How Can I Find a Local Support Group?
Whether you yourself suffer from a mental illness, or you are the loved one of someone who does, you can benefit greatly from attending a support group. Becoming part of a support group allows you to surround yourself with people who understand what you are going through in a structured environment where you can share your own feelings and experiences, listen and learn from others’ feelings and experiences, and both give and receive support. This can be a fortifying form of therapy because it can help you to feel less overwhelmed and isolated by the symptoms or situation you are living with.
Where to Start
Some support groups are for those who suffer with mental illness, while others are for the family and friends who love, want to help or even live with someone suffering from mental illness. Some groups are run by medical professionals, while others are peer-based, organized by some of the group’s own members.
Here are some good ways to find out what kinds of support groups are available where you live:
- Ask your family physician. Your doctor has access to a variety of mental health resources and should be able to inform you about your local support-group options or, at the very least, direct you to someone who can.
- Ask your therapist. In addition to having knowledge about local groups, your therapist may even be directly involved in a professionally led mental illness support group.
- Do a little digging. Your local phone directory likely lists the numbers of mental health organizations that can provide you with information about support groups in the area. Also, the websites of mental health organizations such as Mental Health America (the National Mental Health Association) or the Canadian Mental Health Association provide directories to their local offices as well as other contact resources for support groups.
Online Support Groups
If you are too uncomfortable with the idea of participating, even passively, in face-to-face discussions with others in similar circumstances as you, or if there are no appropriate support groups in your area, an online mental health support group might be a good alternative. Some groups offer both in-person and online components to maximize available support.