meet 6 times a year.
Why did you decide to become a support group leader?
Marie: The previous leader, Jen, was
stepping down and I put my name forward to take on the group. Iím a pretty
organised person and think itís really important for the group to exist for people
that arenít sure how to deal with their alopecia and need support from others. I wanted to make sure the group didnít disappear when Jen stepped
Hayley: Jen also put my name forward to
support Marie so between us we can always be there at meetings. The support group was key to my recovery mentally and my hair has grown back
since. I love to help people feel supported and help them on their alopecia
Do you always meet in the same venue?
We vary our venues depending on what
weíre doing and how busy it might be. Our current main venue is The Wellington
Pub which is just out of the main shopping area in town. They provide us with a
private room for our meetings. Although the Wellington is a pub, you don't have
to walk in the actual pub but up a separate staircase to the room. It's a
lovely place! We're more than happy to meet people outside if they feel
uncomfortable walking in alone if they drop us an email before hand.
Other meetings places we use are Trendco
(wig salon) and St Martinís Tea Room in the Bullring, where itís an open plan so
more of a social meeting is held here.
All locations we are currently using are
in Birmingham City Centre as itís easiest to access for most people, and can be
combined with a day out if people want to.
And weíre always always open to
suggestions for venues!
What can people expect from a Birmingham and West Midlands support
Marie: Numbers attending our meetings
have varied from 6 to 26. To help people with availability for meetings weíve
released all 2016 dates ahead of time so dates can be put in diaries. We have a
range of ages that attend from teenagers up to ladies in their 70s. Some
members bring along a friend or family and some attend on their own. Those
attending have a variety of different types of alopecia, including alopecia
areata, alopecia universalis and frontal fibrosing alopecia. All are welcome.
Hayley: We want everyone to get the most
out of meetings. We sometimes offer activities for the group to get
involved in. Sometimes we just chat and eat cake, which is very useful for newcomers.
We once had a crafty session making 'Happy Jars', have arranged scarf tying
tutorials and my favourite, a picnic for International Alopecia Day.
Weíd love some more men to join the
group. It would be good to hear their experiences and get their input on the
What is the best thing about leading the Birmingham and West Midlands
Marie: The best thing about leading the
group is the positive feedback that the members give, especially new members
who have been along to their first meeting and been able to bond with people in
a similar situation. It feels great to be able to offer advice and support to
those that need it and is hugely satisfying knowing that I can help others
through my own experiences.
Hayley: I also love using my own
experiences to help others. We've not been leading the Birmingham group for
long so I'm looking forward to organising exciting outings and fun activities
for meetings in the future. Helping people and making people happy is so
What would you say to someone feeling nervous about attending a
support group meeting for the first time?
Marie: Most people are nervous the first time
they come along, but weíre all very welcoming and accepting. Thereís no
pressure to say anything, if you want to come along and just listen, thatís
fine with us. Talk as much or as little as you like. And if anyone is anxious,
we are happy to pass on our numbers and meet them outside to walk in with them.
Hayley: Although we appear to be
strangers, we all have something in common so we completely understand the
journey you're going through. I remember my first time, I couldn't find the
group as everyone was wearing wigs so I didnít know anyone had alopecia! I
spotted an Alopecia UK leaflet on a table and asked the ladies if they were the
alopecia support group! Imagine if they weren't! Luckily they were and were so
lovely and welcoming. We're happy to meet people outside though as Marie said.