What is Peer Support?
Peer support happens when people with a similar lived experience come together to provide emotional, social or practical help to each other.
At Lambeth and Southwark Mind, this means that people who have an experience of mental ill health can spend time together, connect, share experiences and suggest ideas of what can help others in coping with their condition and working towards recovery. This support can be 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 developing unhelpful coping strategies such as not taking care of ourselves, developing poor eating habits, avoiding social situations or relying on alcohol or drugs.
Peer support can mean that someone else is there, sometimes simply to say ‘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 relief.
Independence and self-worth
Peer support is about working together. Everyone is helping everyone else – 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.
Lived Experience Support Workers
Our Lived Experience Workers are based within the North and South Assessment and Liaison Teams at South London and Maudsley (SLAM) NHS and offer individual and group support to patients accessing these teams. This is a new project which started in March 2022.
In Lambeth and Southwark Mind, our groups are led by a Peer Support Facilitator who has lived experience of mental health. They focus on working towards wellbeing and recovery. All our peer support groups are for anyone aged 18 and above. If you have a query about the groups, please contact [email protected] or call 02081672183 where messages will be answered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Some of our groups are paused at the moment while we review need and seek further funding: Hearing Voices Group, Kindred Minds, Peer Support Group, Friends in Need.