Benefits of Support Groups for Sickle Cell

A support group is simply a gathering to discuss the challenges of a common issue. Members offer consolation, words of encouragement, and support to one another.

People living with illnesses like sickle cell disease may also see the benefits of joining a support group to learn from others on a similar health journey.

What are the different types of support groups?

There are 3 main types of support groups for people with sickle cell. They include:1

  1. Online support groups – These support groups use the power of the internet to bring members together. Members often do not have physical interaction. One benefit of an online support group is gathering people from distant locations. And, groups like allow you to keep your identity private if you wish.
  2. Mutual support groups – These groups are usually for people going through a common health issue or life situation. Members share their experiences, how they are managing them, and motivate others.
  3. Therapy groups – With this kind of group, a professional therapist brings together a group of people managing similar situations and provides help to them as a group. The facilitator is usually a mental health expert.

Benefits of a support group

Joining a support group for sickle cell allows you to bond and connect with others over shared experiences. It also offers a place where you have a chance to say what is on your mind without feeling judged.

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Through sharing, you release emotional hardships and ease the loneliness of living with a chronic medical condition like sickle cell. Support groups also help you develop coping skills to manage your emotions in the future.

Support group members share ideas about controlling sickle cell disease, including fighting fatigue, handling stress, and building mental and physical strength.

How to make the most of a support group

To make the most of a support group, keep a few key things in mind, including:1

  • Be engaged: Actively involve yourself in the conversation. It helps keep the discussion going and makes other members eager to listen to your input.
  • Show up: Regularly attending meetings will help you get to know other group members and feel more comfortable around them.
  • Be considerate: Always consider the feelings and emotions of other group members and try hard not to come off as insensitive to them.
  • Find the right match. Acknowledge when a support group is not right for you, and do not hesitate to change to a different group.

Questions to ask before joining a support group

To find the right support group to meet your needs, ask yourself these questions:2

  • Where are the meetings located?
  • Does the group have a facilitator?
  • Is the facilitator qualified?
  • Are there set guidelines on privacy?
  • Is the group focused on a specific health condition?

Red flags to watch for in a support group

If something does not feel right in a support group, chances are it is not the right fit. This is usually a sign to walk away from the group and find another. Here are some red flags to look out for in a support group:1

  • An untrained facilitator.
  • A group that is too large. It should be small enough to listen to the needs of every member.
  • The main focus of the support group is selling or advertising services or goods.
  • Sessions always have a negative vibe at the close of the meeting.

If you are looking for a support group, your doctor or another member of your care team may be able to suggest one.

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