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Peer Support Groups for Schizophrenia

I often say that peer support gave me the confidence I needed to start sharing my story and become an advocate. Long before I shared my story online, or spoke to large audiences, I starting sharing about my diagnosis of schizophrenia in a local peer support group. However, even that took a while for me to feel comfortable doing it.

I didn't know about peer support groups

I live in a small rural area of Wisconsin. So, when my mom was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder during my teenage years, I didn't even know that there were resources or support groups that I could utilize. It wasn't until years later after I received my own schizophrenia diagnosis, that I learned about local and online peer support groups.

Feeling alone with a new schizophrenia diagnosis

When I was first diagnosed, I was scared and confused. I felt so alone. The only representation I knew about schizophrenia was from movies and TV shows that portrayed the illness very poorly, and news also only increased the stigma surrounding mental illness.

The only person I had ever met with schizophrenia was my mother. Unfortunately, she was misdiagnosed for so long that she had cognitive side effects that make it difficult for her to communicate effectively or articulate her thoughts, so I didn't have anyone I could talk to.

Self-medicating with substances

My mental illness had consumed my entire life and as a way to try to self-medicated, I fell into active addiction, which led to my incarceration. If it wasn’t for my addiction, I may have not discovered peer support because it was during my time incarcerated that I attended NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and heard about a local NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) peer support group and family support group.

My first support group experience

I attended my first meeting and I vividly remember the stories I heard, and how they connected to my own story. Although it took several meetings, I eventually shared my own story, and was met with so much support. It changed my entire outlook on the future knowing that others were struggling with similar issues, and that some people were thriving despite their diagnosis.

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Finding peer support online during COVID

When COVID shutdown started, I began struggle again (like many other people), but I obviously couldn’t attend an in-person support group, which is when I discovered online support groups. I found groups on mental health websites, Facebook, and more! It allowed me to share what I was dealing with and, once again, hear stories from individuals who were also struggling. During COVID, more people than ever started addressing mental health issues, and realizing they themselves may need someone to talk to.

Schizophrenia support is out there

If you are someone who is passionate about peer support, you should also look into starting a local group or becoming a peer support specialist, this allows people to have more of an ability to speak to people near them!

In conclusion, you can find various options for peer support groups, both in-person and online. If you feel alone in your mental health journey, consider checking local or online peer support groups. Share, connect, and continue to support each other.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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