The United States has more than 500,000 support groups. You can find these groups almost anywhere—small towns, rural areas, and big cities—and they deal with nearly any issue, from gambling addiction to substance abuse to domestic violence.
Many of these groups also deal with mental health.
So what are the various types of support you can join in Florida?
What can peers and peer specialists expect from support groups? How do these groups help people recover from mental health issues?
This article discusses how peer support benefits individuals pursuing mental health recovery.
Mental health is essential at every stage in your life and determines how you relate to others, make healthy choices, and handle stress.
Learning about peer support, joining related training or events, and seeking help from a peer specialist may help manage one’s condition and help others with similar issues.
Mental health problems are often challenging to identify. While there may be distinct symptoms and criteria, each person is unique.
Sometimes, people with mental health issues like anxiety and depression may experience excessive sweating. Various treatments like medications, acupuncture, electric devices, and surgery may help stop hyperhidrosis or sweaty palms.
Keep reading to learn the benefits of peer support in mental health recovery.
Mental health is among the common health issues in the U.S., with one in five Americans likely to experience a mental illness in a year.
Support groups, sometimes called self-help groups, consist of people who gather to share common issues and experiences associated with a specific condition, illness, or personal circumstance.
Research shows that peer support may be effective in the following ways:
- Increasing engagement in treatment and recovery
- Promoting a sense of self-empowerment and hope
- Improving social functioning and quality of life
- Decreasing hospitalizations
Studies suggest that being involved in mental health self-help groups may have some positive effects on self-esteem and quality of life. Such effects support the belief that self-help may facilitate recovery.
Social ties and a sense of belonging can also help peers manage stress and behavioral issues. Participants tend to think less about themselves when they’re with others, making the other person or group member their focus.
Experts believe that social connectedness is linked to mental and emotional health. Everyone could use extra kindness and support and kindness in their lives, and peer support is a great example of resources available to help.
When individuals feel connected, their anxiety levels are lower. This special sense of connection also helps to create empathy between one another, leading to robust and meaningful relationships across the community.
If you’re advocating for or interested in organizing peer support, get in touch with peer specialists or organizations that gather people undergoing similar issues. In turn, these individuals may relate with each other regarding what they’re going through, and each of them can share practical insights from firsthand experience.
Whether you put up a peer support group to help address a mental health issue or support others who share similar experiences, the people you help can receive many benefits from joining one. These benefits include the following:
- People may feel isolated or stigmatized if they don’t know anyone going through similar experiences. Support groups can help them feel more understood and less alone.
- Participants can share information and keep each other updated on relevant news. Peer support can empower others going through similar experiences and trying to solve similar problems.
- Some mutual support groups provide member education to those with medical or mental health issues. People experiencing similar problems as their peers may find a unique emotional identification that differs from the type of support received from professionals.
- Peer support doesn’t need to cost much to organize. A small group can get funding or make do with minimal expenses for simple advertising, refreshments, and rent for a small meeting space.
- You can act as role models for other members. When peers see you contending with the same adversity and making progress as them, they may feel inspired and encouraged.
- A support group can be your safe space to talk about intensely personal issues, thoughts, struggles, and experiences.
- Peer support allows peers to talk to others to help reduce anxiety and improve their overall well-being.
- Some people may find it intimidating to talk to a doctor or counselor because those relationships often place more power on the professional. In support groups, peers are on equal standing with others, so they can feel more comfortable discussing their problems.
No two peer support groups are alike. Even when several groups focus on helping people achieve the same goal, such as mental health recovery, how each group tackles problems can differ from one another.
A peer support group’s success relies on something other than having the same participants stay together indefinitely.
Instead, what makes a peer support group successful and effective is when the members can show how to be empathetic, honest, and compassionate toward each other. A strong and confident facilitator can also contribute significantly to the participants’ success in acquiring these qualities.
Successful peer support should remain effective even when participants come and go and the group’s chemistry and dynamic change.
Some of the common characteristics of peer support groups are the following:
- They consist of peers or people directly affected by a specific issue, illness, or circumstance.
- Support groups typically have a volunteer or professional facilitator or discussion leader.
- They tend to gather in small groups to allow everyone to talk.
- Support groups are usually voluntary. But if a peer is employed or sentenced for a crime, the employer or the court system can require them to attend such groups.
Many people join peer support for comfort and advice. But if you’re organizing such a group, you may find yourself unexpectedly becoming a mentor to others. This surprising development may give you a sense of worth, a feeling that some of your peers may experience for the first time.
Unfortunately, you can’t expect everyone attending a peer support group to succeed. Participants must have an open mind and be willing to change. They must also practice active listening, learn, and try to build friendships within the group.
If participants cannot accept honest, constructive feedback, they likely will not thrive in the group. Even when you have the most well-meaning peers and the best facilitators, they can only help if the participant or member recognizes the problems.
There are many kinds of peer support you can organize. Examples of such groups are as follows:
- Support or self-help groups: Trained peers run these groups and focus on providing emotional support, sharing experiences, promoting education, and engaging in practical activities.
- Mentoring, befriending, or one-to-one support: You meet someone and talk to them about how they feel or what goals they want to set.
- Online forums: These forums can be a group or one-to-one and usually occur over the internet.
Peer support can take many forms depending on the purpose. Examples are groups of people with mental health conditions, individuals seeking recovery from substance abuse, or people coming from a specific ethnic group.
Some peer groups also engage in face-to-face meetups, phone conversations, or online messaging. Facilitators can arrange for weekly, monthly, ongoing, or limited-time sessions.
If you organize a peer support group, you can enjoy several benefits when you set up your group under a larger organization. Doing so is optional, but larger organizations can provide the resources and assistance to help you organize a new group.
These benefits include gaining name recognition and credibility from your group’s affiliation with a large, well-known organization. People who need your support group services can also find you quickly due to your association with a bigger group.
If you’re in Florida, subscribe to the Peer Network Newsletter to learn about the state’s peer network development project. The Peer Support Coalition of Florida also provides training and events for individuals interested in becoming peer specialists.
- Is having a sense of belonging important?
- Focus on Social Connections During Mental Health Month
- Section 2. Creating and Facilitating Peer Support Groups
- About Mental Health
- Research suggests connection between excessive sweating and mental health conditions
- Involvement in mental health self-help groups and recovery
- Peer Support: Helping Others, Healing Yourself
- Peer Support Roles in Criminal Justice Settings