Our Peer Support team here at Mind was inspired by the quality and diversity of the many different peer support communities that put in a nomination for 2019. We'd like to thank every group who submitted a nomination for the incredible power of the peer support work they are offering within their community.
Read on below to hear about the winning and commended groups from each of the three Marsh Awards' peer support categories. Each group was awarded their prize at PeerFest, our annual celebration of peer support.
This group in Nottingham, aims to actively reduce the distress of male and female victims and survivors aged 16+ who have experienced sexual, physical, emotional, incest abuse and rape.
"The use of our self-help and peer-led principles creates a positive and dynamic therapeutic environment, generating empowerment and combating isolation and alienation. This in turn fosters reassurance in our group, and we have identified reduces mental, physical health and wellbeing, as well as re-offending, drug and alcohol dependence and self-harming."
Women in this project, based in Porthmadog, Wales, help to train and care for rescued horses as part of their peer support.
Attended by 43 women so far, the Alpha Mare Course enables women experiencing mental health issues to set boundaries, make healthy choices, build self-esteem and cope with change. As women join together to take part in a meaningful activity and bond over a shared interest, they gain the confidence and communication skills to talk about their mental health, form a supportive 'herd' and discover their inner Alpha Mare.
This peer support gardening group in Bristol is for mothers and their children who have been affected by perinatal mental illness or an ongoing mental health issue whilst caring for small children.
"We aim to provide peer support alongside doing an outdoor activity in an area where the families do not have easy access to safe outdoor / green space. We grow quick growing, easily harvested food, whilst facilitating peer support. There is a huge benefit of talking and sharing whilst engaged in a shared, side-by-side activity."
Challenging stigma and discrimination around mental health issues, Focus 4-1 CIC is London Borough of Merton's first 100% BAME Adult Mental Health User-Led organisation.
"We encourage, enable and empower members to develop their own skills and attributes in order to improve their lives and, where appropriate take on leadership roles. We provide information and structured activities including opportunities for members to learn about improving their physical and mental wellbeing."
Providing support to people who are in contact with criminal justice system, this group of 15 volunteer Peer Supporters draws on their own lived experience to connect with others and help them feel less alone.
"We work with Together for mental wellbeing, alongside their Liaison and Diversion services across London to support people who experience mental distress, often along with other difficulties in life that can make people more vulnerable and marginalised, and who find themselves in the criminal justice system (e.g. being arrested, facing court trial, or being held in police custody)."
In a culturally sensitive environment, this group offers peer support to women from the South-Asian communities in Oxford. Eight different languages are spoken amongst the women in the group which meets once a week during term time.
"Within this community the stigma around mental health is massive. We aim to empower Asian women to support each other in challenging some of the inequalities in society".
Talking Sense is a 100% peer-led group for individuals, 18+, with lived experience of voices and visions. Based in Tower Hamlets, London the group meet in a non-medical setting – a café – twice a month in the evening.
"We feel that a non-medical setting is more in line with the acceptance of different understandings of voices and visions and reduces the distress some people feel in hospitals due to difficult and traumatic past experiences. We learn from each other and develop new ways of understanding and coping with unusual sensory perceptions."
THRU, based in Leeds Mind, offers peer support for 16-25 year olds experiencing mental health difficulties as they navigate the transition into adulthood. It offers longer term and regular support.
"We believe you don't need a diagnosis to seek support, but just need the desire to start working towards better mental health. We provide the element of trust and bonding that other services don't provide, so you can really open up over time."
TWG is a completely self-organised group and was set up – totally by chance - on 23 June 2017. Members work together to ascertain the gaps in mental health service provision within Thanet – an area in East Kent recognised nationally as having some of the highest levels of mental health inequalities.
"No idea is ever too big or too small – and we ensure that people are always involved. We never worry about having monies and somehow, once something gets set up, we always end up with what we need to make it happen."