If you or someone in your family is facing a serious health challenge, there is no need to feel alone in this day and age of the Internet. Whether you interact with a fully online support group or use the Internet to find local, in-person groups, it is easier than ever before to find and join communities of people who have been where you are. There are many reasons to look: supports groups can be an excellent place to learn practical information about the challenges you face and the systems you are forced to navigate while facing them; you can find hope in the experiences of people who have been through situations similar to yours; and, again, there is no compassion like that of people who truly understand what you’re going through.
Here are resources that can help you find a support group specific to your or your loved one’s disability or chronic illness:
This can be a great place to start, in part because you can browse groups without committing. This site feels very much like a social network for people with challenges. All groups are run by people in the community, and feel like positive-minded message boards.
Unlike the first site, this site includes searchable links to outside resources. It also includes detailed information about starting your own support group or support website.
In addition to an alphabetized list of support groups, Mental Health America includes a list of telephone hotlines that you can call to get instant help. Many of the support groups listed link to national organizations like the Autism Society of America, where you can find information in addition to peer groups.
At this site, users post questions to message boards themed by disability or condition. This is a good place to interact about a specific question you have, or to add your expertise on specific topics, but the ability to create lasting, supportive friendships is lacking.
5. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor, nurse, hospital social worker, Child Life specialist, therapist or other health professional for recommendations and referrals to support groups that meet in your area. The Internet is wonderful, but don’t get too swept up in online research—nothing can replace face-to-face meetings with people in your neighborhood or city.
Having a serious or chronic illness doesn’t mean it’s you against the world. There are so many others in exactly the same boat, and connecting with them can do you a world of good. Don’t hide your feelings or suffer alone—reach out today to find the support you need.
Dr. Pikiewicz earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA. She completed pre-doctoral training at the Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center in Ojai, CA, and her post-doctoral internship at the Boulder Institute for Psychotherapy and Research. At both sites, Dr. Pikiewicz worked with a range of adult, adolescent and child clients in individual, couple, family and group settings. She also holds a B.S. in environmental science from Allegheny College and a teaching credential from Western Washington University.