Unlike physical disorders, mental illnesses are often not recognizable and difficult to identify. This makes these disorders a lot harder to understand leading the sufferers to believe that they are alone in their suffering and that help is unavailable. Top these with their own conviction that there is no way to heal them and that the disorder is too embarrassing.
These beliefs are true to most mental health patients making it hard for them to seek treatment or comfort, to say the least.
In response to changing these views, mental health support groups were created to help patients know that there other people experiencing the same disorders that they experience which lead them to seek treatment. These also make them feel that there is hope to their suffering and could motivate them to stick to their treatment. For some, its their groups that provide the support system they lack.
What is a Mental Health Support Group?
A support group is a gathering of people with a common goal or interest. Translated into mental health, it is a group of people who have similar sufferings and provide moral and emotional support to people like them. Usually, these support groups focus and specialize on a specific condition. For example, it is rare to find a depression support group that also covers schizophrenia. This need to specialize is driven by the fact that a psychiatric or mental disorder is a very complicated issue thus requiring a specific direction.
Support groups could be used in conjunction with formal and professional treatment and are often confused with group psychotherapy sessions. Group therapy is different in support group in such a way that the former requires a formal and pedagogical setting. This forms a group of people with similar disorders and subjected under the guidance of qualified mental health professional.
A support group could be formed by anyone who has a need to establish this type of group or who have a particular interest on the services that could be gathered from this group. It could be a patient of a specific mental disorder, a family member of someone who has a mental illness- virtually anybody. More organized support groups, however, are formed by mental health providers, non-profit organizations or mental clinics. Oftentimes, this type is controlled by a facilitator or a moderator who is knowledgeable enough in the field as to qualify him to manage the group.
Members of a support group are usually patients of mental illnesses. Someone suffering from unipolar or bipolar disorder is normally found on support groups focusing on these specific disorders or on a broader disorder like that of depression.
The most popular format of support groups is through internet which is broader in scope both in audience and varieties of topics. However, a customized but very limited type of support group is the person-to-person format or through telephone. Lack of more personalized support is the common disadvantage of joining online support groups.
A mental health support group could augment the professional treatment you receive but the services you get from this group should never be treated as substitute to your medical and psychological treatments. This group could open you up to reality and may even give you new hope, but remember that treatment for a mental illness is not all about will power.