Mentors supporting people with mental health difficulties in Southwark are calling for more people to join their peer network.
The Experts by Experience scheme, backed by Southwark Council, gives people living with long-term mental health conditions one-on-one support.
It aims to help people’s wellbeing and recovery by building relationships with others who have had similar experiences and an understanding of mental health issues and care.
Cheryl became a mentor three-and-a-half years ago, and says she learns from her mentees ‘every single day’.
“In my opinion mentoring helps grow confidence, enabling my clients to do much more than they ever imagined,” she said.
“It helps ease their anxiety which allows them to see more clearly what they need to do for themselves.
“I had one client who couldn’t even fathom leaving the house and is now volunteering at the British Heart Foundation.
“Another client used to shove their mail underneath the carpet to be forgotten about, they now take responsibility, open and respond to their mail in a timely fashion.”
Another mentor, Kaylaa, who joined two years ago, said: “The best part of my job is when my clients come out of their shell, talking laughing and telling me their stories.
“I may encourage my clients to do something daring like going out to the shop, or cafe and over time the person also starts talking to other people apart from me when we go out.
“Clients feel more connected with the outside world and they feel happier more often. It is potentially a path back into society.”
Testimonies from people supported by the scheme are hugely positive, with one person saying: “I have tried new activities for example I have now joined a drumming class and will continue without my peer support.
“We have seen lots of films at the cinema so I feel more confident on public transport and travelling around.”
Southwark Council’s councillor Jasmine Ali, cabinet member for children, schools and adult care, called on people in Southwark to join the project, which offers paid, flexible working hours.
“This is an impressive scheme that is having a real impact on people’s lives,” she said. “The profound affect that this is having on mentees lives cannot be underestimated.
“I would encourage anyone who has been touched by mental health issues to find out more about this scheme and see how your experience could help someone else.”
For more information, visit: expertsbyexperience.wordpress.com