Self-help groups have a long track record of helping people move forward in various aspects of their lives. The twelve-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, AlAnon, etc., are good examples of this. For people with bipolar disorder and their families and friends, getting together with other people who are dealing with many of the same issues you are accomplishes a number of important things:
• Sharing of information
• Networking about available resources in your community
• Receiving emotional support and validation
• Having a safe environment in which you can freely disclose your diagnosis and chat with others about medications, treatments, and anything else that others who do not have bipolar disorder wouldn’t understand.
• Maintaining and generating hope by seeing other people at various stages of recovery
The importance of peer-run groups can’t be stressed enough. For many people with bipolar disorder, it is the development of a peersupport system that may do far more than any trained psychiatrist or therapist. At times, it’s difficult to say exactly why these groups are so important, but more than anything else they keep hope alive. So that someone who has just been through a serious mood episode and is wondering, “Will I ever get my life back” or “Will I ever be able to work again” will have some other person in that room who can say with authority, “Of course you will. I did.”