The Importance of Communities and Support Groups
The word “community” comes from the Latin word communitas, which is derived from communis, or common. Communities are formed by people who have something in common, with each member representing a thread that gains strength and durability when woven together with other threads.
Global communities connect like-minded people or those united by a particular cause or event, regardless of borders and time zones. Our digital connectedness makes support more readily available and information vastly more accessible. Importantly, communities pull together when times are tough or when individual members need support. They can effectively function as support groups.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Emotional support is an important protective factor for dealing with life’s difficulties.” The APA also notes that “… though it may seem counterintuitive, having strong social support can actually make you more able to cope with problems on your own, by improving your self-esteem and sense of autonomy.” A sense of belonging goes a long way in bolstering one’s confidence. (www.apa.org)
When communities form around problems or challenges such a cancer, a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, the notion that one is not alone is reinforced. Resources are shared and affected members of the community gain strength from each other.
The U.S.-based Mayo Clinic cites several benefits that are associated with participation in support groups:
• Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
• Gaining a sense of empowerment and control
• Improving your coping skills and sense of adjustment
• Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
• Reducing distress, depression, anxiety or fatigue
• Developing a clearer understanding of what to expect with your situation
• Getting practical advice or information about treatment options
• Comparing notes about resources, such as doctors and alternative options
When presented with a life challenge, take time to find a support group or community of people who can relate to your experience. You will gain strength and without realizing it, you may be a great source of support for others in the group.