If you are dealing with mental illness, then you may often feel very alone. This is a very common feeling, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone worries that they are the only one that is working through their mental health issue, and many times they make it so that they are more alone than they were to start with. The thing is, if you're struggling with mental illness, it's really important for you to be involved with other people during the process. In this article, we're going to explore why community is important for your mental health support and how you can find the community that you need in order to heal and thrive, even in the midst of your struggle.
Why is Community Important in Mental Health Support?
There are a number of really important reasons that you should be involved in community when you are working through your mental health issues. Support groups are one of the most common ways for you to find community, and many people with mental health struggles will be involved in one to help with their struggles. Here are just a few of the most important ones that you will find people talking about when this topic comes up in studies or conversation.
They can help you to learn more about yourself.
Many times, we learn more about ourselves just by talking with other people who are having similar experiences. It can also be a lot easier to talk about your struggles when everyone around you is dealing with the same sorts of things. Self-discovery can always be done in counseling, but a support group can help to take it a step further because there's personal experience backing it up, and something may get noticed or talked about that you've never talked about before. Learning more about yourself is a big deal when it comes to mental health, so support groups can play a significant role in leading that along. It can also help you to feel more comfortable in your own skin, which will help with your confidence and your healing process.
Helping others helps you to help yourself.
Many people who struggle with mental health issues feel "useless" or "not good enough" because they feel like they can't positively contribute to the lives of others. The good news is, you aren't. Finding a community for support can have the result of helping those in your group, which helps to add to feelings of positive contributions to society. That, in turn, can help with self-esteem and alleviate some of the symptoms of the mental health issue in question. Giving support and getting support are both beneficial, and support groups help you to do both of those things.
It provides a safe place to talk about your issues with people that understand the journey as well.
Sometimes, people just don't get what's going on. Obviously, if you're in therapy, your therapist understands you and understands the journey that you're on. But sometimes, you need people who actually understand the disorder because of first hand experience. If you have anxiety, sometimes it's much easier to hear that other people are having the same thoughts and feelings as you are, because then you are more likely to feel as if your feelings are legitimate, and that other people really are dealing with the same things that you are and that it is not just "all in your head" (which is a common concern for many people who struggle with mental health issues).
You can develop relationships that last a lifetime.
Sometimes, relationships are hard, especially if you are struggling with a mental health issue that secludes you from the company of others. Relationships can become a major struggle for people, and in some cases, your relationships become strained. It may be hard for you to make new friends. A support group can actually help you to develop new friendships in a non-threatening space, which can play a large role in helping your confidence and stretching your comfort zone in healthy, safe, monitored ways.
It helps you to socialize more.
Socializing is hard for a lot of people who are struggling with mental illness, especially if it is one that secludes you, like social anxiety or depression. By joining a support community, you have the ability to start communicating with other people on a regular basis. It may be stressful at first, especially if you have a social phobia, but the time that you spend socializing will make it easier for you to socialize in the future, and it will make it more comfortable for you to "get out of the house" and enjoy the company of others in a non-threatening, safe situation that helps you to thrive instead of panic or run away.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of important parts to finding community for mental health support. If you've got these on your side, you're better able to move forward and feel strong, even on your worst days. Who wouldn't want that sort of support system on their side?
How do I Find Others Like Me to Support Me In My Mental Health Journey?
Of course, the obvious question is "how do I find others like me?" A lot of people won't talk about their mental illness openly, so it may be difficult to find people who are struggling with the same issues that you are dealing with, at least at first. But there are a number of different resources that you can utilize in order to make these important connections and to get started on your support journey. Here are just a few of the resources that you can and should use when you're looking for mental health support groups and outlets.
Look online for support groups.
The internet is an amazing resource for finding support groups, and there are literally thousands out there for everything that you can imagine. Some support groups are based online, so that you don't have to go face to face, whereas others allow you to get out into your community and meet people near you that are just like you and dealing with exactly the same things that you are dealing with. Use the internet as a resource, and websites like ours can help lead you in the right direction for your mental health journey.
Talk to your therapist about joining a support group.
Many mental health offices, especially if you're seeing a counselor at a practice, have support groups available for people who want to utilize them as part of their recovery (in some cases, they're required, but it depends on what you're seeing your therapist for). Ask your therapist if they think it is a good idea for you to join a support group, and if they have any suggestions for you. They can help you make the difficult decisions that you need to make in order to find the right support group for your needs. Also, if you aren't currently working with a mental health professional, please use the resources on our site in order to find one that fits your needs and purposes - they can help you do a number of different things, and help you to find the right path toward your stabilization and healing.
Reach out to people in your community that you may know.
Sometimes, people who have mental health issues are drawn to others who have mental health issues. Some of your closest friends may be struggling with the same exact things that you are. Talk to them openly about your struggles and you may learn a lot more than you ever realized before. That being said, your friends may be a good resource that can help you find support groups, because they may have heard of them or know people that are in them. Another resource that you can utilize is a house of worship - many religious organizations will host support groups in their buildings, so they may have a place for you as well. You'll have to do a little bit of research and talk to some people (which in some cases, may be hard, depending on your mental health struggle), but the results will be worth it because you may find a group that is not posted online or may not be known by your mental health professional. Either way, make sure that you know all of your options so that you can find the best ones for your needs.
We've got plenty of resources here on the Theravive site that you can use as well. Look around and see what we have to offer, and you will likely be able to find exactly what you're looking for in your area. It may be hard to step out of your comfort zone at first, but if you take that first step toward finding support, you will soon see that there is a whole world of it out there to find, and that you can find friends and support systems that will help you heal. Check out our resources, or talk to your therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist today and start your journey with the support of others who are going through the same things you are going through.
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Mayo Clinic Staff. (2012, August 1). Support groups: Make connections, get help. Retrieved June 5, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/support-groups/art-20044655
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2011). Support groups: Share experiences about depression, mental health conditions. Retrieved June 5, 2014, from http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/support-groups/MH00044.html
Walcott, C. M., & Music, A. (2012, September). Promoting Adolescent Help-Seeking for Mental-Health Problems: Strategies for School-Based Professionals. Retrieved June 5, 2014, from http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq/41/1/promoting-adolescent-help-seeking.aspx
WebMD. (n.d.). The Benefits of Support Group Therapy. Retrieved June 5, 2014, from http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/anxiety-support-group