Mental Health Support Groups

Dealing with mental health issues is daunting.  People feel all alone.  The stigma of being treated for a disorder generally leads to a feeling of isolation.  However, approximately 13% of the population suffers from a mental disorder.  So, the search for mental health is not a solitary venture.  People do not have to be alone.  One answer is to discover the benefits of mental health support groups

Developing a Support Group

Support groups are available for a myriad of mental and physical health conditions.  The group is not necessarily facilitated by health professionals.  In many cases, a fellow sufferer wants to help others with the same condition, and receive personal encouragement in return.

A support group is a flexible means of helping people continue with their treatments, develop coping skills, deal with the stigma, and maintain healthy relationships.  The venue meets the needs of participants.  However, meetings are not restricted to one format.  For example, a support group works through:

  • Weekly meeting in a given location
  • Internet interaction
  • Emails
  • Phone calls

A support group is not committed to a specific number of members.  Two people can significantly help each other maintain mental health. The purpose of a group is to:

  • Share personal journeys
  • Comfort
  • Offer advice from life experiences
  • Provide a source of total acceptance

A mental health group is not judgmental or critical.  All of the participants deal with some form of the same disorder that adversely affects their quality of life. Although severity of the mental disorder may differ, members have a level of understanding that is lacking from the most supporting friend or family member.

The Benefits of Support Groups

In the effort to achieve mental health, an individual takes all of the required medications, attends psychological treatments regularly, and does whatever is required to be mentally healthy.  But, many people have a precarious perch on a sound mind. The pressures of everyday life can challenge good mental health, even under the best of circumstances.
Therefore, in addition to all of the necessary treatment options, a support group is beneficial for the good days and the bad, in different ways:

  • Connections
  • Coping skills
  • Motivation
  • Hope

Connections

For good mental health, every human being needs a place of refuge, where they can feel safe and accepted.  Some people think of it as “letting their hair down”. Every human needs to relax and let the guard down, no longer conforming to society’s expectations and being oneself.  A support group develops connections and friendships with others who can literally say, “I know what you are going through”.  The acceptance of others goes a long way in the eventual acceptance of self.

Coping Skills

Coping with mental health treatments, the side effects of drugs, and the stigma associated with a mental health disorder is difficult.  Holding down a job, maintaining relationships with friends and family, and simply getting through each day is often a challenge.
One of the best benefits of support groups is the experience of others in the group.  Discussing the difficulties of maintaining mental health frequently reveals ideas and strategies not considered before now.  For example, what are some of the ways to lessen the discomfort of side effects?  Is it time to call the doctor and try another medication that is more tolerable? Many people in the group have “already been there and done that.”

Motivation

Getting motivated, or stay that way, can be difficult when suffering from mental illness.  Members encourage each other to get the property treatment necessary to living a better quality of life. Fellow sufferers encourage one another to take a more proactive role in their care.  When it becomes tempting to forego the medication or neglect other treatments, a support group is there to make each other accountable-to keep up the good fight for mental health.

Hope

Hope is contagious.  Seeing people that have gone through the darkest shadows of mental illness, and come out healthier on the other side is a great source of hope and encouragement. Seeing another’s personal success is like a booster shot of hope. Obtaining good health truly is possible.  The effort may not be easy, but the end result means a better life, healthier relationships, and healthy self esteem.

Finding Support

People often want a support group.  But, what makes a support group worth the effort of becoming a member?  How do individuals find a healthy support group vs. a simple vent-fest?  The Mayo Clinic Staff has come up with a list of criteria for agood mental health support group:

  • Is it geared toward a specific condition?
  • Is the location convenient for regular attendance?
  • What is the meeting schedule?
  • Is there a facilitator or moderator?
  • Is there a mental health expert involved with the group?
  • Is it confidential?
  • Does it have established ground rules?
  • What is a typical meeting like?
  • Is it free, and if not what are the fees?

Armed with informative information, take the first step toward mental health encouragement and support.

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