Getting the Most from an Online Mental Health Support Group
If you have depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem, you can find support by visiting an online support group. Support groups can also help family members.
Mental health support groups offer support, understanding, and helpful information to people struggling with depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 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 a number of 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:
Go to PsychCentral.com for a list of mental health groups.
Search the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse.
Go to Mental Health America for help finding mental health resources.
Sites to try
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. This is a group for both consumers and healthcare providers.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. This site offers support for people with depressive and bipolar illness.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). This is a peer-led group for family members, caregivers, and loved ones of people with mental illness.
Online support groups can be helpful. But they’re not monitored by professional mental health providers. Some of them can spread inaccurate and sometimes dangerous information. This information is based on rumor, not sound medical practice. Keep this in mind. And don’t stop your medicine or change your medicine or dosage without speaking with your healthcare provider. Be careful when sharing personal information. Talk with a trusted provider before trying untested treatments or therapies.