Bethanie, from Powys, blogs about her experience of becoming a peer leader through Side by Side Cymru.
I first got in touch with Mind when I suffered with mental health problems after having my second child.
I’d signed up for a course called Mums Matter, which focused on perinatal mental health, and then proceeded to join a peer support group for mothers who had been on the course. We then realised that there was a need for a more specialist and personal peer support group, for parents of children with additional needs (or as I call it, Parents 2.0!) such as myself – I have a child with autism plus other needs.
There are lot of unique issues and struggles associated with being a parent of a child with additional needs, so I decided to join Side by Side Cymru. Side by Side Cymru was a programme delivered by four local Minds across Wales, which improved the availability and quality of peer support in the community. It empowered peer leaders to manage peer support groups, and provided funding to ensure the groups could pay for supplies, venue hire, and the like.
The course gave me the confidence, the funding, and the contacts to get our group up and running, but also provided me with a network of sympathetic people who all support each other, so I didn’t have to take on everyone’s struggles as well as my own. Side by Side ensured I was aware of professional guidelines to create a safe environment for myself and others, including a knowledge of safeguarding so I could keep the people I was supporting from harm.
Additionally, the funding was a solid foundation for us to find and pay for a venue until we could fundraise for ourselves, and the contacts and networks the Side by Side taught me about helped me provide further signposting for people who needed extra support that the group couldn’t give them. This is a vital part of our work, as often we are both a support group and a resource for further guidance.
Without Side by Side, not only would our group not exist, but I wouldn’t be able to run it.
Our peer support group keeps people well and gives people invaluable advice and support in regards to raising their children with additional needs. I would certainly suffer without the group; it is a lifeline for myself and the other people who access it.
In this area of mental health, there is a definite lack of support that goes further than people handing you lots of different literature: these are real people with real life situations to share and learn from, with tangible examples of how to keep well. People are our most valuable asset, and finding a likeminded community works wonders for our mental health, especially in regards to reaching more people and taking away the stigma which surrounds mental health.
Bethanie is a busy mum of two who loves nothing more than a hot cup of tea and little bit of quiet.
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