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What Are Support Groups, and How Can They Support Our Mental Health?



If we have learned one lesson from 2020, it is the importance of a strong support system. Staying connected is important to our mental health, and it becomes even more important during difficult times.

It doesn’t matter whether you are experiencing stress and anxiety while things are slowly returning to “normal” after a traumatic year, the loss of a loved one or some other personal struggle around people who have gone through similar things and can relate to that what you are feeling offers great comfort.

This often requires a look outside of our immediate circle. This is where self-help groups come into play.

“When you think of support groups, you probably envision a dark church basement where everyone is sitting in a circle exchanging deeply personal information. These are no longer the typical self-help groups, ”says Dr. Natalie Bernstein, clinical psychologist and life coach. “Today, online support groups are growing and thriving more than ever.”

Here is everything you need to know about online support groups.

What are support groups?

“Self-help groups are a place where several people can come together and help each other in different ways,” she says Holly Schiff, PSyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist. “It creates a sense of community, reduces isolation and loneliness, and helps members feel stronger as people with the same problems come together to share coping strategies, stories and experiences.”

In a support group, you can speak freely and express your feelings in a safe space. “A support group encourages you to be open and honest about your feelings, and it can also help you stay motivated to stick to your treatment plan because you know there are others who are going through the same thing and will hold you accountable too “Explains Dr. Ship.

Online support groups can also give people the opportunity to connect to a wide network. “Virtual support groups offer the benefit of more frequent and flexible participation, as well as opportunities for those who may not have local personal support groups in their community,” says Dr. Ship. “There is also a higher level of privacy and anonymity.”

Connected: The best online grief support groups currently available

Certain groups even have experts speaking on different topics. “Sometimes support groups offer educational opportunities where an expert or professional can talk about a topic related to the needs of the group and you can get hands-on feedback and learn some skills to help you overcome your challenges,” adds Dr. Ship added.

Why are support groups important to our mental health?

Surround yourself with people you can rely on during difficult times to help speed the healing process.

“Having a strong support system is important to our mental health because people you can trust and turn to can help you overcome daily challenges,” says Dr. Ship. “It is important that you have people who you are comfortable with and who talk about your experiences and what support you need. A social support system has been shown to have a positive impact on your overall mental health, and emotional support can help cushion some of life’s stressors and improve your ability to cope with stress. Social support can build you up and give you the strength not just to keep going, but to thrive. “

The 10 best online support groups

ADAA online support group

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a platform for those seeking advice and people who currently have or have experienced similar mental health issues. Her support group focuses on the prevention and treatment of anxiety disorders. While anxiety and depression are the focus, they also cover OCD, ADHD, PTSD, and other types of mental illness. You can participate on your desktop or download the app.

Central self-help groups

If you want a number of options to choose from, visit Support Groups Central. It’s the ultimate support group resource, offering everything from recovery from addiction and eating disorders to depression and LGBTQIA +. Most of these groups are free or suggest a donation.

Connected: 25 Virtual Recovery Groups to Help You Get and Stay Sober

Psychology today

In addition to a database for therapists, Psychology Today offers online support groups as well. All you have to do is search “find a therapist”, go to the “Support Group” section and find the right one for you. The costs vary depending on the insurance coverage.


COVID led to an increase in all types of virtual groups, including support groups on Facebook. To help people struggling with mental health issues during the pandemic, therapists and mental health experts have formed groups to help people dealing with fear, grief, and more.

While some groups are private, most are accessible and all you have to do is ask to join.


Known as a resource for therapists, Zencare also offers online support groups to teach coping skills to people struggling with their mental health. They organize groups into categories: Stay Supported, Stay Mindful, Stay Grounded, and more. The prices vary depending on the insurance.

The strain

Providing peer-to-peer support groups for people with anxiety, depression, and more, The Tribe is a platform for members to share stories and meet others who are facing similar challenges. You have the option of participating in the group forum or live chat. There is also a blog if you feel inspired to write about your personal experiences.

Joining the Tribe support groups is free and you can access this group from your desktop or phone.

Daily strength

Daily Strength offers all types of support groups. The fear group is one of the most popular forums and it’s free to sign up. A unique feature of Daily Strength is the ability to create your own community group if you have a specific concern. Users can support each other emotionally and express the struggles they are going through.

SMART recovery

More than just an anxiety support group, SMART Recovery is aimed at addicts. In some cases, people with anxiety will resort to drugs or alcohol to relieve their pain, and if they do, this support group will help you with both of these areas.

SMART Recovery aims to educate members in understanding addictive behaviors and healthy coping strategies to aid them in their recovery. You can visit these groups online or in person for free.

7 cups of tea

If you’re at the beginning of your healing journey and need a lot of assistance, 7 cups of tea provides a ton of useful resources. With the support of professionals, volunteers and colleagues, you will feel part of a supportive community.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of anxiety and depression, this support group can direct you to the best forum and people to connect with. If you want to chat with someone in person, you can speak to a volunteer for free. 7 Cups of Tea also offers online therapy with psychologists for $ 150 per month.

Mental Health America

Mental Health America offers many different services and programs to choose from, including an online forum to discuss anxiety and other mental disorders.

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Whether you have a question about symptoms or just want to connect with others who are experiencing the same problems, Mental Health America can be a valuable resource. If you are unsure whether you have any mental illness, screening tools are also available.

Next you read 125 ways to show emotional support.


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Communication disorders can have lifelong health impacts – where is the commensurate response? – Croakey Health Media



According to Tricia McCabe, professor of speech pathology at Sydney University, communication disorders have far-reaching health implications and greater efforts are required to help children, families and others.

“Imagine paying for more and better services for children and young people with communication disabilities,” said McCabe when he recently ran Croakey’s rotating Twitter account @WePublicHealth. Below is a summary of their tweets, including links to many helpful resources.

Tricia McCabe writes:

I’m going to cover the interface between communication disorder and public health using the hashtag #CommSDoH, starting with sharing some information about what we mean by a communication disorder and jumping from there.

Communication disorders (impairments, limitations) occur when people have difficulty receiving a message from others. This may be due to a sensory impairment (hearing loss, deafness, visual impairment) as they have difficulty interpreting the message.

The difficulty in interpreting someone else’s message can arise for a number of reasons including illness, injury, development, or the environment. Understanding what you are being told depends on understanding the content, structure, and purpose of the message.

To understand content, you need to know the vocabulary and sounds of the language. We also need to understand the order of words and the structure (grammar) of what is being said.

Finally, we need to understand the tone, pitch, tempo, and volume of speech that give us the emotion and purpose of what is being said (or written). This is a simple explanation of the understanding as we shall see.

Human communication involves not only understanding, but also the ability to construct a message that others can easily interpret. This may require an effective use of voice, language, language (vocabulary, grammar, etc.), facial expressions, gestures, signs or writing.

To be an effective communicator, we also need to understand how others interpret our message. These skills of understanding and expression develop over the course of our lives and are an integral part of our social and economic success (more on this later).

After all, a person’s environment must enable them to communicate and interpret their communication as meaningful and important.

Thought experiment

So let’s do a thought experiment: what happens in your life when you cannot communicate effectively?

Children with speech and language delay (for whatever reason) hear fewer words spoken to them; hear more instructions and have fewer opportunities to start conversations. The words and phrases they hear are simpler, often “dumbfounded”.

If you start out in life with a communication delay or disorder, you are often at a higher risk of lower literacy and are therefore more likely to drop out of school.

The combination of not understanding instructions in the classroom or being teased or bullied for not understanding them or not communicating in the same way as their classmates can cause it to have an impact in class and lead to exclusion from school.

Children and adolescents with communication disabilities are more often involved in juvenile justice than their peers.

Children and adolescents with communication disabilities are also at higher risk for mental health problems than their peers.

In recent years, health economists like Dr. Paula Cronin from UTS showed that mothers of children with speech delay earn less than parents of children with typical development. I should note that this is the case when all other variables are taken into account.

Back to our thought experiment: what happens in your life when you have a communication disability?

In my own work with people with severe language disabilities, they report as adults:

  • Earn less than their friends
  • They are less educated and less literate than their siblings
  • Adults with a history of lifelong language disorder are more likely to have clinical anxiety, and the worse their language is than adults, the worse the anxiety they report.


Above I described a communication disability that has many faces. One of these is the difficulty of understanding the intent of a person’s communication and drawing conclusions from their choice of words, tone of voice, and facial expressions. This is a kind of pragmatic obstruction to communication.

And pragmatic communication disabilities do not interact well with the legal system.

For people with communication disabilities, there are a number of additional factors that make their ability to participate in society even more difficult.

  1. Self-advocacy can be a challenge. If you have difficulty communicating, understanding how to present your case can be problematic.
  2. People with communication disabilities find it difficult to interpret forms, bureaucratic language, or the language of the legal system.
  3. If you are a parent with a communication disability, you may find it difficult to stand up for your children. This can be a double blow when dealing with organizations like the NDIS.
  4. Unfortunately, services for people with communication disabilities, such as speech pathology, are unevenly distributed with a well-known “zip code lottery”.
  5. This is where the Matthew effect comes into play. Families in more affluent areas have better access to services and there the effects of communication disabilities can be mitigated compared to families in poorer areas who share fewer resources and benefit less from limited services.
  6. Speech pathologists use service rationing as a strategy to handle large numbers of cases. The effect in richer communities is a migration to private services, the effect in poorer communities is a long delay before aid is provided.
  7. The cumulative effect is delayed access to services in the early years, resulting in lower academic success and a lifelong increased risk of socio-economic precariousness.
  8. Hearing health is affected by overcrowded or unstable housing, access to clean water and sanitation. Poverty causes ear diseases. Ear diseases cause poor understanding, attention, and participation in school.
  9. And like a language disorder, poor ear health leads to decreased literacy, early school leaving, and greater interaction with the justice system. #CommSDoH not understand = disadvantage.

  1. It is estimated that one in three people in the justice system has a communication disability (see:
  2. Imagine paying for more and better services for children and young people with communication disabilities.

Another useful resource is the @ orygen_aus Guide to Mental Health and Communication Disorders.

And @SpeechPathAus has a number of fact sheets on these topics for download.

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Anne Hailes: We need to talk about our mental health



I have encountered suicide several times DURING my life. The first time was when I was a teenager and involved the lady across the street.

Then I remember the day, years later, when I went to Banbridge to meet a mother who had called me in distress; her son had committed suicide.

We met in a quiet corner of a roadside hotel. Her son was 19 and happened to be mine, and we were two mothers who shared something unfathomable.

On another occasion, one evening after my TV show, the security guard stopped me at the door: “There’s a woman who wants to talk to you, she sounds very upset.”

That’s how she was, she told me she felt that there was nothing to live with. We talked for almost two hours. At the end of our conversation, she assured me that she would not do anything.

That was over 20 years ago when suicide was less common and even recognized. Today there are a number of end-of-the-phone or even online supports and services including Samaritans, Lifeline, and Pips.

September 10th was World Suicide Day – did you notice? – but that is a topic that one should be aware of every day.

In a research paper from the NI Assembly Research and Information Service dated April 14, 2021, Dr. Lesley-Ann Black on the complex subject of suicide.

For example: “Research shows that one in eight children in Northern Ireland has suicidal ideation or attempted suicide. Men are more likely to die from suicide than women, although more women attempt suicide. The suicide rate in the most deprived areas is three times “higher than in the least deprived areas.”

Northern Ireland is also believed to have particular problems: “The strong link between suicide and mental illness is well established. Mental illness is a leading cause of disability in Northern Ireland.

“In addition, research suggests that Northern Ireland, a post-conflict society, is 20-25 percent more likely to be mentally ill than the rest of the UK, with approximately one in five adults having a diagnosable mental illness at any given time.

“Northern Ireland also has significantly higher rates of depression than the rest of the UK, higher antidepressant prescribing rates, higher incidences and presentations of self-harm (although, in many cases, people who harm themselves do not see a doctor) attention and are for healthcare professionals not visible) and high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. “

Elsewhere, the report notes that alcohol and drug abuse may be a factor: “A significantly higher percentage of young people who have died of suicide in Northern Ireland had a history of alcohol and / or alcohol compared to the rest of the UK Substance abuse. “

The Department of Health’s suicide strategy, Protect Life 2, aims to reduce the suicide rate in Northern Ireland by 10 percent by 2024 and to “ensure that adequate suicide prevention services and support are provided in deprived areas where suicide and self-harm rates occur will”. are the highest “.

Online publication

Author Declan Henry published his online brochure Suicide: Reasons To Live earlier this month. He interviewed people from the UK and Ireland, including survivors, suicide attempt survivors and those who had strong suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives.

He discovered that there is one suicide death roughly every 40 seconds in the world, while there is an average of 19 people a day in the UK and Ireland – likely a conservative figure given the effects of Covid-19 and the effects of lockdown on the psychological People’s wellbeing has yet to be calculated.

His research highlights the complexities that lead to suicide or attempted suicide.

He writes of young people who talk more openly than previous generations.

“Children need to be educated about emotional health and given vocabulary that will enable them to describe their feelings,” he says.

“Society often wrongly feels that the life of the current generation of young people is much simpler compared to their predecessors. Young people have many things, so it’s easy to see why their mental health is being affected.

“They are constantly fed negativity by the media and confronted with graphic and violent images through online games. Many young people hardly speak at home anymore because they are busy with their ‘virtual life’ on their cell phones.

“Is it therefore surprising that some of them develop a sense of hopelessness for the future?”

Where is the help?

In general, Declan underlines the fact that the mental health system is in a state of disorder.

“Patients often feel like they are being pushed aside. GPs have limited time and the patient is usually given an antidepressant prescription and says to come back in a few weeks. Physical needs are met, but psychological needs are not.”

One interviewee named Frank says to Declan, “If someone tells you they feel suicidal, they ask for help. Some people post on Facebook saying they intend to kill themselves because they have no other place to talk.

“Many such people wear masks in public, including at home – where there is no sign that anything is wrong.”

Covering a wide range of suicide prevention strategies, Declan emphasizes the importance of speaking out loud and starting a discussion in general but specific and empathetic with the person you suspect is having suicidal thoughts.

You can download Declan’s brochure for free from

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day and night, 365 days a year. You can call them on 028 9066 4422 or 116 123, email, or visit to find your nearest branch and local support groups.

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Over 90% surveyed with depressive disorders in China fail to seek treatment: study



Depressive Disorders Photo: VCG

More than 90 percent of people with depressive disorder surveyed in China are untreatable, and only 0.5 percent have received adequate treatment, according to a new mental health survey of Chinese citizens.

The results of the study on Mental Disorder Exposure and Health Service Use in China, also known as the China Mental Health Survey, were announced at a conference and expert forum in Beijing on Sunday. The study, which lasted three years, examined the prevalence of mental disorders and their distribution characteristics among adults in the Chinese community, highlighting the current situation of low use of health services and poor access to adequate treatment for people with depressive disorders in China.

The study found that in China, the prevalence of depressive disorder is higher in women than in men; higher among housewives, pensioners and the unemployed than among the employed; higher for separated, widowed or divorced persons than for married or cohabiting persons; and more common in older age groups, in a cross-sectional epidemiological study of mental disorders in Chinese adults of 28,140 respondents (12,537 men and 15,603 women) completed at 157 nationally representative disease surveillance centers in 31 provincial-level regions in China.

The lifetime prevalence of depressive disorder in Chinese adults was 6.8 percent below that of the world, including 3.4 percent for depression, 1.4 percent for dysphoric disorders, and 3.2 percent for unspecified depressive disorders. The 12-month prevalence of depressive disorder was 3.6 percent, including 2.1 percent for depression, 1.0 percent for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and 1.4 percent for unspecified depressive disorder, the research shows.

The study provided the first nationwide representative epidemiological data on depressive disorders in China and is expected to play an important role in formulating and adapting national mental health policies and in advancing the treatment of patients with depressive disorders. The results were published in the leading international medical journal The Lancet.

This study is groundbreaking research as it provides the first national data on the epidemiological prevalence, distribution characteristics, and access to treatment status of depressive disorder in adults in China, which is an important reference for determining mental health strategies from clinical health service use is perspective, Wang Yu, former director of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the forum.

Lu Jin, lead author of the paper, told the Global Times during the forum that the prevalence of depressive disorder in China is low by global standards, due to many factors.

“The fact that many Chinese people have difficulty expressing emotions (alexithymia) could be one of the causes of this status,” said Lu. “There is also a link between socio-economic development and depressive disorders, a condition associated with psychosocial disorders.”

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