SUPPORT GROUPS | May 11

How to Find a Support Group for Mental Health

BRIANNA VALLESKEY

If you’re wondering how to find a support group for mental health, you’re not alone. Millions of people in America, alone, suffer from mental illness, and one in four people worldwide are affected by mental health disorders. But the majority go untreated. High healthcare costs (for both insured and uninsured individuals) and limited availability of services make accessing mental health care a challenge.

As a result, many turn to support groups. According to the Mayo Clinic, joining a support group can help you feel less lonely, gain a sense of empowerment, reduce distress and improve coping skills. But before you start looking for a mental health support group, ask yourself: What do you want to get out of it? The benefits are numerous, and can include …

  • Joining a caring and understanding group of people
  • Learning new strategies to grow and adapt
  • Connecting with others who share similar experiences
  • Improving your relationships with friends and family
  • Talking openly and honestly about your feelings

And identifying which ones mean the most to you will help you find the best fit.

How to find a support group for mental health (the traditional approach)

So where do you start? The Mayo Clinic proposes some helpful - albeit not entirely easy - recommendations. Those include asking for suggestions from health care professionals or others you know with similar conditions. However, that’s only an option if you’re ready to start talking about your mental illness with another person.

The list also recommends contacting local centers within your community and/or state or national organizations devoted to mental health. That task, alone, could take up more than the less-than-two hours of extra time the average working American has each day.

Directories from Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America list hundreds (if not thousands) of different support groups - but those lists often aren’t limited to just mental illness support.

Mental Health America does have a helpful resource to find local affiliates in your area. But you’ll quickly find that a good number of states have no services, including Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah (where estimates of those suffering from mental illness are among the highest in the country).

You can also look to social networking sites. Facebook has more than 620 million groups, and a quick search of “support groups for mental health” brings up hundreds of open and closed ones with members ranging from single digits to tens of thousands.

Those groups may or may not be facilitated by trained professionals, and users are finding some that are not professionally moderated more harmful than helpful. Not to mention that joining a group with your regular Facebook profile means everyone knows who you are. The same goes for a platform like Meetup, where the groups are likely not run by health-care professionals, and you never really know what you’re going to get.

How to find a support group for mental health (an innovative method)

My challenge to you is to think outside the box. How can you find the right support group with tools that haven’t been previously available? One tool, in particular, that I can guarantee you use every day.

That’s right - your smartphone. In the digital age, where else would we turn? A friend of mine recently introduced me to Stigma, the highest rated app for improving mental health and finding peer support. Stigma anonymously matches you with 3-8 other users close to your age, who are also looking for compassion and support. In Stigma's support groups, users can message each other and respond to thoughtful prompts. You can also browse and match with PenPals to have more intimate one-on-one conversations.

Hundreds of thousands of people use Stigma to track their daily moods, write quick journal entries, join supportive communities and find digital pen pals. You can even improve friendships with family and loved ones by sharing moods and journal entries with them via the app. That’s the power of Stigma. You can choose to keep your journals and moods private, or share them with your PenPals and friends. Having a pulse on your friends’ moods builds stronger friendships. Your friends can reach out when they see you’re down, or celebrate when you’re happy. And you can do the same for them.

You can check out Stigma for free here.

Stigma’s personalized approach lets you log your daily moods qualitatively. Rather than a numeric scale of 1-10, the app lets you use adjectives, such as “stressed,” “lonely,” “tired,” “productive,” “accomplished,” or “excited.” You can also choose the word limit for your daily journal entries, so there’s no pressure to write a novel every day.

A color-coded weekly graph and monthly calendar enable you to monitor moods and identify trends over time. The best part? You can all of this all on your time; set daily reminders to log on and get support when you want, where you want and how you want - all in the palm of your hand.

Shouldn’t finding a support group always be this easy? We think so. Learn more here.

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