5 Ways to Build a Support System

I often make the mistake of trying to seek help from people who don’t know the first thing about my disability. This leads to a situation where neither side feels good about the outcome. For example, if you’re a writer, it is logical to seek out other writers for support. The same applies when you have a disability. Seeking out friends for support with similar challenges can lead to healthy friendships and a helpful support system.   

Here are my top tips in creating a dependable support group:  

Step 1. Identify your specific needs. 

  • Identify the areas in your life where support is needed the most. Do you need a friend to listen when you have a difficult day? Do you need physical support in your home with daily living task?  
  • Identifying the areas of need will determine where you seek proper help. 

Step 2. List – or research – the resources that are available to you right now. 

  • Do you have support groups in your area? Take to the internet and research the resources in your area. (Christopher Reeve Foundation has a listing by zip code here.) You may be surprised to find that there are support group meetings nearby.  
  • Search for online websites and Facebook groups specific to your disability. Then reach out to the administrator privately. Ask questions about safety and how he/she will assure that you are in a group that has your best interest in mind. 
  • If you need physical help within your home, start with your local independent living center.  
  • Keep your safety a priority when seeking in-home help. Use reliable sources and have full background checks completed before you allow anyone to assist in your home.  
  • Ask friends for word-of-mouth recommendations. They might just be your best resource!  

Step 3. Communication is the key to a successful support system. 

  • Communication can be hard. Supportive friendships should promote emotionally safe and direct communication between one another.  
  • Sometimes just talking to someone can lift your spirits. This is not an understatement in my experience. Stewing on your problems isn’t productive. Discussing your struggles in a support group (online or face to face) is an important piece to building a healthy support system.   

Step 4.  Find a peer mentor or a person with a similar disability. 

  • A healthy support system might include a peer mentor or someone who “gets it.”  
  • This is different than a support group. This is a one-on-one relationship, typically in-person, but not always. This person can relate to your circumstances. 
  • A peer mentor does not need to be a formal relationship through a rehab facility or third party. Find someone who can meet for coffee or just hang out – or even talk on the phone. The point is to make an intentional effort to communicate with an individual who can offer understanding and encouragement.  

Step 5: Understanding your responsibility in fostering a support system.  

  • Everyone has a purpose in life. Knowing you have a job/goal helps you focus on something other than your injury. It gives you hope that there are many brighter days ahead.  
  • Purpose can direct you to make positive changes in your life and act as compass for when life’s struggles knock you down. When this happens, you can redirect your thoughts towards your purpose and move you away from negative interruptions 
  • Having purpose will help you regroup and get back on track.  
  • Taking “ownership of your life will make you a person that others enjoy being around. If you master this skill, friends and family that support you will be encouraged to continue this journey with you.  


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