The self-help community is a community of individuals who assist each other with self-help tasks. The Internet has proved a very valuable resource for this community, connecting people with each other so that they can share their mutual interests, experiences, and concerns. Members of the self-help community may also interact through newsletters, conferences, group meetings, books, and other media.
Members of the self-help community may be seeking help for themselves, as when someone struggling with a medical problem is looking for advice, or for other people. Caregivers of people with illnesses and disabilities may utilize the self-help community, and concerned friends and family members of people who have problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and eating disorders may also also the self-help community for support and information.
While the core idea behind self-help is that people can help themselves when it comes to resolving problems and getting information, it also relies on the concept of mutual assistance. For someone who is just learning about a medical diagnosis, for example, it can help to talk to people who have been diagnosed with the same condition, or to caregivers and friends of people with the same condition to learn more about what to expect. People can use information provided by the self-help community as a form of empowerment so that they can assert themselves in interactions with everyone from government officials to rebellious children.
Many groups within the self-help community are very welcoming and supportive. Whether a group is organized to help people with psychological issues such as phobias or to support people who are fighting wrongful termination, members of the group have personal experiences with the topic at hand which make them sympathetic. Studies suggest that there is a psychological benefit to getting into contact with people who share your experiences; a cancer patient, for example, may be less stressed after talking to people who have already undergone treatment, while a new mother who feels isolated may find common ground in a community of other new mothers who can help her identify and deal with postpartum depression.
Resources in the self-help community are generally easy to find. A quick Internet search can often set someone off on the right direction. However, people seeking self-help should be careful. Some people are vulnerable to predatory activities, and may find themselves in a situation which is dangerous or unhelpful when they start seeking assistance for an issue. People may want to investigate the legitimacy of publications and organizations by looking for recommendations from professional organizations which deal with the issue of concern, or by looking up particular groups with government agencies which monitor business activities and flag businesses with questionable practices.