Human beings by nature are social animals, inherently longing for a sense of connectedness and belonging. As a result, we form communities wherever we are. They typically comprise family, friends and various others we regularly interact with. Our communities have a central function in our lives providing emotional support, security, comfort and shape the way we engage with the world around us.
Research suggests, when a person has at least one or more healthy relationships they are likely to become more resilient. Resilience is one’s ability to cope with stress and adversity; some characteristics of this trait are positive attitude, optimism and ability to regulate emotions.
A study found that the more resilient a person is the easier it is for them to cope with psychiatric symptoms, stress and other major life events; implying that our communities can help us cope and manage a variety of adversities that we face in our lives.
In fact, healthy relationships with friends was found to correlate with improved life expectancy in this study. Researchers found that friendship had a much more significant impact on life expectancy when compared to relationships with family members.
People living with mental illnesses can find it hard to confide in others, even to those closest to them. Additionally, the stigma associated with mental illness makes it even harder for these marginalised individuals to speak up and ask for help.
Support groups can bridge this gap by providing an alternative safe space for mutual support through shared experiences, anecdotal knowledge and similar concerns about mental health issues and its recovery. These groups are informal forums where people share about living with mental illness, addictions, chronic illness and are sometimes open to caregivers supporting people with these issues. They can also be used to disseminate a wide array of information regarding various mental illnesses. This educates the caregiver giving them a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of the illness at hand.
Why join a support group?
What are some drawbacks of being in self-help groups?
Research has shown that most people tend to benefit from participating in support groups. However, there is a common misconception that support groups can serve as an alternative to formal therapy. But that is not true, rather support groups compliment formal psychotherapy. This being said, all our bodies are different and require different combinations of treatment. It is essential that one finds a combination that is suited to their needs.
Some well-known support groups in India include Alcoholics Anonymous, Indian Cancer Society, Action for Autism and AASRA.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing difficulty with a mental illness we urge you to contact a mental health professional, call our helpline partners or find a therapist near you.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – Lao Tzu
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