Support groups for bipolar seem like such a good idea. There are so many questions and it is hard to find good sources of information. Family and friends can be a resource, but they may not understand the challenges of living with mood instability. Professionals (a therapist or psychiatrist) can help, but they are not available all the time, and there are some things that you want to talk about with a peer rather than a professional.
Finding a group that is a good “fit” can be a challenge. After all, bipolar affects people of all types, all ages, and all backgrounds. It can be hard to get beyond the differences when joining a group of people who have been in and out of hospitals, or are homeless, or are all much older than you. So finding the right group may be something of a project.
Broadly speaking, support groups can be divided into those that are “in person,” and those that are “virtual.” Each of these can also be categorized as “peer run” or “professionally run.”
In person support groups
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. DBSA is the largest national organization focused on helping people with bipolar and depression. There are local affiliates throughout the country. The quality and extent of local programs varies depending on the folks who run them and the people who attend the groups. But DBSA does offer its affiliates a good deal of support and information to try to make sure that all of its programs meet certain standards and follow a similar format. In addition, DBSA offers some “virtual” support groups.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Primarily has focused on family support but now offers support groups for “consumers.” Most of the groups tend to focus on people who are more severely ill.
Alcoholics Anonymous. And many other twelve step programs are often good resources for people with bipolar plus other common problems – substance use, alcohol use, overeating, sexual addiction, etcetera, etcetera.
Online or “virtual” support groups
Bipolar Support is a resource with both information and online forums.
Stigma is an online mood tracking and social support app that is available only on the iPhone. In the words of one of its users… “This is a mood tracker, peer support app, and digital journal all in one. You can share your entries with the community, your pen pals, your group, or just yourself.”
Yahoo Groups. Probably the largest set of groups available on the internet. There seems to be a group for everything. Just to give you an idea, there is a Yahoo Group for Bipolar Witches…
MedHelp. They have online tools and moderated and unmoderated forums.
Psych Central is a resource with information about all kinds of mental health conditions and problems. They also have a moderated online community. moderated online community as well as a list of other bipolar support groups list of other bipolar support groups.
Patients Like Me. A social networking tool that also tries to gather the “collective wisdom” of people with similar problems. Interesting but we aren’t sure how well it works yet.
Mental Help Net : home of the oldest and largest online mental health guide and community.