Depression support groups come in different forms. There are online forums, which are unstructured. There are also online and in-person groups that have a moderator to guide the conversation.

Support groups provide an emotionally safe environment for expressing feelings, exchanging ideas, and gaining helpful information. Many of them are free to use.

According to a 2017 study, some high-quality evidence suggests that internet support groups are effective in decreasing symptoms of depression. People who use them report that they:

  • reduce isolation
  • improve daily functioning
  • increase the likelihood of seeking professional help

Depression is common and affects about 4.7% of individuals aged 18 and older in the United States.

This article looks at depression support groups and what they can offer, including online, in-person, and specialty groups. It also discusses other forms of help.

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Below are a few online support groups for depression and some of their benefits.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers an anonymous peer-to-peer support group for people with depression and anxiety. It is a safe place for individuals and their families to share experiences and connect with others.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) provides online peer-led meetings for people living with depression or bipolar disorder. Once a person registers with DBSA, they may join the scheduled meetings, where individuals may learn coping skills and offer hope to each other. The website maintains a current list of meetings for each day.

Mental Health America

Mental Health America (MHA) has an online community where people can converse with others on a range of mental health topics, including depression. It is open to those with the condition and their caregivers.

Depression Forums

Depression Forums have volunteer moderators who either have experienced depression or have a loved one with the condition. Topic choices in the forums are broad and include areas such as medications and relationships. There is also a “water cooler,” where members may discuss any topic they like and get to know each other.

Depression Understood

Depression Understood offers several ways for people with the condition to communicate with others. These include live chat rooms that are open 24/7, along with forums, where someone may leave a message for others. Additionally, Depression Understood provides the means for a person to start writing their own blog.

Livewell Foundation

Livewell Foundation hosts peer-led Zoom meetings that are open to people with depression. It lists the weekly meetings and topics on the website, and members can choose to attend the ones that interests them.

Livewell Foundation does have a few rules for attendance, such as a “no observer” policy, which means it is not open to family members or caregivers.

In-person support groups have all the benefits of online groups, but they offer the opportunity for face-to-face interactions. A person’s doctor is a good source of information regarding the availability of local in-person groups.

The following in-person options have affiliations with some of the most well-known mental health organizations. Each website has a search tool for locating a group in a particular area.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

The ADAA has local support groups as well as online groups, but they are not present in every state. The organization also gives information on how to start a local group if one is not currently available in a certain area.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

The DBSA offers in-person groups in various locations. However, during the COVID-19 outbreak, many of the groups switched to using social media, email, and online meeting venues to connect.

Mental Health America Affiliates

The MHA also has affiliated in-person support groups. Peers lead some groups, and mental health professionals lead others.

There are an array of groups that provide support for specific types of depression, or to specific populations. Groups are also available for family members and caregivers. Below are some to consider.

Postpartum Support International

Postpartum Support International has online support groups for people who experience depression during pregnancy or following childbirth. It also provides a section for people with fertility challenges or who have experienced a pregnancy loss.

National Alliance on Mental Health Family Support Group

National Alliance on Mental Health Family Support Group is open to any adult who has a loved one with a mental health condition. The groups meet 60–90 minutes once per week, once per month, or twice per month. They have several benefits, such as helping members develop better coping skills.

OK2TALK

OK2TALK is a community where young adults and teenagers with mental health conditions can communicate with each other. It is an emotionally secure environment for sharing struggles, recovery, and hope.

Daily Strength

DailyStrength (DS) is a support group for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a mental health condition that can contribute to depression. The DS community is fairly active, as it has nearly 9,000 members.

The process of finding a support group a person enjoys is very unique. Before trying one, people may want to consider whether they would prefer:

  • an online or in-person group
  • a group that is free-form, or one that is moderated by a mental health professional
  • a group that helps people with any type of depression, or a specialized group
  • a group that allows family members and caregivers, or one that only allows people with depression

It may require some trial-and-error to discover what someone finds most helpful. If one group does not feel right, it is OK to leave and try another.

Support groups can be a valuable addition to a person’s care, but they do not replace treatment. For this, doctors typically recommend talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

Talk therapy can help someone work through their feelings and learn to manage them in a healthy way. It can also teach someone coping skills, or help uncover the potential root causes for the condition.

There are many types of talk therapy, so if a person does not enjoy one type, or one therapist, this does not necessarily mean it will not help. It is important to find a therapist a person can build a positive relationship with.

Medication may help reduce the symptoms of depression. Sometimes, people take these so they can begin talk therapy more easily. Other times, people may find it helpful to continue taking them long term.

Medications for depression can cause side effects, and they typically take 2–4 weeks to take effect. In young people under 25, there is also a risk that symptoms such as suicidal thoughts may increase temporarily. It is important to monitor young people taking these medications closely in the first few weeks.

Depression is highly treatable, even if someone has severe symptoms. People can speak with a doctor about the options to find a plan that is right for them.

Depression support groups can offer people companionship, empathy, and a safe space to talk about how they feel. Although in-person groups are not available in every location, online groups are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Support groups have several benefits, but doctors recommend them as an addition to treatment, rather than a replacement.