We spent nearly a year sheltering in place. We isolated ourselves in the name of global safety. Collectively, we made public health our priority. This decision, while responsible and necessary, wasn’t the most helpful scenario for many of us in regards to our own mental health.
What Is A Support Group and What Do People Talk About
There is strength in numbers. When we choose to share our thoughts and emotions with others who may be feeling similar, we can oftentimes find a sense of relief that may not have otherwise been presented had we not chosen to be vulnerable and honest. This level of community can indeed be sought out and found within support groups.
Many times, when we feel the need to dialogue through something we are experiencing, we find ourselves turning to loved ones—whether friends or family. Having those relationships and spaces to share are essential, however, in some cases those in our lives may not have the same lived experiences to provide us with adequate understanding. Meaning, they may not be able to sympathize or relate to what it is we’re thinking or feeling. Occasionally, and perhaps unintentionally, their efforts to help may cause harm due to their own fears, misunderstandings, or lack of awareness.
This is one of the reasons why support groups can be so beneficial. Coming together with a collection of individuals who share similar emotions and experiences to your own, who may be seeking support around the same topics or areas in their life, can allow us to healthily combat feelings of isolation.
Support groups are available in-person and online through a variety of different resources and organizations. Typically, they are based on self-disclosure, and they provide “…an opportunity for people to share personal experiences and feelings, coping strategies, or firsthand information.” The format of any one support group can vary. Some may be led by a peer who has firsthand knowledge of the topics being discussed. While another group may be led by a professional—say a therapist or counselor—who is well-versed in the areas of conversation.
While not the same as group therapy, support circles can provide a variety of benefits to those who attend. Some of which include: feeling less lonely, isolated, or judged, reducing distressing thoughts, depression, anxiety, or fatigue, developing skills to cope with challenges, gaining a sense of empowerment, control, or hope, and improving one’s understanding of an emotion or a diagnosis.
Expectations Of Being In A Support Group
There is no limit to the range of topics that can be covered in a group, but when attending a group specific for depression, one can expect to hear how others feel they are processing and/or handling their diagnosis, tools that can be used when experiencing depressive episodes, and the reminder that you, by no means, are alone in what you may be thinking or feeling.
The typical setting allows space and time for everyone to share if they want to or feel comfortable doing so. Of course, if you are someone who prefers to listen, absorb, and observe, that is absolutely acceptable as well. There is no right or wrong thing to share. Some support groups may ask folks to remain considerate when directly speaking about things that have the potential to be triggering for some. But you have full permission to speak authentically to your story and journey in a respectful manner.
How To Find The Right Support Group For You
Do not be deterred if you don’t find a group or collection of people you feel connected to or comfortable with immediately. It may take a few gatherings or a willingness to try a variety of different groups to find a good fit. But, with a bit of patience, the benefits can be incredibly supportive and encouraging.
Mental Health America, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to meeting the needs of those living with mental diagnoses or illnesses, has an online support group called Inspire, which allows folks to connect on a variety of different topics. Additionally, they’ve put together a list of specialized support group resources.
SupportGroupsCentral is a free online resource with a variety of topics accessible to connect on. We here at TWLOHA always recommend reaching out to your local support systems, such as your primary care physician or counselor, to see if they have any recommendations in your area. Additionally, you can use our FIND HELP Tool to search by zip code for affordable, local options.
For immediate assistance, Crisis Text Line Counselors can be reached 24/7 by texting TWLOHA to 741741; their services are free and confidential. TWLOHA staff member, Aaron Baccash beautifully said, when speaking about these resources, “We see hearts still beating, people choosing to stay and believe that, in a moment as small as one search or a couple of text messages, they are worthy of help.”
For further information, support, and options, Very Well Mind has an extensive list of groups organized by topic areas, such as addiction, food support, emotional and mental mealth recovery, and groups for families, caretakers, and loved ones. You can access TWLOHA’s list of online support groups here as well.
You are not alone in your journey. You are not broken for needing or wanting safe spaces to express and share what it is you may be thinking, feeling, and experiencing. You are worthy and deserving of social support and a caring community, whether that is found digitally or through face-to-face interactions.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 800-662-HELP (4357)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: 800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741741
- Talkspace offers recommendations for both you and your family.