Getting the Most from a Mental Health Support Group
If you have depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem, you can find support by visiting an online support group.
Mental health support groups offer support, understanding, and helpful information to people struggling with depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other conditions.
Many towns have face-to-face support groups. People who don’t live near such meetings have another choice: They can visit online support groups, chat rooms, and message boards.
If you’re interested in joining an online support group, the following ideas can help you find one.
Questions to ask
It's important to find an online self-help group that meets your needs. Asking the following questions can help you find one that does:
Are there recent postings by several different people? The online group should have postings from more than a few people.
Are people truly helping one another? Questions and requests for help are best answered by members who can share their positive experiences, strengths, and hopes.
Are the members caring? Postings should be friendly and positive. There should be rules against abusive language.
Can you relate to the group? Different online groups have different intentions and levels of feeling. If a group isn’t on your wavelength, try another.
Is the site advertising a product as a cure? Be wary of those that do.
Search for sites
Many national self-help organizations have sites that provide message boards, email discussion groups, chat rooms, and links to sites that deal with their issue.
Here are other ways to find groups:
Search Google by clicking on “Advanced Search.” In the top box enter the problem or concern. In the “exact phrase” box enter “support group” or “support network.”
Go to Open Directory Project. Click on “Health,” then on “Mental Health.”
Go to PsychCentral.com for a list of mental health groups.
Sites to try
Anxiety Disorders Association of America. This is a group for both consumers and health care providers.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. This site offers support for people with depressive and manic-depressive illness.
Although online support groups can be helpful, they’re not monitored by professional mental health providers. Some of them can spread information based on hearsay, instead of sound medical practice. Don’t change your medication or dosage without speaking with your health care provider.