Updated: Aug 23, 2019
Whether you yourself are struggling with a mental health condition, or are supporting a loved one, a support group can offer many benefits.
When you or someone you love begins struggling with a mental illness, it can be confusing to pinpoint the cause of the issue and difficult to determine the severity. You might wonder if it’s something that will pass or if it’s something more serious. In some situations, the negative feelings may dissipate quickly, but in others, it might last a significant amount of time with no discernible improvement.
When the issues persist long enough or are serious enough people can begin to isolate themselves. This can be the beginning of a vicious negative cycle. Loneliness and isolation can have a negative impact on mental health conditions and self-esteem, leading to increased isolation, thus causing the cycle to continue. Often times, finding others to connect with can help overcome some of these struggles.
Even for those with established mental health conditions already seeking professional help, a support group can still be beneficial. According to the Mayo Clinic, "a health-related support group may fill a gap between medical treatment and the need for emotional support. A person's relationship with a doctor or other professional personnel may not provide adequate emotional support, and a person's family and friends may not understand the impact of an illness or treatment. A support group among people with shared experiences may function as a bridge between medical and emotional needs."
Support groups can be conducted in a variety of formats and environments. They may be offered by nonprofit organizations, hospitals, clinics, community organizations, or just held by their members. They can be held in face-to-face meetings, online communities and forums, or virtual reality.
Benefits of a support group:
In a support group you’ll find people with similar experiences or struggles meaning that they’ll have similar thoughts, feelings, and issues. Support groups are typically structured so that members can share their personal experiences and offer each other emotional and moral support. They may also offer practical advice that they have learned along the way that might help you as well. While there are plenty of benefits when joining a support group, we have identified 8 distinct benefits below:
1) Minimizing distress, depression, anxiety or fatigue
2) Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
3) Developing a better understanding of what to expect in your situation
4) Gaining a greater sense of control
5) Speaking openly about your feelings
6) Improving your coping skills and a greater sense of adjustment
7) Sharing notes about resources
8) Obtaining practical advice about treatment options
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with a mental health condition, a support group might offer the help they need.
If you think this article might be able to help a loved one, please share it with them.
*This article is not intended to be professional or medical advice, as we are not trained professionals. It serves merely as a helpful guide, should you choose to utilize the information.