Will Online Support Groups Work for Me?

By Tina Leger

The World Wide Web makes it possible to keep in touch with loved ones half the world away, shop from the comfort of one’s home, manage finances, get married, and a lot more. Nearly every aspect of our lives has shifted to the virtual world. So why not expand the list above with one more point that becomes “gadgetized” as well – support groups?

What Is a Support Group?

To put it simply, a support group is a gathering of people overwhelmed by the same problem, disorder, or situation looking to share what’s bothering them, find help, or help those in the same boat. In a digital environment, the meaning of a support group doesn’t change except for the fact that “gathering” is happening online. Led by an expert, the group has a safe “haven” free from criticism and judgment. Even without an in-person connection, an online support group is still a source of emotional reinforcement, support, and help that are usually needed here and now.

The Peculiarities of Online Support Groups

Based on the “Who Seeks Help Online? Comparing Online and Offline Help-Seeking Preferences Amongst Youths with Suicidal Ideation” research, the key “benefits of online support include anonymity, avoiding embarrassment, and social support.” Probably, the main reason why young people find an alternative to traditional forms of support more attractive.

Here’s what you need to know about Internet-based support groups:

  • Find Someone Like You

If you’re suffering from a rare ailment or looking for like-minded people, finding an in-person support group can be tough. When it comes to online assistance, the opportunities are endless. According to the research “A Comparison of Online and Offline Support Modalities as Predictors of Stress among Traditional and Non-Traditional College Students,” the perceived support via online means significantly increased among non-traditional students.   

  • Confidentiality Guaranteed

If you’re looking for an added layer of anonymity, offline support groups won’t work that way. In contrast to face-to-face communication, online interaction is based on 100% confidentiality, which means sharing private emotions with someone you don’t see (and won’t ever meet IRL!) is much more comfortable.

  • Get More Perspective on Your Situation/Problem/Ailment

Staying in a bubble doesn’t give you much of a perspective on your today’s situation. Getting (and keeping!) in touch with other people from all over the globe provides a wider approach to understanding the issues that trouble you. Different people come with different experiences, stories, and ideas. The right solution might come from the most unexpected person from the most unexpected place. Priceless!

  • Anytime, Anywhere

A lot of online support groups do not function as synchronous groups. On the contrary, all the participants shouldn’t be online at the same time. Whenever you happen to plug in, you can browse previously posted questions, answers, and other messages. These groups are quite helpful for those who have hectic schedules and live in different time zones (24/7 availability!).

Best Online Support Groups

Before joining an online support group, make sure it is going to meet your expectations. Some groups are focused on diverse conditions, while others are strictly focused on specific issues, such as suicidal ideations, depression, OCD, etc. At the same time, many online communities are open for everyone while others are created for specific groups (LGBTQIA+, single parents, etc.) and even require a moderator’s approval. Below, we listed some of the most popular online support groups, each based on a particular mental condition:

International Students Support Groups:

  • AntiLoneliness. An online group for international undergrads struggling with student life, homesickness and social anxiety, etc.
  • International Student Support Group at the University of Tennessee. A safe space for international students facing challenging adjustments and transitions.
  • Wisdo. Anything from LGBTQ+ issues to relationships and homesickness can be discussed here.
  • Meetup. Virtual support groups to connect socially with other users with similar hobbies and interests.  

Depression Support Groups:   

  • 7 Cups. Perfect for those looking for round-the-clock chat rooms. 7 Cups offers a combination of licensed therapists and trained listeners ($150 per month for online therapy).
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness. Led by a trained leader, online meetings are scheduled regularly and last for 90 minutes.
  • Sanvello ($8.99 per month/$ 53.99 per year). A supportive community for those looking for ways to treat anxiety and depression.
  • ADAA Online Support Group. A peer-to-peer support group established by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Share your stories with more than 60,000 subscribers!

Substance Use Support Groups:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous. Regardless of whether or not you have been identified with having an addiction before, you’ll find help and hope here.
  • We Are With You. Whether you want to stop using drugs or drinking, phone, tête-à-tête, and online help can be found here.
  • Club Soda. Learn to be more mindful about, take a break from, or stop drinking for good.
  • Women for Sobriety (WFS). When getting through recovery from substance addictions, ladies will inevitably find an option suited to their current needs.

Will Support Group Help Me? 

The number one question asked by many in need of immediate help. It is proved that individuals who have once searched for online support have reported feeling less lonely and anxious, more confident, and connected with the community of those who understand and don’t judge. Joining an online support group won’t bring you immediate healing. Yet it will empower you with practical tools to combat personal issues and the I-am-strong-enough feeling to deal with the challenges of the day.

Does your college support mental health on campus?

About the Author

Tina is a freelance writer currently obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. She’s a reading addict, a wanderlust soul, an amateur sports fan, and a daydreamer bringing forth a love of writing.

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