As isolated our society has become, it needs support, especially from friends and family. However, at times our dear ones struggle to understand and relate to us or give unbiased advice. Sometimes it is beneficial to talk to another group of people who are experiencing the same issue as you are — this might be a heartbreak, a health issue, family issue or even general life situations.
This group is known as a Support Group, and defined as, a group of people who share similar experiences and concerns, and provide emotional and moral support to one another. Support groups vary in the following ways- (i) model of delivery (whether it is face-face-to-face or online) (ii) Competence of the group leader (whether he/she is an expert or a layperson) (iii) goals ranging from (a general goal such as emotional support for parents who have lost an infant, to a specific objective such as return to the pre-injury position at work in groups for those off work for crucial injury) (Brunelli et al, 2016).
While support groups vary in the issues that they address, they all have one thing in common, they create a platform for people to share their personal stories, express their emotions, feel accepted and understood.
Below are some of the benefits of participating in support groups:
1. Support groups allow people to share their experiences and feelings, which lead to emotional support.
Emotional support comprises of expressions of care, encouragement, and reassurance. Support groups provide a warm and accepting atmosphere for their members and encourage connection to one another.
2. Support groups help you realise that you are not alone
Often we feel like we are the only ones struggling with a particular problem and fail to realise that others around us might be going through the same issue or something similar. Joining a support group and meeting people from different backgrounds with concerns similar to those of yours provides a sense of relief that you are not alone in struggling with that issue.
3. Support groups foster unity and hope
Since support groups bring people with similar experiences together and provide an opportunity for them to share their personal experiences, feelings, emotions and coping strategies, it creates a sense of unity. Support groups enable their participants to share and learn from each other’s successes and failures. Crucially, the members learn to accept reality and bear responsibility thereby creating hope.
4. They expand your knowledge base
Support groups create a safe space for people to talk about their health issues and other concerns. They also offer information about particular diseases and their effective management.
5. Support groups improve social and psychological health
Research suggests that support groups, especially those for chronic arthritis, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, down syndrome and addiction tend to have positive effects on the mental and physical functioning as well as the social functioning of the individuals participating in them. A study conducted by Shim et.al (2011) showed that written disclosure by women with breast cancer on Online support groups improved health self-efficacy and emotional and functional well-being.
Apart from the aforementioned benefits, support groups help in building self-esteem, improving interpersonal communication and feeling empowered. While they mostly happen in person, there has been a rise in the number of online support groups recently, especially during the pandemic. Online support groups offer anonymity, and greater access with instant and
Brunelli, A. A., Murphy, G. C., & Athanasou, J. A. (2016). Effectiveness of social
support group interventions for psychosocial outcomes: A meta-analytic review. The Australian
Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling, 22(2), 104-127.
McCarthy, K. (2017). 6 Major benefits of online support groups. Retrieved from.
Shim, M., Cappella, J. N., & Han, J. Y. (2011). How does insightful and emotional
disclosure bring potential health benefits? Study based on online support groups for women with
breast cancer. Journal of Communication, 61(3), 432-454.
Support groups: Make connections, get help. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from.