What is this thing we call peer support?

Interesting post on Peer Support from Arizona.

Gene Johnson is CEO and President of Recovery Innovations, Arizona. This blog post is an extract from Gene’s keynote speech at April’s  The role of peer workers in mental health services conference, jointly organised by the Centre and the NHS Confederation. Changing the balance between traditional mental health professionals and people whose expertise comes from ‘lived experience’  in mental health services is key to the concept of recovery. Peer specialist roles are different from, but equal to,  traditional service roles.


In 1999 I had the idea that what was happening in the peer run services, like the drop-in centres, was really good, but no one was paying much attention to it. It wasn’t very well funded and often times at risk in terms of business or infrastructure.  So I thought:  what if we can team up?  What if the peers could come over and join our teams?

In October…

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Leeds Mind Peer Support Conference 6th June #peer14

The fantastic Peer Support team at Leeds Mind are presenting a free Peer Support Conference on Friday 6th June. Could your organisation benefit from using Peer Support ? Do you want to network with other organisations involved in Peer Support?

– tickets are free but need to be booked here via Eventbrite.  There are limited spaces so do book quickly!

The twitter hashtag for the event is #peer14

 

peer support flyer web

Volunteers and Lay Workers needed to help overcome public health challenges. Professor Jane South.

Last Wednesday I went to a public lecture delivered by  Professor Jane South.

It was advertised on Eventbrite – the online events site.  I’m not averse to the odd public lecture and it sounded relevant – so I thought I’d go.  In fact it was much more than relevant.  It was engaging, inspiring and it followed the lines of a conversation which seems to make sense to me and keeps attracting my attention.

Professor Jane South – Inaugural Lecture – Leeds Metropolitan University

The basic gist of the lecture was to explore the premise that current health challenges cannot be met without engaging the public in Public Health action.  To meet this requirement she envisaged an increase in the use of Volunteers and Lay Workers, such as Peer Support Workers and Lay Health Trainers.  She proposed that this would result in services that work and fit better along with a greater sense of empowerment for the people involved.

Dr Jane South

Jane began her career in Nursing and during this time made an observation which was to inform the direction of her career:  She saw that ‘the Doctor knows best philosophy’ could be dis-empowering. She gave examples of Health Promotion strategies which had failed, as they didn’t quite fit. They had been designed by those who didn’t grasp the full nature of the situation – as they weren’t at the coal face and perhaps had a touch of the Ivory Tower syndrome (check DSM !)

Using Volunteers and Lay Workers -she said, would help secure a greater fit.  She proposed that all parties would benefit – the volunteers, the organisations and the communities. Volunteers may gain in confidence, have improved social contact, a greater sense of empowerment and access to more opportunities. It could provide a greater sense of empowerment for those receiving the services.   She further suggested that involving people in this way may then create a ripple effect to more active citizenship. Her tag line was ‘Think Big, Act Local and Join up.’

Inequality can be dis-empowering for people, which in turn  can result in a reduction of self-esteem.   I believe it’s healthy and really important for us human beings  to have a sense of empowerment.  I guess once upon a time we lived upon the land, in smaller communities, built ourselves shelter and found our own food – a sense of mastery which is difficult to attain today.  I have at times felt very dis-empowered in my own life and have struggled with low self-esteem which in turn has greatly affected my ability to look after myself both physically and emotionally. Working on the blog and being involved in Peer Support at Leeds Mind, both as a participant and as a volunteer,  has helped me to feel much more empowered, it’s given me a voice, a purpose and has helped to increase my sense of belonging.

At the end of Jane’s lecture there was a positive response from the audience, many of whom were professionals and worked in the health and social care/public health sector.  A member of the audience made the point that using Volunteers and Lay Workers wasn’t just a cheaper option but also a better option.

I managed to have a brief word with Jane – as it occurred to me that there was a fine line between the empowerment of unpaid volunteers and the exploitation of them.  She replied that ‘exploitation is something that would have to be carefully guarded against.’   With this final caveat in mind,  I think it’s a really positive thing! What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

Check out #profjanesouth for comments about this lecture from Twitter.

Jane is the Professor of Healthy Communities in the institute of Health and Wellbeing at Leeds Metropolitan University. She is the Director of the Centre for Health Promotion Research in faculty of Health & Social Sciences.

Nutrition and Wellbeing

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I’ve always intended to eat better, ever since meeting Danny 30 years ago, the macro biotic juggler who could walk backwards down the stone steps in my garden juggling 5 balls. There must be something in it, I thought. However I don’t have that kind of discipline – never juggled more than 3 balls (badly), and rarely been able to eat well for very long. But I can see it makes sense, and that generally the more attention I pay to what I eat, the better I feel.

About 10 years ago I won a copy of Amanda Geary’s ‘The Food and Mood Handbook’ and it really impressed me. Browsing through it now, I read ‘food is more than fuel to keep you going, and what you choose to put in your mouth can influence the state of your mind. Greater control of your moods and energy levels is possible through exploring the links between diet, nutrition and emotional and mental health.’ The only thing that stands out in my memory is how brilliant sweet potatoes are – I don’t think I ever touched one before, but I’ve enjoyed them ever since. I’m ashamed to see that my rizla paper marker is stuck at page 23, and that I never got on to chapters like ‘Brain Chemicals and Gut Feelings’, ‘Caffeine and Chocolate’ or ‘Good Mood Foods’ (there are tons of them). Why is looking after myself such hard work?

Anyway now Leeds Mind’s Peer Support service, which has already been the subject of a post on these pages in March, is about to run a six week Nutrition and Wellbeing Course, aimed at providing us with an understanding of basic nutrition and how it can affect our mental wellbeing. They say “using fun and interactive tools, and discussing our positive and negative associations with food, the sessions aim to improve our ability to make healthier, balanced food choices that will help our mental and physical selves.”

Sessions will include; Food and Mood, Basic Nutrition and Eating Socially. The course will run on Tuesdays, 1:00 – 3:00pm, 4th June through to 9th July.

They want to be sure that attendees feel they will get what they need from the course before attending, and want interested persons to meet with a facilitator, who will explain the content of the course and what it involves. The bad news is that meetings will be held tomorrow on Friday 24th May, from 12.00 – 4:00pm at Clarence House in Horsforth – sorry it’s so late in the day telling you this. The meetings will be on a one-to-one basis (rather than a group activity), and will be 15 minutes long. To book one you need to ring Leeds Mind on 0113 305 5802 or email luke.rushworth@leedsmind.org.uk

The publicity also says that If you will struggle with attending on 24th May, a telephone call may be arranged at a time that suits you, so even if you pick up this information after the event there may still be a chance of getting on the course. Go for it. Remember, you are what you eat, and you don’t want to be a pork pie all your life, do you?

Terry

porkpie

The Road To Recovery, Peer Support Groups at Leeds Mind.

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,

VIcky