Virtual Peer Support for Mental Health in 2022
Peer support groups have become more popular over the last few decades because of the tremendous power they have to help people manage mental illness. A peer support group is a group of people with similar life experiences or similar mental health struggles. Support groups meet to talk and connect with each other while sharing support and strategies for coping with the challenges of mental illness.
Research has found peer support groups to be highly effective at improving mental health. Feeling isolated and alone is common among individuals with mental illness and peer support groups combat that by helping the group members see how others are similar to them.
It’s also helpful to see people in different stages of their mental illness because you can see people who have overcome similar struggles to your own. This can provide inspiration that you can overcome the challenges as well. Many people feel they can improve their mental health when they find a role model to show them it is possible.
Peer support groups are very fulfilling for many people because they benefit more than just yourself. The ability to help other people and receive help in return leads to an improved sense of well-being for many members of the group. While you may find your role model in a support group, you may become someone else’s role model, helping them find more inspiration and peace in their life.
Why peer support is more important than ever in a virtual world
Humans evolved to live in a social setting. Research has shown that connection is a human need, and loneliness can cause negative health outcomes. However, as the world has become increasingly virtual, many people don’t get the amount of social interaction they need. This can cause loneliness and increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.
As an increasing number of people work from home, due to both Covid-19 and a shift in work culture, many people spend much of their day alone. Virtual work makes it more difficult to form relationships with coworkers.
During the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, many people also experienced a shift to virtual interactions with family, friends, church communities, and other social outlets. Anytime there are interruptions to our regular social activities, symptoms of mental illness can become worse for some people.
Because connection is harder to come by when the world is increasingly virtual, peer support groups for mental health are more important than ever. While one-on-one therapy is incredibly helpful for managing mental illness, it does not provide the level of group connection that peer support groups can provide.
How to find peer support virtually
The most important thing about a peer support group is that you feel comfortable and able to connect. Look for a group that caters to people with your mental illness or with similar experiences so you can learn from the others in the group about coping mechanisms.
There are groups for people dealing with the loss of a loved one, groups for those managing co-occurring conditions of mental illness and addiction, groups for individuals experiencing eating disorders, and groups that cater to any other type of mental health challenge. Finding the right group for you can make all the difference in finding more peace and improving your mental health.
While it may seem more difficult to find peer support virtually, the possibility of meeting online opens up the possibilities for you to find the perfect group anywhere in the country or even the world.
If you reach out to providers in your area, they can point you in the direction of a peer support group that will best meet your needs. An online search can also help expand your options. Many support groups have contact info so you can ask questions about the way the group is run, the things you’ll talk about, and the type of people who participate.
Great support groups often have a facilitator. If you’re meeting with a virtual support group, ask if there’s a facilitator and if that facilitator has experience leading support groups. Additionally, ask how they prefer to organize their virtual support groups. The most experienced facilitator doesn’t always mean it’s the best group, but it’s a good idea to be informed before you make your choice.
Don’t be afraid to test out a couple of different virtual support groups before committing to one. If there’s a group that doesn’t feel like the right fit for you, try another. The group members are generally understanding and may even be able to point you in the direction of other options.
Once you’ve found a peer support group that feels like a good fit, make an effort to stick with the group for a while. It can take time to form the truly deep connections with other group members that provide the most value to your mental health.
In addition to formal peer support groups that meet through video to discuss their mental health, there are numerous online communities where people message each other, post about their experiences, and form relationships. If you prefer to connect through texts, messages, and group chat boards, this type of group may be a perfect fit for you.
If you are dealing with mental illness or feel that you could benefit from a peer support group, don’t hesitate to look for a group that fits your needs. Jackson House offers free virtual support groups for all alumni. Like many support groups, the Jackson House peer support group provides a space for connection and discussion of the challenges that arise due to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
If you feel you could use more support in managing your mental health, but you’re not sure what kind of support is best for you, reach out to the Jackson House team. The team can help you determine the best course of action.
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If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.