**See disclaimer below.
Question: What do you recommend? A counselor or a support group?
Answer: I recommend both! There are benefits to counseling and to attending a support group, though each serves a different purpose. Counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals have expertise in treating a variety of mental health challenges. They are equipped to help people manage the challenges of life and to provide guidance to those dealing with everything from grief to anxiety to bipolar disorder. Additionally, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help treat the biological factors of mental health challenges.
If you live in Erie County and need help finding a skilled, affordable mental health professional in your community to provide treatment for you or a loved one, call 716-886-1242 and ask to speak to someone from the Child & Family Support Program. (Do not let financial hardship stand in the way of getting the help you need. We can help you find a mental health professional that accepts your health insurance, offers sliding scale fees, or provides services free of charge!)
Support groups are also incredibly helpful, but for different reasons. In a support group, you have an opportunity to meet and interact with others who are experiencing similar struggles. The members of the group provide support and encouragement to one another. They are not licensed mental health professionals, and do not offer treatment advice or prescribe medication. The main purpose of a support group is to let people know they are not alone in their struggles. There are support groups for just about all of life's challenges!
For a listing of support groups for adults in Erie County, click here.
The Mental Health Association of Erie County also offers support groups for parents, teens, and young adults. These groups are facilitated by Youth Peer Advocates (YPA) and Family Support Partners (FSP). YPA's have personal experience with mental health challenges, and FSP's have personal experience supporting family members with mental health challenges. They understand the mental health care system, and are willing and able to support you and your family as you fight against mental health challenges.
**Disclaimer: This question was submitted to me by a student following a presentation I gave on depression and anxiety in youth. The answer I provide is based on my personal experiences and professional knowledge as a Youth Peer Advocate. However, this advice is not intended to replace the guidance of a mental health professional (ex. psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.) Remember...if you or a friend is in immediate danger, call 911.