When you find yourself going through a challenging time or traumatic experience, your first instinct might to become distant or isolate yourself from friends, family members, co-workers, and/or neighbors. If you have a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression, this can provoke social isolation, as well. While there is ultimately nothing wrong with some time spent alone, it is also shown that “humans are hardwired to relate to those around them for their own well-being and to help achieve a sense of belonging.” This is where the concept of support groups comes in.

Support groups, in a fairly broad sense, are groups of people with similar experiences, usually peer-led, with the purpose of sharing experiences, support and coping strategies. These differ from therapy groups/group therapy, which are led by mental health professionals. There are many different focus areas of support groups, varying from those who have experienced grief and loss to those who have been diagnosed with a chronic medical condition to those who have a mental health disorder. More specifically, you can find groups focused around eating disorders, postpartum depression, Alzheimer’s, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), retirement, injury recovery, and many more.

Not only are there many different types of support groups available, there are also many benefits to them, which can include:

  • Reduced feelings of loneliness and/or isolation
  • Increase in hope and optimism
  • Gaining a sense of empowerment
  • Learning new coping skills
  • Helping to stay motivated in treatment plans

When searching for a support group, it is a good idea to prepare appropriately, as this will help you choose the support group(s) that are best for you and to help you know what to expect. Are there certain rules of the group? Many support groups will have “requirements” to attend the group, such as being a certain age, living with a certain condition (or being a caregiver for someone that does), and so on. It is also important to ask other questions, including:

  • Where is the group located?
  • Is it virtually or in-person?
  • What is the frequency in which the group meets?
  • Is it free or is there a fee to join?

There are many different support groups that can help with a multitude of different areas, ranging from anxiety to diabetes to transiting to a new career or retirement. Support groups can help you feel less lonely in what you’re experiencing and learn coping skills from other participants. That being said, while these groups have many benefits, they are not meant to replace advice from mental health professionals and/or physicians. Also, support groups may not be for everyone and that is OK too, but if it is something you are interested in learning more about and/or finding a support group yourself, look at the resources below.

1. Mental Health Association in Delaware – there are free peer-led groups offered both virtually and in-person (Mondays-Thursdays) that focus on areas such as anxiety, depression, and grief. For more information, go to https://www.mhainde.org/wellness-groups/wellness-group-schedule/#

2. Psychology Today – if you are looking for therapy groups (meaning they are led by mental health professionals), there are many different types that are offered in Delaware, both in-person and online. Some groups include loss of partner/spouse, anger management, and eating disorder recovery for young adults. However, it is good to note that some of these may cost money to attend, but there is also a possibility that insurance will cover it. For more information, go to https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups/delaware

3. NAMI Delaware – NAMI offers free peer-led groups, meeting both in-person and virtually. Some of these groups include “Sharing Hope: Community Conversations” which “covers specific topics around mental health and stigma within the Black community” and “NAMI Family Support Group” which is for adults that have a loved one who “has experienced symptoms of a mental health condition.” For more information, go to https://www.namidelaware.org/groups-classes/

4. Help is Here Delaware – If you are looking for an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) support group, Help is Here DE has listed multiple options for both online meetings and in-person for multiple different locations, dates and times. For more information, go to https://www.helpisherede.com/addiction/treatment-and-recovery/support-groups

Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper

Mollie Clupper works for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with loved ones.