If you have a mental health condition, you might want to join a support group. You know first-hand how hard it is to cope with a mental illness. That is why joining a support group can help affirm that you are not alone. Support groups are not meant as a replacement for therapy or treatment since they are not psychotherapy groups.
However, support groups do offer assistance for people who are struggling to live a healthy life. Each support group and its structure are different. Some are affiliated with a more extensive mental health program while others are independent groups.
Where meetings are held also varies. They can take place in schools, hospitals, community centers, places of worship or homes. Support groups occasionally have a health care professional leading the discussion while offering educational information to the members. But mostly, it is real people sharing their feelings, experiences, and coping tips that help them to lead a positive life with their mental illness or disorder.
Who can join a support group?
Support groups are made available to everyone, but they are usually tailored for specific topics. Among mental health conditions, the most common support groups include those for depression, grief and divorce. Before you show up to your first support group meeting, it is important to find a group that is geared specifically for your mental illness of disorder.
Where can I find a support group for my mental illness?
The first and most helpful place where you can find a support group is with your mental health practitioner. While you may want to start with a quick internet search, many local support groups do not advertise online. Therefore, you should ask your mental health professional or doctor. They may not run a support group, but they will be able to direct you to the right kind of support groups for your mental health condition. Also, they must keep all your conversations confidential, so you do not have to be shameful or embarrassed to ask them for help. The chances are high that they will support your decision and lead you in the right direction.
Reach Out to Your Place of Worship or Education
Many people spend a considerable amount of time at their place of worship or their school, college or university. If you are looking for a support group for your mental health condition, contact your place of worship or educational institution. Ask people at your place of worship or school about the different types of support services that they offer and try and find a few that you feel are right for you. Many educational institutions have health care centers that provide support to students, and many clergy members are trained to offer advice.
Do Not Settle for Just One Support Group
Now that you have your list of local support groups, you may want to edit the list down to the best single support group that is right for you. You know firsthand how hard it is to find a doctor or mental health professional that you admire. The same can be said for support groups. It may take several visits at several different support groups before you find the best one for you.
Each group, regardless of whether are intended to offer support for the same mental health condition, are run differently. They have their own rules and personalities, and you may like some more than others. The important thing is not to give up finding a support group if the first few are not to your liking or do not meet your needs.
What to Expect at Your First Support Group Meeting
Leaders of support groups are used to first-time visitors. They know how much courage it takes to show up. That is why they do everything that they can to make you feel accepted and welcomed. Many support groups are not designed to force members to participate. They want their members to feel that they belong, which can often be done by listening. Hearing people with your same mental health issues share stories with one another is considered participating. You may not only be able to relate to the stories, but you may also learn further information that can help you on your road to recovery. Eventually, you may begin to feel ready to open up and share your own stories about your mental illness or disorder.
No One Will Judge You
Support groups are new to you, and you may have a lot of questions that you want to ask. Do not shy away from any questions you may have about the group. Regardless if you think they are silly, dull, or just plain dumb. Support groups only work if you understand how they function. If during a meeting something sounds confusing or odd, ask for clarification. Support groups only work if there are participating members. Do not be afraid to speak up if you have an idea or thought that you would like to share. You never know if what you have to say can help other people in the support group
Support Groups are Confidential
You may find yourself opening yourself up more to your support group than you would to family, friends, or doctors. People with a mental health condition often do not want to talk about their illness or disorder. Yet you may be wondering why people feel comfortable speaking to their peers about their mental health conditions. It is because one of the biggest appeals of support groups is that they ask for confidentiality.
You Do Not Have to Go Alone
If you do not want to attend a support meeting alone, you do not have to. You can invite a friend or family member to participate with you. Showing up to a support group is what makes all the difference. It does not matter if you go alone or with a companion. You are already making a conscious effort to live a better life with your mental health condition. You are also embracing people that share your common illness or disorder and are opening yourself up to a new world of people.