Living with a disability is never easy. Day-to-day tasks that able-bodied people take for granted are usually a lot more challenging for those with disabilities– which can begin to take its toll over time. But it is important to understand you’re not alone.
There are millions of Americans with disabilities living life to the fullest with the help of support groups. In this article, we will take a look at the benefits of joining a support group and how it can help you cope with the daily stress of living with a disability.
Why Should One Join a Disabled Support Group?
If you’ve been living with a disability for a long time, you know how emotionally challenging it can be. Performing simple everyday tasks becomes difficult, and you often feel dependent on your loved ones or caretakers to assist you with so many aspects of your life. This can lead to feelings of guilt or shame.
You shouldn’t feel guilty, considering that your disability is not your fault. Everyone needs support regardless if they’re disabled or not. While you might require a little more help with certain daily tasks, it doesn’t make you any less of a person. Knowing this can be a great first step to coping with the stress associated with disability. The next step is going to a disability support group.
Having a community of people who are going through the same thing you are can be an invaluable experience. When you’re in a support group, you can share your story and listen to the stories of others. This can be truly inspirational and make you feel like you’re a part of a bigger community. Being able to share your experience with others who will understand your situation can give you the strength to live a happier and more productive life. It can help you realize that you’re not alone.
Because disability support groups consist of people who have similar circumstances, you can lean on group members to help you overcome the emotional stresses and challenges that come with having a disability. Whether you need a shoulder to cry on or just someone to listen to what you’re going through, you will be sure to encounter a positive environment that can help you find some relief when you’re having a bad day.
Overall, the primary benefit of being in a disability support group is that it gives you a safe place to express the trials and tribulations of living with a disability. Not only that, but you’re sharing your experience with like-minded people who have likely gone through many of the same challenges. Being surrounded by supportive and understanding people can only serve to better your emotional well-being. This is extremely important when forced to deal with the daily stresses of living with a disability.
Types of Disability Support Groups
When considering which type of support group you should join, you have a variety of options available to you. Whether you’re interested in a general group for a wide range of disabilities or a group based on your specific disability, there is no shortage of options.
If you decide to go to a general group that includes a wide range of disabilities, you could benefit from hearing about others’ struggles that might be different from your situation. This can allow you to gain a better perspective on your disability and allow you to compare yourself to people who might have it even harder than you. This could greatly help you feel better about your circumstances and give you that extra push to be grateful for what you do have, even if your life is far from perfect.
Having access to a wider range of people with different disabilities can broaden your horizons as to what the disabled community goes through as a whole. It is a collaborative environment where people from all different backgrounds can share their struggles and triumphs. It is also a beneficial environment in that it allows you to express your own individual story, which can help other people feel better about living with their disability, even if it is different than yours.
Specific Disability Support Groups
Having underscored the benefits of joining a general disability support group, we would also like to share the advantages of joining a group that is specific to your disability. Joining a group that is focused on your disability can give you greater insight into your own life and the lives of others who are going through similar challenges that you encounter daily.
This can be tremendously beneficial in that it allows you to gain a more in-depth understanding of what others with the same disability have to go through. Often you will find that their experience is similar to yours. However, you might also be surprised at how different the experience can be from person to person. Gaining insights into other people’s daily challenges can help you put your own life into perspective while also giving you the ability to relate and help other support group members overcome the struggles they face.
Joining a support group that focuses on your specific disability can be seen as slightly more advantageous in that you’re interacting with others who deal with the same obstacles and similar life experiences. Drawing on these same experiences can create a very cohesive group environment where each individual has a certain level of expertise about their disability. This can make the support group more relatable and conducive to growth. Through collaboration and mutual understanding, groups focused on your specific disability can allow you to flourish and overcome even the hardest struggles.
Ultimately, it is very powerful to be part of an organization that focuses specifically on your disability. Not only will you learn more about what others like you are going through, but you will also be able to participate in helping make someone else’s life a little better.
How Often Do Support Groups Meet?
This will largely depend on which group you decide to go with. Some groups offer weekly sessions, whereas other less intensive support groups will meet once a month. A weekly support meeting is a great option for people who are struggling to cope with the emotional stress of their disability.
Having a safe place to discuss what you’re going through every week can only benefit you in the long run. This is especially true if you have never participated in a disability support group before. Weekly meetings can help jump-start your emotional recovery and provide a stable schedule that can help you improve your mental health quickly over time.
Groups that meet monthly could also be a great option if you have limited time and can’t commit to attending group meetings every week. While it won’t be as consistent as weekly meetings, even attending a support group once per month can make a huge difference in your emotional well-being.
Support Groups for People with Disabilities in Missouri
Protection & Advocacy Organization
The Missouri disability protection and advocacy (P&A) agency are the Missouri Protection & Advocacy Services (MO P&A). This program is part of the federally-funded protection and advocacy system. Its primary purpose is to provide help to those with disabilities in Missouri while also fighting to expand and defend disability rights. This organization provides supportive self-advocacy groups as well as legal assistance. It is part of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).
Sibshops offers an opportunity for brothers and sisters of children with intellectual disabilities to get peer support and education within a recreational context. The program will include a fun mix of information, games, activities, and discussion. For more information, contact Julie Thompkins, Family Navigator , at 314-817-2269.
CONNECT is a program at the St. Louis Arc that empowers individuals to lead an independent life using individualized and community supports. This program is ideal for adults interested in moving out on their own and needing minimal support to be successful. For the next meetup dates and to RSVP, join our Meetup group. For more information, please contact Beth Moeller, Director of Community Living, at 314-817-2271.
St. Louis Self-Advocates
The St. Louis Self-Advocates are St. Louis area youth seeking to empower each other, increase awareness about disability-related issues, and improve our community. Our members are St. Louis area residents between the ages of 14 and 29 who have a diagnosed disability. The group’s committees reflect the goals and vision of the group, including advocacy, quality, morale, and marketing. The group meets every Thursday from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. For more information or to sign up, email Madeline Webster.
Having gone over the benefits of seeking a support group for you or your family member’s disability, it has become clear that living with a disability is never easy. Having a support group that can help you navigate the daily challenges you face can go a long way toward improving your emotional well-being and overall quality of life.
If you’re interested in joining a support group, consider contacting any of the services listed above. Living with a disability doesn’t have to be unbearable. By joining a support group, you can align yourself with a community of like-minded individuals who can help you live a happier and healthier life.
While you might think that you can handle the stress of living with a disability on your own, you would be surprised at how much a collaborative group environment can help. If you’ve been considering joining a support group but haven’t followed through, we hope that this article gives you the extra push you need to take steps to improve your life and help the lives of others who are struggling with the same challenges you face daily.