What is Self Help

What is Self Help?


The following points define self-help:


  • People with a common bond who voluntarily come together to share, reach out, and learn from each other in a trusting, supportive, and open environment.
  • Self-help is a mutual process of helping oneself and others at the same time.
  • Self-help groups grow from the bottom up or at the grass roots.
  • “Self-help is about sharing common experiences among people with common problems
  • The role of professionals is to give referrals, not to run the groups

One documented study was done on individuals with bipolar disorder to determine the effectiveness of self-help groups on them.  In a 1988 study of manic depressive and depressive association (MDDA) support groups with a nonrandom total of 188 participants reported better coping with illness, more acceptance of illness, and improved medication compliance after attending.  Hospitalization dropped from 82% to 33%.

The findings from research on self-help groups for people with serious mental illness consistently show:

(1) reduced symptoms and substance abuse over time

(2) concomitant reductions in crises, hospitalizations, and use of services

(3) improved social competence and social networks

(4) increased healthy behaviors and perceptions of well-being

Healthy behaviors and perceptions of well-being include: medication compliance; acceptance of illness; better coping and management of illness; improved quality of life and sense of well-being; greater sense of security and self-esteem; acceptance of problems without blame; creation of one’s own meaningful structure; and changes in what mental healthcare consumers wanted from time spent with family.

We know that self-help works, but why and how? The role of social networks is important to the success of self-help. People are able to form a network based on common experience and overcome the isolation exacerbated by stigma and discrimination.

The concept that “helping you helps me” is also a part of self help.  Each memeber of a self help community  wears two hats – one when they are coping and able to help others who are not so fortunate at the time, and another when they are not coping and in need of the support of their peers.


adaped from a Medscape article Maech 15, 2006  Self-Help and Serious Mental Illness by Edward L. Knight, PhD, CPRP

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