Day #11: Support Groups

Do You Have Enough Support?
by Diane Plourde

Photo courtesy of Advocates of Lake County

Have you ever felt you were all alone in your struggles? Do you sometimes feel you are the only one going through a particular difficult situation? Do you wish you had someone to talk to that knew exactly what you were going through or has lived firsthand experience? Are you uncertain if you are making the right decision regarding a critical issue in your life? If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, you might want to consider a support group.

It can help to know that whatever you’re experiencing, you’re not alone. Joining a support group can allow you to share your emotions, listen to others and build new, meaningful relationships. It is a form of self-care. There is value in connecting with others. Connection can provide us with concrete help, emotional support, perspective, advice, and validation. Humans are social animals. We crave feeling supported, valued, and connected.

Photo courtesy of 1in5minds

In a support group people come together with common experiences or concerns and provide each other with encouragement, empathetic understanding, comfort, and advice. Members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community.

There are many types of support groups available today. You may be most familiar with 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, however, self-help groups exist for mental health, such as depression, anxiety, addiction, for families of those with addiction, and grief, as well as caregivers, illness, divorce, women and more. Meetings can take place in person, over the phone, or online.

How do I know if I have enough support?
Support can also be available in small, informal groups with people you already know. Ask yourself if you have at least a few friends or family members who:

  • feel comfortable to be with
  • give you a sense you could tell them anything
  • can help you solve problems
  • make you feel valued
  • take your concerns seriously

Getting support from a group
If you’re facing a particular stress, like a serious illness, you may want to get additional support beyond what your friends and family can offer. Support groups can provide:

  • concrete suggestions and information about the issue
  • people who can empathize with how you are feeling
  • a reminder that you’re not alone
  • inspiration from seeing others coping well

You’ll likely benefit most from attending a group in person (or via zoom) since hearing someone’s voice and seeing the look on a person’s face can really deepen connection, but if there’s no group in your area, consider online support or discussion groups.

Looking for a support group?
For a listing of support groups in your area including specialized support group resources visit https://www.mhanational.org/find-support-groups.

For additional support group resources in Connecticut visit https://uwc.211ct.org/support-groups/.

Mental Health Connecticut’s toll-free number offers Connecticut residents information about support groups as well as other mental health information and services. Visit https://www.mhconn.org/education/information/ or to access this free service, contact 1-800-842-1501 or email information@mhconn.org.

“I had no idea that kind of help was available. And it’s right down the street from me! Thank you so much. Now I have hope.” —Information Line Caller