Benefits of Support Groups
Support groups, either in person or virtual, can make many positive effects on individuals with medical conditions or those who have other stressful events going on in their lives. Managing a chronic health condition is definitely a cause to seek support from others. Support groups can be very beneficial for your overall mental health in many ways.
Connection with others
An important benefit of support groups is that they provide you with a way to connect with other people who understand exactly what you are going through with the medical condition or stressful time in your life. Being in a support group helps to remind you that you are not alone in what you are facing. This can be so helpful. I know when I first became chronic everybody around me told me it was just because of stress and it would go away. Even when I finished school, the migraines did not just go away and I started looking for other people who were dealing with the same issue. Once I did meet other people who were trying to manage chronic migraine, I felt almost like my condition was validated in my own mind.
Access to information
One benefit of support groups is their ability to provide you with access to information about medications, treatment options, and can even assist you in finding a doctor. In these support groups you will find a number of individuals who have tried various medications or treatments. These people will be able to give you their personal opinion on what it was like being on the different medications or the experience of going through the different treatments. While this information can be very helpful, it is important to remember that everybody responds differently to medications and treatments; so there is no guarantee that your outcome will be the same as their outcome. Speaking with these individuals can give you an idea of what to expect as you go into trying the new medication or treatments. I have honestly posted in a support group about looking for a rheumatologist and stated what area I was located. The information I received in response lead to the rheumatologist that I still use today. I liked her so much I followed her when her practice moved farther away from my home.
Another extremely important aspect of being in a support group is that it provides you with a place to speak openly about anything without feeling the need to fear judgement. With conditions such a chronic migraine, there is a large number of people whose friends, family, coworkers, and spouses simply do not understand what they are going through. These people can have a negative impact on someone’s mental health by telling them ‘it’s just a headache” or that they should be able to “push through it.” By being in a support group, you can vent your frustrations or express how bad you feel privately and securely. In groups that are in person, others are not allowed to discuss what is said in the group with outsiders. In the virtual world such as Facebook groups or other online pages, only other members can see what you discuss in your posts and other members are not allowed to share what you post with outsiders. I know that with the Facebook support groups we use as a part of the non-profit Chronic Migraine Awareness, we have strict rules on posts remaining in the group and not allowing others to use your page to access the group.
Additionally, support groups can help you learn about patient advocacy and empower you to become a better advocate for yourself and others. Other individuals who have experience in managing medications and doctor appointments tend to be very willing to give you tips and tricks. Some organizations also provide information sheets pertaining to topics such as things to discuss with your doctor or the importance of keeping a migraine diary/journal.
This is something I was extremely interested in myself. Not only did I learn ways to make sure I received the best care for myself, I have attempted to help other individuals get better care as well. I even use some to make sure my husband’s appointments are productive. In talking with basically strangers online I realized the desire I have to help other people. This is what motivated my work with the non-profit organization Chronic Migraine Awareness and fueled my desire to write articles for this site.
Have you utilized support groups during your journey with chronic migraine? If so, what did you take from being involved in support groups?