Support groups can help during financial meltdown If you are experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety, aren’t sleeping or eating well, and are worried over how the economic meltdown may be impacting you and your family, you may benefit from the local support groups conducted by mental health organizations throughout the state. Professionally-run support groups can play a huge role in helping us feel better physically and about how to cope with our immediate situation. Support groups are designed to accomplish this by teaching relaxation techniques and by helping you establish a plan of action to manage better through a difficult period. Support groups are free and you can attend these group sessions anonymously if you wish; no registration is required. While it may be difficult to accept, there is no stigma attached to attending. In fact, one of the immediate benefits is that we learn that we are not alone, that so many others are facing similar circumstances. Because it’s often difficult to recognize that you need help, it may take the urging of a spouse, close friend or member of the clergy to encourage you to seek support group assistance. They may recognize a change in your behavior before you do. Support groups benefit the participants by first helping them to identify and cope with the circumstances causing them stress, and then illustrating ways people can minimize those stress-provoking encounters. The intent is to avoid fretting over things out of your control and to concentrate on managing the things you can control. We urge people stressed out by the impact of the economic crisis to turn to the mental health assistance programs run by professionals and available in your communities or in communities nearby. Many of these programs have existed throughout New Jersey for many years, sponsored by a local mental health organization. Some have been strengthened to deal with the increased need during the economic downturn. If you feel a support group or another type of assistance may help you, please take advantage of the professionals who want to make a positive difference in your life. If you know a friend or relative who may need help, urge them to get help Call UMDNJ’s University Behavioral HealthCare at 1-800-969-5300. We’ll help you find a suitable referral location. Christopher Kosseff is president and CEO, and Theresa Miskimen is vice president, Medical Services, for University Behavioral HealthCare, the statewide mental health and addiction services network of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.