Laura Bearskin was 16 and eight months pregnant when her father died.

“It was very difficult for me, losing my father and having a baby at such a young age,” she said.

Before he passed away, Laura’s father suggested he call her child Billy, if it was a boy.

Today, at 26 and with two children, one named Billy Boy, Laura is starting a support group for young mothers in Chisasibi.

She knows first-hand how restless she got after her son was born. It didn’t happen right away, but she soon wanted to start going out with friends again.

Mom babysat, but not always. “I’m glad for that now. It taught me to be responsible. But at the time I was disappointed, frustrated and angry at my situation.”

She blames her early pregnancy on lack of self-esteem and not having anyone knowledgeable to talk to about sex and relationships. And she remembers what it was like to raise a child without knowing basic things – like how to discipline him. Nowshe wants to pass on knowledge to other young mothers and began a support group in early December.

One of the first things they did was choose how often to meet (every Sunday 7, p.m. at the youth centre) and arrange a babysitting co-op.

Starting a support group is easy. Just find someplace to meet – at home, at the community centre, at the church. Fix a day and a time for the first meeting.

Let people know. Post notices around – at the restaurant, grocery store, band office, community health centre. Get to the meeting place a little early, just in case. Make a circle. You’re not giving a speech, you’re there to share experiences, so sit in a circle.

Once you form a group, you might find there are people in the community who will help. People came up to Laura after she began the group – the community health nurse offered to help and someone at the band office told her about an existing parent-child wellness program.

Bring in others, such as elders, to speak and offer their wisdom. Support can come from many places, and people who have gone through similar experiences have something to teach.

There can be all kinds of support groups.

For people with diabetes, for single parents, for people who want to stop using drugs or alcohol, for people who want to quit smoking.

With a self-help group, you’re not alone. To find out more about starting a support group, contact your local Community Health Representative, or call the Public Health Moddule in Montreal at 514-989-1013. Leave your name, phone number or address and they’ll send you a package of information on how to start your own group.