Peer Support Service 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. Our values Mind BLMK has six different values that link to everything that we do, especially when we are talking about Peer Support. Community – our Peer Support sessions are based around our area, with sessions in 5 different places in Bedfordshire. We aim to be an important part of the communities we work in and link up with other local activities. Respect – the purpose of Peer Support is to show mutual respect, embrace everyone’s experiences and value the difference and similarities between us. Opportunity – we offer a range of different options, with Peer Support being only one. For many people, this support works alongside other support, such as counselling or mentoring. Hope – sometimes, when things are especially difficult, it is hard to see a way forward. Peer Support can provide others who can hold onto the hope that things will get better until we can take that hope back ourselves. Developing Potential – for many people, Peer Support is the start of a journey where they can then become peer supporters themselves. We aim to help everyone within the service to achieve all they can. Raising Awareness – Mind BLMK works to make it easier for everyone to get the support they need. This includes working to reduce stigma and discrimination and the Peer Support groups are one way of feeling safe and secure to talk about things openly, without judgement. Find out more about the Peer Support Service in Central Bedfordshire here. For details of the Peer Support service in Bedford Borough, click here.