Mental Health Support Groups

If you have a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder, general anxiety disorder or any other type of mental disorder, then joining a support group can help massively. It may feel like a daunting process to go through initially, especially if you have an anxiety condition.

However, with such positive results seen by people who attend support groups, you may find, as others have, that it is an integral part of your overall recovery. Sharing your experiences and concerns can be one of the best treatments for many mental health conditions.

To gain more details about mental health support groups and to understand the benefits of them, read the following helpful information. You will also learn how to find a support group that works best for you. Combine support groups with other treatments your doctor has recommended and you may find you are able to cope with your mental health condition more easily than before.

What are mental health support groups?

If you have been diagnosed as having a mental health condition, then your doctor will have given you a course of treatment. This could be therapy-based, medicine-based or a combination of the two. However, getting emotional support is also of the utmost importance if you want to take steps to recovery.

Although therapists, doctors, family and friends are all important and can give you emotional support, you may feel uncomfortable allowing them to do so. Families and friends may not fully understand the sort of support you need and you may find health care professionals too distant in their connection with you. Therefore, joining a mental health support group, where you can share your experiences with peers who are going through the same thing, is a great way of bridging the gap between your other support treatments.

It can often be very beneficial to regularly talk and listen to other people in the same boat as you. Sharing your experiences can help you and the other members of the group. The types of things you talk about could be issues to do with your condition, family problems, coping strategies and more. You do not have to talk at support groups if you do not want to though. It can be just as helpful to listen to other people’s experiences so you do not feel alone. All support groups are confidential as well, so you can feel comfortable in sharing your problems and experiences.

Some support groups are led by health care professionals while others are led by peers, so you might want to try different types of support groups to find the right one for you. Groups usually focus on specific topics like depression, anxiety, grief or trauma, so you can join a group that is tailored to your needs. It is important to find a support group that feels comfortable to you. All groups will be different, so if you do not get along with the first one you attend, do not let that stop you. Try different groups to determine which group you feel safe and at ease with. It will then be easier to share your problems.

To find local mental health support groups, you may want to search online. However, many groups in your community might not have an online presence. Therefore, it is best to talk to a health care professional who can give you a list of local groups and run through the best options for you.

Types of Mental Health Support Groups

With mental health support groups covering the wide-range of specific mental health conditions, you will first need to find a group for your own condition. Some groups may focus on a condition type such as eating disorders whereas another may concentrate on a specific demographic with the condition like former military members with post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are lots of different types of mental health support groups. Some are affiliated to larger organizations while others are independent. Some support groups meet in places like community centers, hospitals, schools and places of worship, while others meet in people’s homes. Finding the right environment for you is an important factor in finding the right group. For instance, you may feel uncomfortable in a hospital setting but much more at ease in somebody’s home.

You should also be aware that different groups will be different sizes. One group may have five people in regular attendance, whereas another may have 20. If you feel more comfortable with either fewer people or more people, then you may wish to choose your support group accordingly. Some mental health support groups also offer educational opportunities. This includes things like mental health care professionals, such as psychologists or social workers, talking to the group about a specific related topic.

Some people find online support groups to be more beneficial. If you are struggling to find a group in your local area or you prefer to stay anonymous, then an online group might be the best option. Online mental health support groups can include chat rooms and discussion boards. They are also able to support you 24 hours a day. Some of the more popular online support groups can be located through the following directories:

  • PsychCentral
  • Mental Health America
  • National Alliance on Mental Health: Peer to Peer

What are the benefits of joining a mental health support group?

There are many benefits to joining a mental health support group. Meeting people in a similar position as you and sharing experiences can make you feel less lonely, judged or isolated. Support groups can help to reduce stress and anxiety and keep you motivated. The following are some other major benefits of joining a support group:

  • Talking helps. Members of mental health support groups might talk about which medications worked for them, whether it is best to disclose your mental health condition to your workplace and how to talk to your family about your condition. At the end of the day, you can talk about whatever you want or you cannot talk at all and just listen to other members’ experiences. Either way, the process can be enormously beneficial to coping and feeling better.
  • You can learn coping strategies. Although there is no foolproof cure for many mental health conditions, such as depression or schizophrenia, you can employ specific coping strategies to make the condition much easier to deal with. Some support groups can help you learn coping strategies and self-care skills.
  • Most mental health support groups meet on a regular basis. This is usually weekly or monthly. Having a regular structure can be very beneficial to some people. It means you know you can share your last week’s problems at an appointed time.
  • You do not have to attend every meeting. If you do not feel in the mood to attend or you simply do not have time, then you can miss a session without any repercussions. Your support group will be there for when you really need it.
  • You can make friends. It is believed social interaction can help alleviate symptoms of conditions like generalized anxiety disorder and depression. Support groups make it easier to meet new faces and bond with people. It is often the case that people who meet at groups become friends and meet outside of the group.

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