At Men Tell Health, we're big fans of support groups in all their forms. There is something incredibly comforting about strength in numbers.
We've talked specifically about peer support groups in another section, but this one is dedicated to self-help support groups that are a little less peer-led.
WHAT ARE SUPPORT GROUPS?
You may disagree, but we consider support groups to be slightly differently from peer support groups. Peer support groups tend to be run solely by peers with an interest in helping people within the same geographical location, with the same condition or sharing the same goals.
They are usually set up on an ad-hoc manner, where as support groups tend to be more formally run with dedicated and trained staff.
Support groups can take many different forms, depending on the needs of the group. They may be for those with a mental illness or could just as easily be there to support those who care for them. They could be a mixture of both
It's important, when starting or joining a group that you understand the aims of the group so you can get the most out of it.
Most groups will be facilitated by volunteers, generally trained or 'experts by experience'. The facilitator is there to help the group move forward, either by instigating conversation, making sure everyone who wants to take part can and by ensuring the topics discussed stay on track.
The group can also have a range of goals. This can, of course, be purely for self-help, but can also be an information resource or a fundraising initiative. The frequency of the group can also change. Some are weekly, some fortnightly, other's monthly.
It can be useful to attend groups that are more regular, i.e. weekly or fortnightly. This way, if you miss a session for any reason, you won't have to wait too long for the next one.
It's important to stress that support groups, of any kind, aren't and shouldn't be treated or considered to be the same as therapy. They certainly can, and should, act as a supportive network to supplement any prescribed therapy you may be undertaking.
HOW CAN SUPPORT GROUPS HELP?
Support groups provide a safe, supportive and welcoming space to talk about your problems and gain an understanding of other people living with similar conditions. They will exist for any number of illnesses and conditions, not all of which have to mental health-related.
One of the main reasons they are so popular is the sense of belonging that they offer. Knowing fellow members of the group empathise and understand the kind of things you are experiencing is an incredibly uplifting and inspiring feeling.
Finding a group can take a little research. The internet is always a good place to start, but they can also be advertised locally. Take a look at your local library, community centre, coffee-shops and your local paper. If you're sat there thinking that there isn't a support group near you. You know what to do? Try starting one of your own. You CAN do it.
If you have any experience about how support groups has helped you and you'd like to share it with our community, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.