A support group is a small group of people with a particular condition, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, who meet regularly to discuss their their experiences, their problems and their strategies for coping. Some support groups meet online.
What are the benefits?
Research shows that hearing from and sharing with others with similar experiences can be very helpful. A support group can provide the following gains:
- show you that you are not alone
- help develop new skills in relating to others
- permit you to ‘open up’ and discuss your situation and feelings
- give practical skills and advice – such as how to draw up and stick to a treatment plan
- provide new coping strategies – share your solutions and learn from others’ experience
- offer a safe place to sound off about frustrations of living with a disorder
- supply strategies for managing any stigma associated with your disorder
- strengthen motivation to stick with a treatment plan.
Support groups for family and friends
Family members/friends can also benefit from their own support group:
- they learn more about the disorder and become more constructively involved in recovery
- they hear of new strategies for coping, reducing stress and getting community resources
- they gain increased appreciation of the importance of sticking with a treatment plan.
The next step is the hardest – going the first time. Everyone has a hard time going to a support group the first time. Sometimes, it’s hard to make yourself go, even if you enjoy the group and have been attending for some time. Excuses like the following may keep you from going:
- I’m too tired when I get home in the evening
- I’m fearful of meeting new people
- I’m afraid I won’t be liked
- I’m afraid I won’t be welcomed
- It feels very risky
- Transportation is difficult
- I can’t find a group that seems to fit me
- I don’t like to tell others what’s going on with me
Try to get past those issues, figure out how to do it, and go.
A support group can be one part of your plan for wellness, but it does not replace the need to maintain close connections with your family and friends, nor does it substitute for having people available with whom you can share the details of your daily life.