I have recently been attending Peer Support Groups at the Wellbeing Service at Leeds Mind – Clarence House in Horsforth.
Initially I felt quite hesitant about attending a support group. I wondered if it was the right thing to do. Was I going backwards? Was I too vulnerable? What would it be like? Would I get entangled in other people’s stories? However I did decide to go and it’s been really beneficial. I have found it to be a really supportive environment.
There are a variety of courses including: Confidence Building, Self-esteem, Assertiveness Skills, Mindfulness and Relaxation techniques. Some of the courses run for a day and some of the courses are run over a number of weeks. The facilitators all have personal experience of mental ill-health and are professional, skilled, insightful and caring. I appreciated that the group was facilitated by people who have personal experience – I think it’s so important. It’s not an ‘Us and Them’ environment and so it put me at ease.
One of the reasons why I think it works so well is that the groups feel very safe. The courses have structure and everyone speaks in turn around the group. If you want to you can pass on your turn – if it feels too much. There are ground rules in place which are discussed at the start of a course which include things such as: to try not to talk over each other, respect each other, that it’s okay to make mistakes, to refrain from giving advice and to keep things confidential. The setting is beautiful and non-clinical. One room in particular has a stunning view over a lovely garden which contains lovely trees and squirrels can be seen scampering around. There is a kitchen so you can make yourself a cuppa in the break-time .A small affordable donation is suggested for the sessions but it is said that this is not necessary if you really cannot afford it.
Attending the groups has given me chance to express my feelings and share my experience in a safe environment, with people who understand and are non-judgmental. I’ve also gained a lot of insight from other people’s experiences.
One thing that has struck me is just how nice everyone is – there is something quite humbling about the experience. If there is anything positive to take from experiencing mental illness/distress – is that perhaps that it can make people more understanding.
There is no formal referral process – please call the Wellbeing Service on 0113 305 5802
Thank you to Leeds Mind,