Health problems like cancer or heart disease and mental health
problems like substance abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have an
emotional side. And the same is true for certain life events, like being a
parent or caring for someone with a chronic illness. Your life changes. And you
may need a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to. You may need a ride to the
doctor or a night out. You need support.
Support takes many
forms. You can find support in seminars and groups led by professionals, in
groups of others who have the same problem, and in your relationships with
family and friends.
If you have a support network, you will not
feel as alone. You'll learn new ways to deal with your problem, and you may try
harder to overcome it. Social support can play an important role in recovery.
Support groups and peer support
You may want help
only from your doctor, friends, and family. But sometimes other people also are
good for you. In support groups, you find other people with situations like
Some support groups focus on education. These groups
often are led by a professional, such as a teacher or a doctor who shares
information about the problem. Other groups focus on support. They often
include only people who have the same problem. These are called peer
In a peer group, you'll find people who are going through
the same things you are. You'll see that you're not the only one and that
others have the same feelings and challenges as you. Group members can give you
support, advice, and encouragement. You can see what is working for others and
decide if it might work for you.
You can help others in the
group by paying attention and letting them know you are listening and by
sharing your thoughts. Your experiences and ideas may be new to them. Being
able to help others is rewarding and helps you gain self-confidence.
Peer support may include consumer providers and consumer-run
- A consumer provider is someone who has been
trained to help others with the same type of problems. You can find consumer
providers in clinics. Because they know what you have gone through, they can be
good role models and coaches.
- A consumer-run service is a group,
or part of a group, in which people with the same problem provide services.
These services include support groups, peer counseling, telephone helplines,
and drop-in centers.
How to find a support group
Here are some ways to find support groups.
- Ask your doctor, counselor, or other health
professional for suggestions.
- Ask your religious leader. You can
contact churches, mosques, synagogues, or other religious
- Ask your family and friends.
- Ask people who
have the same condition.
- Contact a city, state, or national group
for the condition. Your library, community center, or phone book may have a
list of these groups.
- Search the Internet. Forums, e-mail lists,
and chat rooms let you read messages from others and leave your own messages.
You can exchange stories, let off steam, and ask and answer questions.