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According to the World Health Organization, depression affects more than 264 million people around the globe.

Thankfully, the internet can be a powerful tool to seek help for depression. Online support groups and forums can help connect you to other people experiencing depression and provide coping techniques.

Similar to in-person support groups, online groups can provide camaraderie and peer support in times of need.

A 2015 study found that 15 participants in an online depression support group felt participation helped decrease their symptoms and self-stigma during a 10-week period.

The study found that participants valued communication with others in a judgment-free zone and, in some cases, felt more comfortable talking about their depression with “strangers” in the group than with their family and friends.

Read more to see if an online depression support group is right for you, and discover the best online support groups.

Online support groups are becoming a more commonplace format for those experiencing mental health conditions. There are two types of online support groups for depression: asynchronous and synchronous.

  • Asynchronous support groups. These groups aren’t subject to a scheduled time or place. They follow a message board format and allow users to share a post and comment on other posts at any time. The 24-hour access of these forums are an attractive feature for people who prefer to reach out on their own timeline rather than wait until a group meeting arrives. Traditionally, synchronous support groups are peer-led.
  • Synchronous online support groups. These groups have the most similarities to face-to-face meetings. Usually hosted on a video chat platform, they provide an in-person feel from behind your computer screen. Unlike local meetings, these online groups allow you to connect with people from around the world instead of the confines of your city. These groups typically happen weekly or bi-weekly and can last 1 to 2 hours.

We searched for online depression support groups that are either recommended or run by established mental health organizations. Seeing how depression can impact all people, we sought to provide online groups to reach a variety of communities.

We also evaluated how active the online support groups were to ensure that our readers can find an engaged, supportive community.

Most online support groups for depression are free, and we only included free options in this roundup.

Best for frequent engagement

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and treating a variety of mental health conditions, including depression.

Through science-backed programs and outreach, the organization aims to eradicate the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety. With more than 30 years under its belt, the ADAA helps people around the world and attracts more than 11 million web visitors per year.

The association provides free in-person and virtual support groups in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

There’s also a thriving online anxiety and depression support group with more than 59,000 members. The forum, hosted on the social network HealthUnlocked, provides a safe space for people to chat anonymously about their experiences.

ADAA also hosts a Spanish-language anxiety depression and support group.

Best for 24/7 support

7 Cups

7 Cups offers online support groups, chat rooms, and forums for members to share their feelings, provide daily check-ins, discuss their experiences with depression, and share encouragement and support.

The site’s calendar includes sharing circles and icebreakers for members, including specific events for LGBTQIA+ users, teens, members over 50, caregivers, and more.

One-on-one chats are also available 24/7. The app and online community has a network of volunteer listeners who can provide emotional support.

While 7 Cups does provide free online training to listeners, it’s important to note that volunteers aren’t licensed mental health professionals.

Best for virtual meetups in your neighborhood

NAMI Connection

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a prominent grassroots organization working to build better lives for people experiencing mental health conditions.

With more than 40 years of service, the organization has expanded to 600 local affiliates and 48 state organizations. NAMI’s storied history makes the organization a reputable resource, and those experiencing depression may find a helping hand in the NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group.

The peer-led groups happen both in-person and online in cities around the country. Members who are 18 and over gather on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to encourage empathy and empowerment while sharing their own stories.

Some chapters meet locally, but you’ll be surprised by just how many NAMI groups have embraced virtual meetups on Zoom. You can browse NAMI’s directory to find a future meeting.

Best for specialized support groups

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is on a mission to inspire resilience, hope, and connection in people experiencing mental health conditions, like depression and bipolar disorder. The organization features resources and aid, including more than 600 peer-led support groups.

Not only is the vast amount of groups impressive, but they’re also effective. The organization’s website states that participation in a DBSA patient-to-patient support group “improved treatment compliance by almost 86 percent and reduced in-patient hospitalization.”

DBSA’s wide variety of support groups include specialized cohorts for military veterans, young adults, BIPOC communities, caregivers, and people with co-occuring substance abuse.

The online national support groups are hosted on Support Groups Central and are offered on multiple weekdays and times, making them very accessible.

Best for co-occurring mental health concerns

Mental Health America

When it comes to educating yourself on mental illness, Mental Health America (MHA) is a treasure trove of information. Among its pages of mindfulness tools and informative webinars, you’ll find the organization’s online support group and forum.

The online support group is hosted on Inspire, a database of health-related support communities, and it features discussions on more than 20 different mental health concerns.

Users can chat anonymously about the stigma of mental illness, coping with their feelings, and personal healing. People can reply to threads and click the “support” button to show they care.

Due to the variety of mental health issues discussed, it can feel a little cumbersome to find depression-related discussions.

MHA garners several posts a day — a less frequent amount compared to the ADAA’s forum, which garners approximately 40 posts in a 24-hour period. Still, the respondents share heartfelt and thoughtful replies on the MHA discussion board.

Best for postpartum depression

Postpartum Support International

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1 in 8 women in the United States experience symptoms of postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression, which occurs after a person gives birth, is very common but treatable. While consulting with your doctor can help put you in touch with the treatment you need, having a network of other parents may help you feel less alone.

Postpartum Support International (PSI) offers online support groups 5 days per week. Some available groups focus on specific situations and issues, like:

  • perinatal mood support
  • pregnancy and infant loss
  • birth moms who placed a baby for adoption
  • termination due to medical reasons
  • postpartum psychosis

The organization also offers groups for specific communities, including queer and trans parents, fathers, military moms, and Black or South-Asian mothers. There’s also a weekly Spanish-language support group.

Depression is a common but serious mental health condition that can disrupt daily life. While it’s often associated with feelings of sadness or apathy, it’s more than just a case of the blues.

Symptoms of depression

To be diagnosed with depression, the National Institute of Mental Health states that symptoms must be present for at least 2 weeks.

While symptoms can vary, here are some common signs to look out for:

  • persistent feeling of sadness, anxiousness, or emptiness
  • hopelessness
  • irritability
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed
  • fatigue or low energy
  • restlessness
  • difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • reduced libido
  • thoughts or attempts of suicide
  • appetite changes
  • physical symptoms, like aches, pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear cause

Symptoms and severity of depression depend on the individual and should be discussed with a medical professional. There are also different types of depression that manifest in different ways.

You can learn about nine different types of depression here.

Getting diagnosed

There’s no passport for depression. Online support groups don’t require the confirmation of a diagnosis to join.

In fact, these groups may be a way to dip your toes into seeking help and sharing your experiences in an anonymous, unbiased space. You may find you relate to other members or notice that advice within the group resonates with your feelings.

While support groups don’t often ask for formal proof of diagnosis, you should talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing any signs of depression.

Getting a diagnosis is the first step to acknowledging you need help. Depression can lead to severe symptoms like suicidal ideation or self-harm, making mental healthcare a critical need.

Online support groups offer benefits that can leave participants feeling accepted and uplifted.

Mental health organizations and support programs have also shared feedback on the impact of virtual meetings. On the NAMI website, the organization shares praise from NAMI Connection participants.

One testimony on the NAMI website states, “The program has given me additional tools to not only accept my illness but [also] to help others along the way.”

Support groups members may benefit from:

  • 24/7 forums and chat rooms
  • global access to people outside your community
  • accessibility
  • the realization that they aren’t alone
  • camaraderie and social connection
  • deeper understanding of depression
  • shared coping mechanisms and tools
  • anonymity and privacy

Some downsides of internet support groups are the pitfalls of technology. Issues, like an unstable Wi-Fi connection, can make virtual meetings more difficult, so it’s best to find a suitable location with a strong signal.

Etiquette is also important when attending an online meeting, since it can be distracting to be in a loud space with background noise or to talk over other members.

Asynchronous groups, like message boards, allow participants to access the group at any time and provide the ability to carefully craft responses to other members. While messaging allows on-demand access, text may be misinterpreted, since written responses lack vocal intonation and tone.

How much do online depression support groups typically cost?

Many forums and support groups for depression, like the ones above, are completely free.

How do online support groups compare to in-person groups?

Online support groups can help reach people who may be hesitant to attend a face-to-face meeting. The widespread network of users and the 24/7 access can make online forums an effective and easy place to gather.

A 2020 study found that pairing online and offline peer support groups helped participants facilitate social relationships, promote friendship and community connectedness. The study found that online and offline support groups complemented each other in addition to ongoing mental healthcare.

As online formats, like therapy and support groups, gain prominence, additional studies are needed to indicate whether one is more effective than the other.

Should I still go to therapy?

Support groups can act as a sounding board for your feelings and provide a positive environment, but they aren’t a replacement for therapy.

Unlike mental health counseling, support groups are facilitated by peers just like you. While these peer-led groups can be filled with insightful tips and shared tools, they shouldn’t be used in lieu of a licensed mental health professional.

If you’re experiencing depression, contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms and consider speaking with a mental health counselor.

Depression can be an isolating mental health condition, but it doesn’t have to be dealt with alone.

Studies have shown that online support groups can help people find kinship and feel less alone when experiencing depression.

The peer-led nature of online support groups makes them a valuable path to finding people who can relate to you. While depression support groups can be a helpful addition to your mental health treatment, they aren’t a substitution for therapy.

Jillian Goltzman is a freelance journalist covering culture, social impact, wellness, and lifestyle. She’s been published in various outlets, including Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Fodor’s Travel Guide. Outside of writing, Jillian is a public speaker who loves discussing the power of social media — something she spends too much time on. She enjoys reading, her houseplants, and cuddling with her corgi. Find her work on her website, blog, Twitter, and Instagram.