What is Peer Support?
Peer support is a term used to describe where people with a similar lived experience come together to provide emotional, social or practical help to each other.
In Mind BLMK, this means that people who have an experience of mental ill health can spend time together, connect, share experiences and ideas of what can help. This support can be really helpful for all involved – those supporting can feel helpful, useful and involved and those being supported can feel less alone, isolated and understand that others have had similar experiences.
We feel more connected
Mental ill health can lead to us feeling alone, like we are the only person going through this, that we are isolated and that nobody else can help. This can lead to feelings of helplessness, a downward spiral of depression, anxiety or hopelessness. This can make things worse and lead to us doing things that aren’t helpful.
Peer support can mean that someone else is there, sometimes simply ‘I get that…’ or ‘when I felt like that, I tried this and it was really helpful’ can make a huge difference.
Understanding and empathy
Trying to explain how things are to someone who has never experienced a mental health issue can be really tough – sometimes simply finding the words to describe what is happening can be impossible and can feel like wading through treacle. And when others don’t understand, it can lead to frustration.
When people have their own experiences, it can be much easier. People get it. They understand. They have often felt similar things themselves or can see where you’re coming from, even if it is different from them. This can be a huge relief.
Independence and self-worth
Peer support is working together. Everyone is helping everyone – we can all feel empowered, build independence, increase our self-worth by knowing we are an important part of the support, even if often we say very little. And we know that even if we are the one being helped today, at some point we will be able to help someone else.
Groups are held across Central Bedfordshire in Ampthill, Biggleswade, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard. Please download the timetable for details of a group near you. The groups will be led by a Peer Support Worker with lived experience of mental health and built-on shared personal experience and empathy with a focus on working towards wellbeing and recovery.
To access our services, you can complete the online form to the left of this page.
Sue O’Callaghan – Peer Support Co-ordinator
These groups are funded by East London NHS Foundation Trust.