Having a partner with a mental illness can feel very lonely. You may feel as if it’s not right to burden others with your problems and concerns, but also wish there was someone who understands what you are going through. Maybe, for whatever reason, going to therapy or in-person support groups yourself is not an option, or not enough. What else is there?

Technology to the rescue!

Online support groups–sometimes called online discussion groups or Internet self-help groups–are one way of finding others who are having the same experiences you are as the partner of someone with a mental illness. These online support groups generally are welcoming environments which users often find helpful. People who use online support groups get emotional support and suggestions, as well as accurate information, since other users will quickly chime in to make a correction if someone posts something erroneous.

Advantages of finding support online

  • Anonymity: You can lurk and just read what other people write, or you can choose to share as much or as little as you like about your experiences.
  • Strength in numbers: People will post information that you might not find on your own–for example, someone may post about a clinical trial happening in their area that you would not have found out about otherwise, or something else that’s relevant to you and your partner but that you would not have come across yourself.
  • Connection: Although you may never meet the people you interact with in these groups, just knowing that there is someone out there who is sharing your experience can help tremendously.

What to watch out for

  • Don’t believe everything you read: In general, online support group members tend to keep each other honest and correct any errors, but sometimes, stuff slips through, especially if the group is not well-moderated. Use your research skills to verify information.
  • Posts that seem disrespectful, offensive, rude, etc.: Most well-run groups have moderators who will remove posts that are offensive, but some groups don’t have moderators at all, or have moderators who could improve their skills. If you find yourself wondering if this group is a free-for-all, find a different one.
  • Your own expectations: Support groups are not a cure, and they don’t have all the answers. You are bound to be disappointed if you expect that you will get everything you need from one. They are best used as an adjunct to your own therapy, or in-person support.

Online support groups

These groups are, in general, for people who have the actual illness, but there are often threads and areas specifically for families. It also can be very helpful to read about the experiences of the people who have the disorders, and to ask them questions about what might be happening with your partner.

Forums at Psych Central (over 150 different groups!)

WebMD Communities (Physical and mental health conditions)

Daily Strength (Depression)

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Depression Fallout (Specifically for partners)

Mental Earth Community (All mental disorders)

Find the Light (Mood disorders and anxiety)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder support group

Surviving Bipolar

Schizophrenia.com support group

Something Fishy (Eating disorders)

Got one you like that’s not listed here? Leave a comment!