There are support groups for diseases and conditions, for emotional problems, phobias and addictions of all types. However, all these self-help groups are driven by the same thing – the desire to provide support for people, and by people, who are essentially all ‘in the same boat’.
Through meeting people with the same condition, discussing issues, sharing experiences, exploring fears and emotional issues, skills for coping with and managing the shared condition are gradually developed.
The range of support provided varies from group to group, depending on needs, numbers and available resources. Some groups hold monthly or even weekly support meetings, share educational resources and management tips, and hold regular social functions. Some groups are encompassed totally online utilising forums or message boards like those provided by Yahoo and MSN. Some produce newsletters, pamphlets, flyers and actively promote the groups in order to continually reach out to new people in need, yet others continue to sustain themselves by word of mouth alone.
One common ailment whose emotional impact is often underestimated and whose sufferers benefit immensely from the support and services provided by self-help groups, is the Herpes virus (also known as Cold Sores).
Common issues confronted by people learning to live with Herpes are the initial shock of diagnosis and its implications; feelings of isolation and fear of the social stigma; a thirst for knowledge and practical advice; dread of dealing with family and friends reactions; and a need for emotional support, particularly from someone who has gone through the same experience.
While doctors can test, diagnose, provide information and prescribe medications, and even refer a patient for counselling if required, learning to accept and manage a condition like Herpes often requires more support than can be provided by the medical profession.
Having the opportunity to share your feelings and experiences with someone who has been through the same process can be immeasurably beneficial to someone newly diagnosed and struggling to come to terms with the virus, the associated stigma and the impact it can have on relationships.
The ‘sharing of stories’ can be a form of healing. Telling your story, reading or listening to another’s, brings a deeper understanding of the human condition. Acknowledging fears and pain, can highlight our ability to overcome hardships and emerge strengthened and empowered by life’s challenges.
Don't have a support group in your area? Then why not set one up yourself?
Here's a few basic questions you might like to consider before embarking on this sometimes demanding task:
- What type of group do you want to set up?
- Who is your target market?
- Who will organise the set-up? and maintain it?
- What type of support will you provide?
- What resources do you need / have?
- How much time can you realistically put into the project?
- Will you require funding to set it up?
- Is there suitable funding available?
- How will you promote the group?
Sit down with your group and explore these questions and any others you may think of. Brainstorm ideas for setting the group up and promoting it.
I am currently working on a guide to setting up a self-hlep . support group for my Living Sphere site. I will also be developing a range of resources to assist group owner/managers to create, fund, promote and run self-help and/or support groups.
If you wish to be notified when the support eBook and resources become available, just send me an email and I'll be in touch as soon as it's completed.