SELF-HELP GROUPS AND RESOURCES
a Nurturing Potential report
is not an inevitable alternative to professional help, but it is certainly an
option to be considered, if not exercised, before professional help is sought.
It was always available and, indeed, adopted in many cases and for a
multiplicity of reasons. But never
was it as accessible and effective as it is today.
internet is undoubtedly the greatest source of self-help information there has
ever been. And organisations and
groups exist everywhere that offer help and encouragement to those who are
anxious to help themselves. The
help ranges from simple emotional support (just being there!), through advice,
direction, information, friendship, individual advocacy, and tools for
diagnosis, exploration and recovery.
the amount of help available for people to help themselves nowadays, it is
sometimes necessary – or preferable – to seek help from a professional,
someone who can view the situation impartially.
So, even when it’s more rewarding to treat one’s own complaint by
virtue of increased self-esteem, greater independence, or simply less expense,
to avoid a professional out of stubbornness is a poor strategy.
provided that caveat, let us now consider the development, growth and
increasingly utilised groups for people who have either been diagnosed with
illness, physical or mental, or have been through a traumatic period of
suffering and treatment and now
regard themselves as survivors (or, as Abigail Freeman prefers to call herself
in The Chrysalid Years: veterans), and are working together both for
support and in order to produce change in the health system and in society.
must be recognised that veterans are capable of being the most powerful
advocates for reform, both on their own behalf and in defence of others.
The self-help group movement, after all, grew out of the idea that
individuals who have experienced similar crises can provide effective support to
groups offer an opportunity to be productive, to work together with others to
find solutions to a variety of obstacles. People
who have experienced problems based on medication (or over-medication), social
security benefits (or the absence thereof), housing, employment, neglect,
families and friends, and others, are in a unique position to help others in a
first mental health self-help groups, for example, were started by people who
had experienced what they regarded as an oppressive and abusive mental health
system. It was inevitable that they
would want to join with others to fight the type of social discrimination faced
by those with histories of psychiatric disorders.
summarise the benefits of self-help groups:
with others who have had similar experiences provides the invaluable
resource of knowing that one is not alone; that others have walked the
same path and have the same feelings.
particularly in the mental health system, often do not have the support of
family and friends. Self-help groups can provide the support that may be
groups offer a haven for self-disclosure and sharing experiences.
It also provides access to relevant information and literature.
groups encourage personal responsibility and control over the
individual’s treatment. By
actively helping others, the individuals gain a sense of their own
competence, increasing self-confidence and self-esteem
A self-help group is a peer group; members are equal, in contrast to the profession/client relationship; and they are made to feel empowered to take an active role their own health and wellbeing.
is a wealth of information about self-help groups and self-help strategies
available on the Internet, but here are just four that we consider to be
particularly useful. Three of them
are in the UK and one in America.
the UK, the website operated by Self-Help Nottingham is not merely a useful
guide to that geographical area, but contains information of general interest as
well as a link to other UK groups. It
may be accessed via http://www.selfhelp.org.uk/groups.htm.
The UK Helplines Association is located at http://www.helplines.org.uk/.
The office of the Surgeon General in the USA has a section on self-help
consumer groups that is part of a large and interesting general report.
You can access the self-help section directly at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter4/sec6.html.
for a complete directory of names, addresses and telephone numbers in the UK for
just about every type of condition, try http://www.ukselfhelp.info/index.html.