Support and Self-help Groups
It may be difficult at times to talk about MS related symptoms with family and friends who may not grasp what it is like – but it can be very helpful talking to other people who share, or have shared, similar experiences.
Self-help and support groups are not limited to people living with MS, many Chapters and Divisions have groups for caregivers, family members and parents of children living with MS. Please note that some groups operate independently from the MS Society of Canada however maintain close ties with the Society. Please contact your MS Society division office at 1-800-268-7582.
What are self-help and support groups?
Self-help groups are an informal way to link people who share common concerns or experiences. All self-help programs have the same goals: to give and receive emotional support, and to give and receive practical ideas in dealing with problems common to members of the group.
Self-help is based on the idea that no one knows more about a problem than those living with it. Each person is an expert because of his/her own experiences.
What is the difference between a self-help group and support group?
A self-help group is facilitated by a volunteer supervised by the MS Society of Canada who is also a member of the same self-help group.
A support group is facilitated by an individual external to the group that has expertise in providing assistance in the role of facilitator. This person is supervised by the MS Society of Canada and may be a staff person, volunteer or non-MS Society of Canada paid facilitator.
Both groups offer a wide range of assistance to their members.
How are the meetings structured and where do they take place?
Self-help and support groups are coordinated by local MS Society Chapter or Division offices and are facilitated by MS Society of Canada trained staff or volunteers. Each group has at least one trained facilitator as well as a group supervisor. Supervisors are MS Society of Canada staff or volunteers who have been designated by their Division office to supervise and administer group activities.
Group meeting locations vary, however each group supervisor will ensure the location is fully accessible and safe for all members.
What can I expect from my self-help or support group experience?
In a self-help group, individuals share not only their problems but their successes. Sharing and talking with others who have had either the same or similar experiences, helps people to discover they are not alone and that there are others who understand what they are going through. Support and self-help programs may not solve all problems, but they do offer realistic support, encouragement and hope and are one of the most valued services the MS Society offers.
Will information discussed in the group be shared?
No. Confidentiality is a key component of all support and self help groups.
How do I find out about self-help and support groups in my area?
Please contact your MS Society division office at 1-800-268-7582.
How do I become a facilitator or start a self-help group and/or support group in my area?
Anyone interested in becoming a facilitator must undergo a screening process, followed by facilitator training through the MS Society of Canada. Please contact your local MS Society office and ask to speak to the self-help and support group supervisor for more information.
The MS Society of Canada developed nationwide Self-Help and Support Group Standards and Operational Practices, to be followed by any group operating under the MS Society of Canada name. If you would like to know more about starting a group, please contact your local MS Society office.
Are there any online support groups?
Yes. Currently the Manitoba Division of the MS Society of Canada oversees online support services including discussions boards and chat rooms. Although these online services fall under the MS Society of Canada banner, they are not nationally administered.
Please also see the list below for several other credible organizations who maintain chat rooms or discussion boards for people affected by MS.
The MS Society of Canada is not responsible for the administration or content of the following online resources.
- The National MS Society’s online community chat room and message board, MSWorld® Inc., provides a global virtual community of support to people living with multiple sclerosis. The site’s sole mission is to create a safe, informative, useful, and fun place for people to meet, share ideas and gain useful resources to help manage and cope.
- Jooly’s Joint is an online community based out of the United Kingdom that offers support to people living with MS, as well as their families and friends. This online community was created in 1995 by Julie Howell, who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 20.