The Internet has been a boon for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other chronic illnesses to share information and experiences. Even so, at times it helps to have someone to talk to face-to-face. But what can you do if there's no support group in your area? Start your own!
Time Required: Ongoing
- Pick a convenient time for meetings. The time and day of the week will depend on the type of group and its members. Many support groups are held in the evenings because members must attend school or work during the day, but if members are too tired at night, a weekend meeting might be best.
- Select a location for your meetings. Some groups meet in members' homes, with each member taking their turn. Larger groups may need to be held at a local hospital, school, college, community center, or library.
- Decide how often to meet. Many groups opt for a meeting once a month for ease of scheduling (the first Tuesday of each month, for example). Some groups may decide to meet more or less often depending on the emotional and practical needs of the members. The most important part is to decide on a schedule and stick to it for the benefit of all members.
- Advertise your group. Use a variety of ways to get the word out, including newspaper classifieds, local hospitals and libraries, and even through doctors' offices.
- Decide on topics. Will each meeting have a particular discussion topic? Should there be guest speakers? Should family members attend, or should there be a separate group for them? The ultimate goal is to create a safe place for people with gastrointestinal disorders and those who love them to share their experiences openly.
- The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) has many local chapters with support groups that meet on a regular basis across the country. If there is no local IBD support group in your area, they are an organization you can contact. The CCFA has extensive experience and are the best people to offer guidance on starting a new group. For IBD groups in other countries, please see the list of International IBD Organizations.
- Remember that a support group is fluid. After you set up your group, you may find that members would like a different time, place, or frequency to the meetings. Be prepared to make compromises and changes as your group grows.