The power of peer mentoring

In this challenging time, it is more important than ever to look after your own mental health, as well as look out for the people around you. Here, we are highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. During lockdown they have adapted how they work to carry on supporting our vulnerable clients with their mental health.

Physical or mental health problems can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness. At St Mungo’s we take a holistic approach to mental and physical health, addressing these issues alongside each other. We run mental health dedicated services in Bath and our Building Bridges to Wellbeing programme empowers people to use their experience of managing their mental health to help others.

Building Bridges to Wellbeing has a peer mentoring service where volunteers use their own experience of living with mental health challenges to help and support clients to improve their wellbeing, confidence and mental health. These volunteers, known as Peer Mentors, work on a one-to-one basis with their clients. They support them to explore how to make small changes, look at their interests and options available, hopefully enabling them to link with their community by joining groups or courses, planning and supporting them to make small steps towards this goal. Mentors use their own experience of living with mental health challenges to build this relationship and share useful tools and resources.

However, due to safety guidance and Government restrictions relating to Covid-19 pandemic, this was no longer possible. Our peer mentors have adapted quickly to the Government’s measures and put in place a new way to support clients remotely. Our clients are now being supported by regular wellbeing phone conversations with their peer mentor, some have even started using video link calls, to share resources and encourage positivity in regards to exploring things they can engage with. We are working with local partners, to distribute wellbeing packs that include activities, puzzles and techniques to help with any mental health difficulties arising during lockdown.

What is it like being a part of the programme?

Two of our mentors, Zoe and Dena share why they got involved with the Building Bridges to Wellbeing programme and what it means to them.

Mentoring has given me back a purpose.

Zoe wanted to get involved with peer mentoring following her own personal battle with mental illness after the breakdown of her marriage and working long hours at a job in social care. Through various drug treatments, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and the support of her family and friends, she’s been feeling stronger and felt that she wanted to give something back.

I absolutely love what I do and I like to think I’m making a difference to those during the various stages of their journeys.

After weeks of training, Zoe was matched with first mentee and has since been a peer mentor for five different people, supporting them with their own stories. She feels lucky to be able to support those in need during this difficult time, especially through uncertainty and loneliness in isolation. She hopes that her mentoring will lead to permanent position in a mental health setting.

In these current times, everyone is prone to be feeling unsettled, scared and, at times, lonely, and this particularly true for vulnerable and isolated people.

Dena, a fellow peer mentor wanted to help because she believes that mentoring and helping others is one of the key wellness techniques.

I think the real power of peer mentoring is empathy.

Following access to excellent resources and training through St Mungo’s, Zoe works with our clients, having a weekly a non-judgemental chat and providing support and information on the different kinds of self-care methods available that could make a difference to the client’s mental health.

People can gain such reassurance and peace from simply hearing “I understand” from someone that they know really does.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 18-24 May 2020. The theme is kindness.

Join in online to drive conversations on mental health and kindness and create lasting change. Reflect on an act of kindness and share it with a photo or video and use the hashtags: #KindnessMatters #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

They also have lots of information about how to look after your own mental health during this uncertain time, here.