Depression is not governed by feelings of momentary sadness but in fact persistent spells of despair and hopelessness. Sufferers usually experience a lack of sleep and appetite, difficulty in concentration, loss of interest and libido and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts. If this condition is left untreated you can put your health at the risk of more serious illnesses that might not be reversible.

Over the years, very little research input has been made for assessing the importance of the role of support groups in treating depression. The main reason for their lack of popularity can easily be pointed towards an absence of knowledge of how powerful support groups can be in treating depression.

What is a depression support group?

A support group can be described as a small gathering of people who share a common objective, usually related to the treatment of a particular disorder or health issue.

Groups can be formed to focus on the feelings of the sufferers of various conditions such as post-natal depression, bi-polar depression, drug addiction or breast cancer. Members freely express their feelings and ideas about their conditions and are not judged by anyone.

Support groups are different from group therapy. In group therapy several people are brought together facilitated by a healthcare professional that facilitates the interpersonal interactions between the members so they can learn about their blind spots and increase their awareness about their behaviours and relationships.

Support groups on the other hand can be formed by anyone, such as a family member as means of help for depression for their loved one. They can also be formed by a mental-care clinic or non-profit organisation.

Barriers to support groups

  1. Let’s address some of reasons as to why depression support group have not been able to carve a popular niche of followers:
  2. Hesitance in sharing personal feelings with a group of strangers.
  3. Groups compromises of individuals from different ethnic backgrounds, which leads towards suppression of feelings of the minorities.
  4. Lack of support from loved ones.
  5. Lack of awareness regarding the success of support groups.
  6. Fear of addition to depression listening to other people’s problems.
  7. Rural communities might feel reluctant due to geographical distance.
  8. Considering joining a support group is seen as a sign of weakness .

The benefits of joining a support group

1. Source of support and motivation: People suffering from depression often cut themselves off from friends and family. In such gloomy circumstances finding helping hands, going through a similar situation gives one feelings of assurance that they are not alone in the world. They will be motivated to see how in a similar situation other people handle it with a positive mind frame. Members also become role models for other members of the support groups, which has a positive effects on the group-as-a-whole.

2. Evading the clutches of isolation: Depression is a state of mind where the sufferer tends to bottle up his feelings. What aggravates this state of low mood and energy is that the people around him are not aware of his condition and fail to be of any assistance. The biggest hurdle in the cure of depression is suppressing your feelings and experiencing hesitancy in sharing them. Patients successfully climb the first step on the ladder of depression treatment by sharing their true feelings with their support group’s members. With the passage of time the sufferer will feel much more comfortable accepting his condition and feel more confident in expressing himself.

3. From a victim to an advocate: A sense of well-being and pride takes over the sufferer when he sees himself as a ray of hope for other patients. By listening to their worries one plays a significant role in consoling the depressed co-member of the group. This also engenders a sense of empowerment from making a difference through caring for other members of the group.

4. Feeling empowered: A major sign of positive outcome of your support group treatment is to find one’s feelings under control once again. You will have an optimistic approach towards life and negative thoughts of death and hopelessness will vanish.

How to find the right support group for yourself

It is perfectly normal to experience feelings of disinclination in sharing your personal feelings with a group of strangers. To make the support group for depression more effective it’s wise to look for the following key points in your choice of group:

  1. A hospitable, secure and safe ambience.
  2. Confidentiality of members is top priority.
  3. Have a strong code of ethics.
  4. Respect views of minority and discourage any disrespectful behaviour.
  5. Have a proper organisational framework.
  6. Meetings are held on a regular basis, free of charge.
  7. See the patients are human-beings and treat them with respect.
  8. Encourage active support and active participation of members.
  9. Have extensive links in the community.
  10. Invite reputable counsellors and health professionals as guest speakers.
  11. Stresses on emotional support and practical coping skills and strategies.

Joining a support group for depression can be a powerful way of helping you reduce the depressive symptoms, receive support, encouragement, advice and information that can help you begin to move out of depression.

If you or someone you know suffers from depression, Australia Counselling has counsellors who specialise in the treatment of depression and run depression support groups in locations such as Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and regional areas of Australia. Visit our depression area of practice page to find a depression counsellor or psychologist near you.

photo credit: Marco40134 (licence)

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    I would like to find a support group for my husband in the south Gippsland area (if possible) he suffers from depression and has voiced a desire to join such a group

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