The importance of peer support

Working with Barry

Charlie Wright is a Peer Supporter with Solidarity in a Crisis and sees the positive impact that forming good relationships can have on people. Here, he shares his experiences of working with Barry.

Originally from New Zealand, Barry moved to England in the 1970s with his father, who sadly died a few years ago. He had worked all of his life loading and unloading haulage containers to farms in New Zealand, also in Blackpool Pleasure Beach and in the London Underground. Barry was recently diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) however has struggled with anxiety, in his words, ‘for as long as I can remember’. GAD is a debilitating issue for Barry and this, along with a lack of confidence, means that he doesn’t go out very much.

Barry also has a stammer and has found that people haven’t always had the time or patience to talk with him, which has left him feeling very isolated. I have always been very patient with Barry, giving him time to say everything he wants as he certainly talks a lot!

When we first started talking about meeting in Barry’s local community, he talked a lot about his anxieties around leaving his home and going out, so we made sure we met somewhere very near his home where he felt comfortable. For this first meeting, we went for a short walk to a local park where he felt he could relax. It was during our second meeting at a local coffee shop (a 5 minute walk from his house) that Barry admitted he had never ventured out that far from home before.

Through our meetings, I discovered lots of different interests that I shared with Barry – computers, the internet, music (specifically heavy metal and classical) and also travelling, something he wants to explore a lot more when he is able.

During our third meeting, I started to notice little changes – little differences which have reassured me that he is starting to grow in confidence, such as showing an interest in his personal presentation and wanting to buy new clothes. Barry has also shown an interest in visiting the Mosaic Club House and the Wellbeing Centre in Clapham which would mean building more relationships with people and has even suggested he might considering volunteering for peer support work in future.

Through the relationship that I have built with Barry, I have observed Barry’s willingness to trust me to support him emotionally and access things in his community. A marked difference from going to a park near his home, to venturing out to his local café and now engaging in activities at the Clapham Wellbeing Centre. Barry continues to challenge himself and takes steps to overcome his anxiety, whilst trusting me as a support system to help me in achieving this.

When I spoke to Barry after our visit to Clapham Wellbeing Centre today, this is what he said:

“Knowing that Charlie has lived experience of overcoming his own crisis made it easier for me to engage with him. On our way to Clapham Wellbeing Centre today, we sat on top of a double decker bus, something I haven’t done in 3 years. What really helped with my anxieties whilst on the bus was being able to talk to Charlie”.

Barry shows a constant eagerness to enhance his lifestyle and beat his anxieties and, with the new relationships he is now developing, I fully believe he can.

Charlie Wright

Tell them this is brilliant… I never thought this would happen’

Bernadette finds a place to call home

Bernadette’s story was never planned to be read out loud but as she is visually impaired, this is how I have shared it with her… and it is a story that needs to be heard.

In another place, Bernadette may have been locked away for the rest of her life, here now on this recovery journey, I find hope. When we first met, Bernadette was living in a small residential placement, anticipating moving into her own home as part of Lambeth Collaborative’s innovative IPSA (Integrated Personalised Support Alliance) initiative.

What became apparent as she shared her story with me over lunch, walks and cups of tea was that with appropriate, timely and personalised support such as this, people can build resilience and strive to live more independently.

What moves me? In the 13 years she spent on secure wards (in five different hospitals) the maximum unescorted leave Bernadette was granted was for three hours a day. She found it “liberating to have a look around the shops, go to McDonalds, Greggs, go for pizza… in the summer I would go for a walk and just sit there in the warmth …”

A survivor from the outset, Bernadette was born in 1958, a year after her mother arrived in the UK from Jamaica. She was born blind, with a hole in her heart and with mild learning disabilities. “I had a cornea-graph op when I was a toddler and that was exciting… when I woke up I could see for the first time in my life,” she recounts as if it were yesterday. “The sun was shining through the window, I had to wear a pair of mittens so I couldn’t scratch my eyes and I saw that they had blue ribbon.”

She has been institutionalised most of her life. “I lived in a home outside London between the ages of three and six, I was glad to get out; it felt like I was being treated badly and I was longing for my mum and she came to get me.

“Life got a bit better around seven when I went to a school for the blind, then later a ‘physically handicapped’ school. “I was used to being with blind and partially sighted kids and had to adapt quickly to kids in wheelchairs.” Later teenage years got more difficult and she was expelled from two schools.

The challenging years

Years followed in day centres, a sheltered workshop and staying at home. “I felt like I wished I’d had a proper job.” The work scheme in the 1980s helped her to feel valued, she trained in telephony and was really enjoying herself, ” until someone caught me drinking shandy and I was sacked”.

The death of her friend, an uncle and her dad in 1989 was pivotal. “I was drinking and didn’t know what I was doing and ended up in prison,” she says of the years that followed as her life spiralled out of control. There was no support as she moved to a hostel and then into her own flat. “It was two and a half weeks in my flat that I felt I became mentally unwell, something serious happened and I didn’t know it had happened. I was arrested and bailed to the Maudsley. I thought I would go back to prison but ended up in five different hospitals.”

There were numerous suicide attempts, a diagnosis of recurrent depression and disocial personality disorder. She was also diagnosed with glaucoma and diabetes.

“There was nothing to do… I had to break the cycle. It was going to the therapies and wanting to see my family (her mum, brother and four sisters). It was tough, but I worried about vegetating.”

Something changed in 2012. “I started to feel better about myself. I started to read books about depression and diabetes.” Bernadette’s care coordinator broached the possibility of her moving on after numerous tribunals and a conditional discharge in 2013. “It felt a bit strange after 13 years”, but after the claustrophobia of life on wards (the maximum with up to 24 women) Bernadette wanted her own space. It started with the placement, then ensuring the appropriate support to take the next steps.

A place to call home

“I don’t like sharing, I need a reasonable size space that’s nice and cosy, a space to call my own,” Bernadette told me and over the weeks that dream unfolds. The BRiL (Brokerage and Resettlement in Lambeth) project is increasing the availability of independent accommodation for those who are ready to move on. I do a reccie with Thames Reach property manager Andre who sources the properties on the open market and works with Thames Reach staff in the Alliance Rehabilitation Team (ART). When I visit what is to be Bernadette’s place, the enormity of the change she faces really comes home.

IPSA sees voluntary organisations Thames Reach and Certitude, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Lambeth Council working together under an alliance agreement – a relatively new approach in the health and voluntary care sector.

Bernadette’s personalised package aims to deliver the Collaborative’s Big 3 Outcomes for people accessing services –

To recover and stay well
To make their own choices
Participate on an equal footing in daily life

In practice that means a dedicated multi-disciplinary team, that puts the individual and their assets at its heart.

IPSA’s specialised team

Bernadette is impressed with this way of working. “It’s like an umbrella, and people have been working well together.”

She speaks highly of Mary her support worker (from the ART team) who along with a highly specialised team has ensured her move has been as stress free as possible. This has included organising adaptations to the property, helping Bernadette employ a personal assistant (PA) and selecting furniture. Bernadette says Mary’s sense of humour and ability to respond when things don’t go according to plan have been crucial.

Bernadette has accessed courses, including – It’s Your Move, to help her understand her tenancy, How to be a good Employer, for work with her PA, and Eating Well for Less.

Caroline, Bernadette’s social worker and placement review officer says Bernadette’s case illustrates the value of having access through one team, which has assisted her transition and ensured her well-being.

“She has been supported to employ her PA and to have Telecare (monitoring service) installed in her flat through her social worker and support planner broker. Her psychiatrist and care coordinator have supported her with her mental health needs and finding activities in the community for her to do. The occupational therapist has advocated for the move into her flat (supporting her team to choose the right flat, providing her with cooking sessions and suggesting strategies and adaptations to the property).”

Caroline adds that the PA agency has supported her to employ a PA of her choice and runs the ‘good employer’ course, which she has found useful. Her support worker and PA have helped Bernadette set up her bills and feel settled in her new home.

“Myself and her support worker have worked really hard to ensure that she feels ready and prepared for the move into independent accommodation. It’s been really useful to have a team around us to draw knowledge and skills from. Of course, the most important person in this all has been Bernadette. It’s been really good to work with Bernadette because she has been so motivated to change, is open to new ideas and wants to be independent.”

Journey’s end

I have visited Bernadette a number of times since she moved into the bright, cosy studio flat. It’s working well with her PA, “she helps me cook, clean, shop and attend hospital appointments”, she says.

I ask Bernadette what photograph would best illustrate her home for the story and she suggests the brightly coloured cushion that she is holding, “bright colours represent me, bright makes me happy”.

I ask her what shall I tell people in meetings when I present this story?

“Tell them this is brilliant, I never thought this would happen, it’s a real achievement for me…
Family is important
I came out through the other side
I am living life to the full
and getting the support I need .”

IPSA aims to save 23 per cent (around £2.8m) against the current budget of just over £12m, by the end of year 2.
– By completion of the project 20 people will have moved into BRiL properties.

Karen Hooper

Another chance to feast on my life

Let me stay in the UK

“I want to feel better and to help people who are recovering because I have those feelings of mental health to support others,” says Dorrel Bennett, a woman who is strong of spirit and resilient to the core.

It was back in 2013 when Dorrel had this vision. But she says her mental health has deteriorated because of her battle to remain in the UK. She fears another breakdown like that she experienced in 2004, following being wrongly arrested by the police.

Since then Dorrel, now 59, has been diagnosed with acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression and takes medication. Her immigration status has been challenged in numerous applications to the Home Office and on March 11 she was served with notification of liability to be detained and removed from the UK.

Up until June 2004 Dorrel was happy, healthy with a bright future ahead. She was born in Jamaica “before independence” and has four grown up daughters and a son and grandson there. She had moved to England in 2002 and was studying for an NVQ in Health and Social Care.

Dorrel was living in Brixton and on that fateful summer’s day in 2004 she had popped in to see her friend in the local restaurant where she worked as a chef. Little did she realise that the events about to unfold would change her life forever.

She was enjoying her lunch and talking to her friend when suddenly two masked police officers burst into the kitchen carrying guns and wearing helmets and bullet proof vests.

“One of them pointed a gun in my face and said ‘get down’, says Dorrel. “I was extremely frightened… He said something about a drug’s den and I had no idea what he was talking about.”

Dorrel and her friend were made to lie face down; they were handcuffed with plastic ties and transported to Lewisham police station. Dorrel asked the arresting officer for her bag, which had been left in the restaurant but the officer in charge told him to leave it.

The ordeal lasted 18 hours. Dorrel was strip-searched and moved to Catford police station where she was held overnight. She was further traumatised as she had her period at the time. “It was disgraceful the way I was left in that state in the cell,” she adds.

Dorrel was released the next day without her bag and had to beg the bus fare back to Brixton (her bag containing her bus pass and keys has never been returned, though her mobile phone, which was also in the bag has).

Looking back on her ordeal, Dorrel says. “I was in shock, I couldn’t remember anything, my head felt like it was exploding. I stopped studying, I was depressed and threatened suicide.”

The months that followed were agonising. At first Dorrel refused to have a solicitor because “I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, I certainly hadn’t been involved in any criminal activity”. Eventually she changed her mind and after reporting to Brixton police station several times with her solicitor, she was told there would be no further action taken against her. Although she made an official complaint against the police and got a letter back, which confirmed she had been in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ , she is unhappy about the outcome.

Since then the Home Office still holds her passport and she says she is living a nightmare.

“I never got the chance to finish my studies because I have been too unwell and I need the time to recover but the Immigration service doesn’t seem to understand that.”

She gets through with her faith and support from those she has met along her journey, including those at Certitude and the Living Well Partnership (hosted by Mosaic). She volunteered as a Missing Link peer supporter in its early days working with those in transition from their community mental health team. (Peer supporters also worked with the then Community Options (COT) and Primary Care Support Service (Pass) teams, sharing their lived experiences with people for up to 12 weeks in the community).

Peer support is all about having somebody walk by your side who isn’t trying to fix you but just being there and empathising. While they may support you to do practical things, like sorting your benefits, the uniqueness of peer support lies in the fact that those involved have lived experience of mental health. So just having someone to listen could be all it takes to start to turn your life around. VB knows how this feels because when she was at a low ebb, it was linking with others in similar circumstances that changed her life.

Dorrel praises Missing Link’s co-ordinator Lucas Teague, who encouraged her to keep believing in herself. In 2012 she gained certificates in peer evaluation at Southbank University (Qualitative Research and the Advanced Qualitative methods and Vital Involvement in training and learning).

Dorrel says her faith is her foundation and over the years she has built on that, always prepared to try new things to get her through the terrifying things that happened to her in 2004, which created her mental health problems. After that, her GP referred her to a counsellor and from there she started attending Fanon Resource Centre (Certitude). She joined the women’s group, the choir and started to cook. She gained much from a New Beginnings course (Expert Patient Programme) to help her cope with her depression. She volunteered on a ward at Lambeth hospital as part of Fanon’s in-reach work, thanks to the support of her key worker who walked by her side. ” I know how scarey mental health can be and I want to put something back; that’s why I used to cook; cooking is important to my culture and my recovery.”

“I feel highly supported by the Collaborative group, including those with mental health issues. she says. I want the chance to recover from my mental illness with the medication and support groups… This won’t happen if I get deported. ”

To read more and sign the petition click here

Karen Hooper

Reduce Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace

Jeffy waxes lyrical with Ruby

Jeffy Wong, a member of Mosaic Clubhouse (hosts of the Living Well Partnership) has been having some really interesting experiences since his book Reduce Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace: 5 ways to save money and support your community, was published. This includes meeting the comedian Ruby Wax whose mission, like Jeffy’s is to break mental health stigma.

Jeffy takes up the story: “I was intrigued to see advertised a free walk-in session about mental health hosted by Ruby Wax with Peter Fonegy and Marjorie Wallace.

Peter Fonegy is the head of the Anna Freud Centre and an expert on mindfulness.Marjorie Wallace CBE is the chief executive of SANE, which she founded in 1986. At present, SANE are running the Black Dog Campaign. The campaign aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourages people to seek help early, rather than suffering in silence.

It caught my eye due to my interest in mental health stigma. and I went along on 27 January.

Ruby Wax shared her own experience of depression. There was a fantastic response from the hundred strong audience, who asked endless questions.

Afterwards I was able to speak to Ruby (pictured above right with Jeffy) and give her a copy of my book. The walk-in was an add-on to Ruby’s show, Sane New World, which ran from 19 January – February 13 at the Arts Theatre, London.

I introduced myself to Ruby and outlined the content of the book. She promised to read it and let me have her comments.

Mental health doesn’t mean you can’t work

What inspired me to write and publish the book was that as a Mosaic Clubhouse member, I could see other members develop different skills and move on to employment, which had a positive impact to their lives. More employers needed to hear about the Mosaic TEP (Transitional Employment Program) model. I wanted to target employers who would help members into entry level jobs.

Because of the stigma against mental health problems, I found society was against hiring people with these issues. The TEP is one way to tackle this. People get a chance to be in a working environment placement, with additional support.

My personal experience was that I had brain tumour surgery, which left me cognitively impaired. I had to relearn many skills. The whole experience caused me to become depressed. I wanted to show that having mental health problems doesn’t mean you are not able to work.

When I went to the Clubhouse Conference 2014 in Scotland, I learned about the other clubhouses around the world doing fantastic work. I would like to help to set up a new clubhouse to help more people. I am therefore donating half of the book sale profits for this purpose.

Knowing the positive effect of TEP, I want to get more employers involved.

I made the first international sale of my book to Gunstein and David from Fontenehuset i Oslo, a Clubhouse in Norway, when they were in Brixton for a three-week Colleague Training course. They were learning new ways to improve their clubhouse, and found Mosaic creative, interesting and inspiring.

They read how I wanted to express the value of TEP from both members’ and employers’ perspectives. David said, ‘When we are looking for TEP places, we would like to quote your book, it will be useful to use a positive experience to persuade a potential employer to take up TEP in Oslo. This is the reason why we bought your book. It is also a great story about you’.

Fontenehuset i Oslo is located near to the Royal Palace in Oslo and has been going for 15 years; they have 600 members and a daily attendance of around 60. They currently have TEPs with nine organisations, including a car spare parts warehouse, hospital, laundry, National Research Institutions in Oslo, four places in Parliament and Ministry of Health and Care Services.

Just as in the rest of the world, they find it very hard to find more employers to take part with TEP due to perceptions about employing people with mental health problems.

People who suffer from mental health problems are perceived as unfit for work and the TEP is able to prove the opposite, that many are actually exceptional, and they can make a very positive contribution to the workforce.

I have had positive feedback and I am still working to let more people know about the book.”

Reduce Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace, is available from Amazon.

Pictured above left with Jeffy is Mr Pang, Chief Executive of HK Land Ltd, who Jeffy met at Phoenix Clubhouse in Hong Kong, where his company is already providing a Transitional Employment Program.

Special thanks to Nina Yakimiuk of Mosaic Clubhouse for the original interview.

Elaine finds the courage to move on

Innovative housing alliance builds hope

Having privacy and a place to call home is Elaine’s dream.She feels she is getting closer to that dream since she moved into her refurbished studio flat in Brixton in September 2015.

“It’s ok, I like it, it’s helping me to become more independent and I’ll be here for about 18 months. I’ve got no complaints, ” says Elaine, casting her eyes around the cosy, fresh environs of her new home.

“It’s another section of my life for now until they find me somewhere permanent … I would like to have a house with a garden.”

In a corner of the flat stands a delicate orchid in a vase that’s been shedding its leaves, “take a picture of that, says Elaine, when I ask how I might capture her living space … ” it’s about life and death, that’s it, living and dying”.

It feels like an appropriate symbol in a milestone journey towards independence that has seen Elaine, 53 , move from a care home for the elderly and a residential home for those needing support with alcohol problems. Over the years she has suffered serious physical health conditions and lost her home in Waterloo after she was made the subject of a Court of Protection Order in relation to her property and affairs (appointeeship). Her tenancy was terminated by the court and Elaine moved to the residential home that she shared with four other women in 2011.

“There were workers there 24 hours and I would have liked more privacy and wanted to live on my own,” she says. “We were only allowed to go out for four hours a day…”

Elaine, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia says the problems started as she faced being homeless. “It was hard to let property and I was threatened with eviction. ” She often found herself seeking support from Waterloo Action Centre, who were “helpful and got a law centre to help”.

Alliance Contract

Elaine’s is a complex story and she doesn’t want to dwell on what she calls “the sorrows”; in a more traditional way of working it would be likely that she would remain in a residential setting. But her chance to move on has been made possible as part of an innovative Lambeth Living Well Collaborative (the Collaborative) initiative. This is helping people with long-term mental health issues to live more independently in the community. The Integrated Personalised Support Alliance (IPSA) brings together voluntary organisations Thames Reach and Certitude, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Lambeth Council.

IPSA also functions as an alliance agreement between the five organisations, a relatively new approach to contract commissioning in the health and care sector.

What’s on offer to Elaine is a personalised package to support her recovery, which includes her housing, a personal budget and appropriate care and support – the aim to deliver the Collaborative’s Big 3 Outcomes for people accessing services –

To recover and stay well
To make their own choices
Participate on an equal footing in daily life

In addition to meeting these outcomes for improved quality of life for people, IPSA also aims to deliver 23 per cent savings (around £2.8) against the current budget of just over £12m, by the end of year 2.

In practice that means a dedicated multi-disciplinary team, that puts the individual and their assets at its heart. And the new way of working has come with both challenges and rewards.

Personalised approach

For Elaine’s social worker Mohammed Faruque, who has been working with her for about two years and knows her vulnerabilities, one of the biggest challenges has been to overcome the concerns from the clinical colleagues who were “warning me about the risks Elaine posed in the past with regards to her alcohol consumption and relapse” .

“The way I work with Elaine now differs in many ways to how I used to work in the community mental health team setting,” adds Mohammed, who is part of the Alliance Rehabilitation Team (ART).

The IPSA principles give more autonomy and a personalised approach, he says, while change is also reflected in recent practice governed by the Care Act 2014, instead of the previous Community Care Act 1990.

“In this role my main objective is to facilitate my clients to come out of the stigma of residential care to more independent living with a personalised and holistic approach of care.

“The rewards are that Elaine has more independence in her life. She is happier than before and I as her Social Worker feel proud for her achievement.”

These sentiments are echoed by Lauralee Price, ART Support Worker, whose role it is to link into residential services to help people step down to semi-independence. “We have got quite a long way in a short space of time,” says Lauralee, who is seconded to IPSA from Thames Reach, where she has been a support worker for nine years (working with those who are homeless, have mental health and drugs and alcohol issues).

“Elaine is very determined once she sets her mind to something, it’s about the right support at the right time.”

This includes supporting her in the community and to get through a TRaVEL (Thames Reach Volunteering and Employment for Life) course, based at the Employment Academy in Camberwell.

Elaine is impressed. “I thought it was very good and reminded me of when I was at Manpower Services, where I trained as a punchcard operator,” she says. “The certificate made me feel reassured, shows my abilities, skills and tolerance.”

She has also been supported to join Mosaic Clubhouse, business & admin unit where she hopes to get to grips with computers. “I also hope to go on a course at the library.”

Probably the biggest challenge is the finances and Laurelee helped to access some grant money to get Elaine a computer.

Elaine continues with her appointeeship through Lambeth council’s client affairs team. “I cash in £70 a week,” she says. While this covers laundry and shopping, she says she doesn’t have the money to go out… and is negotiating for an increase.

“I am outgoing and like to enjoy myself, I like going to the South Bank and would like to be able to go to the theatre and to the gym. It felt strange at first to go out again… it still feels strange because I was isolated. I go to visit my mum every fortnight in Southall and enjoy my visits. I say hello and have a quick chat to the people who live here.

“I like to cook (speciality spaghetti bolognese) and I look forward to seeing my friend who visits every week.”

Finding courage

The day to day running of the nine, fully-furnished, self- contained studio flats (owned by Certitude) and wellbeing of clients is overseen by Natasa Kyvetou Interim IPSA Cluster Manager – Healthy Living Team Leader. Natasa explains that people are coming from places or wards where they have had more support and less flexibility. “The support offered is flexible and will be adjusted to each person’s needs as well as the area and skills they will need support on so they can improve their independence and day to day living,” she says.

“The night staff is responsible to check that everyone has taken their evening medication and keep an eye that everyone is well and safe.”

Elaine appreciates that, for now, there is someone to keep an eye on her safety.

“I think they are trying their best and doing their best,” she says of the people who support her. “It feels much better, I don’t feel so stuffed up, I feel freer. ”

While Elaine acknowledges there have been hard times, she points out wryly, “I never lost my mind… I feel that I had to have courage and I was patient with all the activities.”

“Now I’m back to civilisation I would like to get a job, I worked all the time from when I left school until I was nearly 30. Now, I’m partly settled I hope my future looks bright and fulfilling…. with a chance.”

Facts and figures

Since it was launched in April 2015

36 people have been supported to move out of rehabilitation wards and care homes (the initiative is focused on 200 people in long-term care settings)

32 new people have found more community focused resources

IPSA also offers

The BRiL (Brokerage & Resettlement in Lambeth) project – 20 studio and one-bed flats, which have been bought on the open market by Thames Reach. Tenants will be given choice on where they live in the borough, maximising on access and support to community networks, meaningful activities and volunteering and job opportunities.

The Turrets – a supported living scheme for seven people, with intensive input (rehabilitation model) from support staff available 24 hours and clinicians on site.

Karen Hooper

Anna discovers New Horizons

Moving on from the wobbly days

It is almost a year since I spoke to Anna after she had been supported by peer supporters from Solidarity in a Crisis. Their wise words on the phone at night when she was struggling with anxiety and hearing voices were a ‘lifesaver’, she told me.

She was also impressed about how they had supported her to build a trusting relationship with her GP, so she wasn’t in need of more costly secondary services (she had suffered two psychotic episodes and was sectioned and ended up in hospital both times).

But things are improving and I find Anna in a “better place… more calm and rational, attending groups more regularly… rather than as a newcomer”.

This includes a weekly Hearing Voices group, one-to-one hearing voices support and a weekly Paranoi and Beliefs group, which takes place at the Evening Sanctuary (based at the Living Well Partnership). She has been asked if she wants to train to facilitate at groups but she is not sure.

Another way she is being supported is via the evolving Lambeth Living Well Network Hub, the new front door to mental health services in the borough. She was the first self referral after she met the team at the Living Well Network’s monthly open morning, held at the Living Well Partnership (hosted by Mosaic). She is working with the GP Plus team and is impressed by how this support is helping her become more resilient.

She is impressed with her point of contact, Maria Hewitt, GP Plus lead, who she chats to on the phone (such is the multi-disciplinary approach that her worker was formerly with the Home Treatment team so understands Anna’s journey). “She’s a sounding board and has a wholistic view and is able to normalise things, which is comforting.

“I am very impressed and this is helping to build my confidence,” says Anna, who worked in marketing before she became unwell. What has also helped was access to a personal budget for one to one Hearing Voices Journey Work, which starts in January and funding for a new fridge. She says the process was quite long and involved a lot of paperwork but is something that is relevant to her life.

“I still have a few wobbles and occasionally call Solidarity, ” she adds, but joining a gym and studying Spanish GCSE is also helping. This is building on the courses she enjoyed at the Recovery College (South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, SLaM). She is pushing herself to go to the regular coffee mornings and afternoons at Railton Road (Certitude) and attending other meeting where service user involvement is crucial to shaping services. “I was able to use my social skills with people, small talk, contribute and scribe,” she says of a recent venture.

Now she is thinking about how to return to work and she has a new mentor to help take the next big step. Summing up Anna says, “the journey so far has been about New Horizons, I am a pioneer at getting through this!”

Click here to read more about Anna’s journey

‘Solidarity in a crisis should be 24 hours’

Click here to read more about the Living Well Network Hub
Click here to read more about the Evening Sanctuary
Click here for Solidarity in a Crisis hours

Karen Hooper

Photo: Tamara Russell

‘It really is a sight to see’

Why Mosaic matters to Matt

Why Mosaic matters to Matt

 A warm and calmly lit front room with a bookshelf, bean-bags, sofa, a deep-pile rug and a hot drink sitting on the coffee table. It sounds nice doesn’t it? Well, it’s exactly what welcomes people who use the new Evening Sanctuary (a Lambeth Living Well Collaborative venture) based at Mosaic Clubhouse, hosts of the Living Well Partnership.

Those who turn up at A&E, unable to cope in the evenings have the opportunity to be referred to the sanctuary in Brixton and have a chat to support workers as well as peer supporters who have lived experience of mental illness.

When I first heard about the evening sanctuary I was on board straight away. It was just another example of how services in Lambeth are working together for the benefit of people suffering with mental ill-health. The evening starts at 6pm and runs up till 2am. At the moment it is open to referrals on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

At 6pm, part of the Mosaic café transforms into a snug with all the creature comforts of a family sitting room. It really is a sight to see. They have also installed a moveable wall which removes all the echo and acoustics further adding to the comfy feel.

I have been fortunate that I have been there when someone has turned up to use the service. I know myself, it really is helpful to have people who have the time to sit and listen and help you through difficulties. I have seen people come in, nervous and anxious and after a cuppa and a long natter they are more focused and less stressed. The feedback we have had speaks for itself too. Everyone has found it beneficial and some of those people have become Clubhouse members to make use of all Mosaic and its partners have to offer.

Click here for more information from Mosaic Clubhouse

Click here for more information about the Evening Sanctuary

Matt Levine

‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’

Peer supporter Sandra says journal is no secret


“As a little girl my grandfather told me there is no such thing as a secret,” says Sandra who has recently taken on a peer supporter post with a new A&E initiative. “He said, that for something to be a secret, you would have to dig a hole, put your head in it, say your secret then cover it,” she adds.

“I like my journal as it represents that hole, a safe place to express myself. As a Journal Writing Facilitator I now share this with others.”

Below Sandra shares excerpts from her journal

I believe that we are all Peer Supporters…  I wasn’t aware that what I had been doing most of my life, actually had a label. Helping people with their problems is not just the work of professionals, being a ‘people-helper’  is something I have always been. From handling feelings of bitterness and frustration, depression and insecurity, the most common question asked is ‘ I know what I should do, but how do I do it’?

Every person has his/her own interesting world. And as a Peer Supporter we do not enter people’s worlds by taking a pot-shot at them. We help people most when we talk to them on a one-to-one basis; if people’s personal problems are to be solved, it must be done by giving more individual attention to the issues.

Since becoming a Peer Supporter in 2013, I have learnt that people do not grow or change much unless they are given an opportunity to discuss their problems thoroughly. I have no great experience in helping people with their problems, but I am a good listener and I care. And I have found it surprising how one person can help another when there is a genuine demonstration of tender, loving care.

As a Peer Supporter I am able to communicate in a language which the person can easily understand. Since a Peer Supporter’s primary concern is about another human being who is hurting, all their efforts are directed towards the end.

‘If we don’t know where we are going, then any road will get us there.’

For me as a Peer Supporter all disturbed feelings are a symptom and not a cause. My goal is to discover what is causing them and to remove the hindrance.

~ The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. ~ Lao Tzu

Mrs Motive

Closing the gap between thinking about doing and actual​ly doing.​

Since joining Certitude in May 2015, it has been a roller coaster. Without the ability to test the water with my toe, I was thrown in the deep end. There was no problem with this as I was excited to be working again.

Helping out SLaM (South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust) with their interviews for their 24-hour mental health support line has been a great experience.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to contribute to this process, but was made comfortable by Vicky Glen-Day, Clinical Service lead for Lambeth Crisis Services’ warm welcome and relaxed manner. I made an error (which Vicky quickly helped correct) due to nerves I think. I believe the process went quite well.

I am not a great note taker so did not write a lot but knew what I was looking for from the answers given.

The interviewee today in my truthful opinion did not answer any of the seven questions asked in relation to the job they were applying for. They had a lot of experience in the care sector but was unable to transfer that to working on a telephone line.

The experience on the interview panel was enjoyable, as both Vicky and Derek, Vicky’s manager, were welcoming. I believe that having a Peer Supporter on the interview panel is a good thing. In my opinion it is the foundation to building a partnership between the SLaM  and Certitude teams. However, the most important reason for me is that I am able to ensure that there is a balance and therefore whoever is hired is person-centred. Peer Support and supporting someone in crisis is about the individual and their needs and not all medical focus.

I have been asked to sit on the upcoming interview panel and I got to tell you I am so looking forward to it.

Sandra Tomlinson

Click here to read more about this initiative

Garry shares a night of Solidarity

‘We use this space to share our stories’

I think the Evening Sanctuary has real potential and is useful to those who still struggle in the community with on-going mental and emotional challenges,” says Garry Ellison, Solidarity in a Crisis peer supporter, who facilitates a  Paranoi and Beliefs Group at the sanctuary on Thursday nights. He also does ad-hoc shifts “when a colleague of mine is unable to; she is the designated Solidarity in a Crisis peer supporter there.”

Garry is also the brainchild of Recovery in Action, a project that aims to “reduce the social isolation experienced by people with mental health issues, living within our inner city communities”. Below he talks about his experiences at the sanctuary.

‘On one shift I did there our team worked with a young lady who presented at Kings A &E She was, in her own words, feeling suicidal and had to a degree lost all hope. Initially the two front line staff brought her into the hub space to get an idea of exactly how we might help her before she was invited into a quieter ‘soft room’ area where we have an array of bean bags, cushions and soft furnishing that usually helps people to get more comfortable and relaxed.

As peer supporters we use this space to engage people in conversation, share our stories (where relevant), offer information and generally invite clients to use the time and space in whatever way they’d like. This particular young lady chose to tell us about her current struggles and over tea and biscuits we spoke about a whole array of shared experiences.

This was a very useful experience for me as I began to see the potential of this idea after seeing the young lady ‘open up’ in conversation and start to feel more relaxed. She said she felt much more resolve and was glad not to have been sent home from A & E; as usually happens when people present there. A & E can become so busy and staff so stretched that unfortunately anything deemed not a dire emergency can be treated with less attentiveness and people with mental health issues who struggle are often sent home and told to go to their GP.

The young lady spent about an hour and a half there with us; where she had time to call family to allay fears etc and sit and talk with us for a while before we called a cab for her just after 1am. ‘

Garry’s Recovery in Action is a structured programme of group work and tailored one-to-one support that enables participants to identify and achieve personal goals, work towards better social integration and develop pathways to a healthier, more positive and sustainable life experience. The pilot is hoping to produce a report soon.

For more information:

Click here to read more about latest crisis initiatives

Overcoming ‘treading on eggshells’

New course gives carers coaching skills

Carer Roger Oliver recounts below the journey to shape and deliver a new course for carers

I heard about coaching skills as a potential tool for SLaM (South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust) staff when helping their clients in their recovery about seven years ago when the “Refocus on Recovery” Research Project began. I thought then that this skill would benefit carers too, especially when the only skill I had learnt through the caring experience was “How to tread on eggshells” and avoidance when dealing with someone with a mental health problem who was either in crisis or not having a good day. I then heard that the Eating Disorders Service was involving and training carers in motivational interviewing at a Scientific Conference in Cambridge. I thought then that coaching could be a potential skill for the carer’s “life” toolkit and that something could be developed for carers in this respect.

I then tried to get someone interested in either doing a research study or to develop a training programme. Being a father of someone with schizophrenia I had in mind carers of adults with mental health problems similar to the person who I care for as likely beneficiaries of such a course, and having been involved in facilitating Rethink courses for carers which lasted 11 weeks in Croydon over the past years I have found that there is definitely a need for such a skill to be available for carers.

Eventually I gained the interest of Professor Hilary Calling CBE, the previous SLaM Director of Nursing, who introduced me to a key person from SLaM Partners at the 2010 SLaM Family and Carer Listening event. SLAM Partners are an agency which specialises in staff training and coaching. Then in 2012 the “Coaching Conversational Skills for Carers” Training programme was developed and a pilot course run over four weekly evening sessions in November of that year with a follow-up session in February 2013 was held for Croydon carers.

The carers who attended the course gave very positive feedback about their outcomes in the evaluation questionnaires. The training team including myself gave a presentation to the 2013 SLaM Family and Carer Listening event and an article about the course was published in the summer 2014 edition of SLaM News.

Funding was secured to run further courses in the other boroughs, Lewisham, Lambeth and Southwark. A further course was successfully run for Lewisham carers in 2014 which I was actively involved. This time it was run over 6 evenings with a follow-up session 2 months later. In this course motivational skills were introduced. Again the carers who attended reported very positive outcomes in the evaluation questionnaires.

This year Lambeth carers have the opportunity to attend the Coaching Skills Course. SLAM Partners and myself have booked dates in October, November and February at the Training Centre, Reay House, Lambeth Hospital and if any carer is interested in attending the course please contact Christine Tedder on 020 3228 0969 or by email –”
I have learnt that the course has benefited not only carers of someone with schizophrenia, but someone who supports adults with ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and other diagnosis.
What has worked for me after attending the course is that I listen more, I can bring in ideas into the conversation which have gained the interest of the person I care for and in turn have been adopted and actioned by them as their own idea without me worrying that I have trod on an eggshell.
Click here for the course flyer.

Means and meaning, my coffee beans cafe:)

Collaborative breakfast at Coffee Lovers resource

After the Collaborative breakfast I am moved and inspired by Lucy Ng’s visionary journey to set up the Coffee Lovers Cafe.

Lucy explains that since her childhood she has been guided by her grandfather who was a “well know philanthropist in China and helped many people from all walks in life”.

“It is my dream to carry on his work,” she says.

Lucy graduated as a fashion designer from the University of Arts London, but “hated the industry”.

Her life changed when she took up her administrator’s job with Missing Link (Metropolitan) a peer supporter service empowering the lives of people moving on from hospital wards into the community.

With Missing Link, Lucy found the added “means and meaning, my coffee beans cafe” 🙂

“I went through depression myself with three kids alone but didn’t know much of mental health,” says Lucy. “But after Missing Link I made many friends and I learnt that something needed to be done.

“Many peer supporters had so much experiences and we know peer support works!
I wanted to carry on doing what I love and with my partner (ex peer supporter) by my side – we were on a journey to find a cafe.

“God pointed us to this place on our door step after many months of searching.”

The place was “a rot” says Lucy, and many friends, including ex Missing Linkers and people from the Crisis Bermondsey project helped and contributed in painting, cleaning, building and resourcing.

“It was a journey and step by step we made it to today.

“We had no funding, just my small life savings and much of the work was done for free or half the cost by friends.”


The cafe offers free exhibition space to SHARP (South London & Maudsley, SLaM’s recovery programme) as well as discount for people from hospitals or within the Lambeth Living Well Network.

On Wednesdays there is art therapy for all levels, for anyone who wishes to paint or chat. Those taking part learn painting techniques, skills or how to look at art. “We have had locals coming every week, including kids and their mothers joining in.”

Friday is peer support evening with Miss Manju from Solidarity in a Crisis,
6 to 8 pm, who also gives support to members of the public with interest and enquires for friends and love ones.


The cafe is a mine of information about the Living Well Network, other support groups, organisations, local projects, events and much more. Others who visit include the Larkhall mental health gardeners, Thrive and Lucy’s local church St Stephen’s, while a neighbouring mental health film maker makes short films following the stories of people through their journey and experiences.

“Mosaic Clubhouse (hosts of the Living Well Partnership in Brixton) is our great supporter and a regular here. Members come here and feel part of it – which they are,” adds Lucy. “They bring people from hospital for tea, so they can be in a safe public cafe to enjoy their day out.Locals alike are meeting up here and with members from Mosiac to talk and get information.


Lucy says that since May 2013 her business plan was to be a cafe where locals could come and meet, and enjoy this relaxing space. As well as this Lucy wanted a place where locals could “engage and understand more about mental health and well being.
This cafe is a platform for new learning and changing attitudes for the better,” she emphasises.

“We are here to catch anyone who is near to falling into poor mental health because we understand. People care and we have the support here, along with other information for others to help and support.


“People need to know who and what the Collaborative is and does,” adds Lucy.
“We can can bridge and connect locals by holding events like the Collaborative breakfast, that took place here on the 12th March. There was lots of talking and enquires after the meeting ended.

“Locals see that the people at the top are working and connecting in a local area. That is front row seats for people. Invite locals next time to the meeting and get them to participate. Get their views and listen.

“Tweet bigger than DAVID Cameron! Because we need locals to tweet the Living Well Network, not just the people within it.”

Lucy Ng with Karen Hooper

The Coffee Lovers Cafe is at 268 Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2JR.
020 7498 4779

A peer supporter posts

The importance of peer support, other support and everything else…

‘Thinking man in progress’ … That’s the title of the image that illustrates this article, which together with the thoughts below, sketch out the creative thoughts of a peer supporter.

The incentive for organisations to encourage and develop peer support is that it simultaneously helps the support worker and those they support. I do find that that mental illness takes so many forms that finding someone with exactly the same struggles as you is unlikely.

The positives usually lean more towards the comfort that someone else has been through it and there is less of a barrier when it comes to communicating elements of ourselves that we are perhaps fearful to show to the professionals.

For me I don’t find it hard to be open with the professionals so peer support had a slightly different role for me. I spoke to someone with a similar issue to me but who had been through it for longer and therefore had done more research and had knowledge of more resources. We are each a bank of our experience and recovery and everything we have done during that time span. There is so much information out there and the professionals are also a great bank of information. Often they will sign-post, but they have a vast amount of knowledge themselves. After all, they spend their working lives dealing with the issues.

I have always avoided one recovery idea, but have now decided to give it a go, that is mindfulness. I found it slightly… well, boring! Revisiting the idea I decided maybe I was scared. But then I realised maybe the reason I like socialising and being with people is because it’s a form of mindfulness, since it brings you into the here and now and gets you focusing on what is happening now. I learnt that it is like a muscle which needs to be exercised, (working out is never easy!).

As for everyone else in the world… well I like to talk to people outside the mental health services because I am a person other than my illness. I don’t want to label myself as that is all I am. I think social inclusion outside the mental health services is so important. An interesting question is: when you introduce yourself do you state your name and say I have a mental health problem? Or do you say where you are from, or what you like?

‘I probably would have perished if I didn’t come here’

Mosaic has helped set goals on the future

Kobi-Wan is finding he is scoring more than his football goals since he became a member of Mosaic Clubhouse several months ago.

At the recent Living Well Network Open event he was snapping photographs for the Clubhouse’s ‘in the mo’ newsletter, which he has been contributing to. He particularly enjoys reporting on football.. ” I just pick a match and report on it. In the past I did voluntary work as a football coach (he qualified via a course with the Football Association).

“I love the goals,” says Kobi-wan, who supports Liverpool and used to be a goalkeeper (he’s ‘in retirement’ now). “I once met Bruce Grobbelaar (former Liverpool player, 1984-1991) at an event at London Weekend Television and I saved a penalty from him; he inspired me.”

Kobi-Wan feels Mosaic has helped him turn a corner since he became unwell some four years ago. “It was recommended by my care co-ordinator. I have been working in the Business & Admin also, it gets you out of the house… I probably would have perished if I didn’t come here… I get to eat and do things.

“You’ve got to look after yourself in this world, that’s how the world is.”
Karen Hooper

Read Kobi-Wan’s report from the match here.

Sign up for a Spring course

College supports the road to recovery

“Among other things SLaM Recovery College is for me… along with others I get the chance to expand our vision on what recovery is, should be or will become. I’m a Peer Trainer; designing, planning and facilitating a wide variety of workshops and courses with recovery in mind. I do this with mental health professionals.” Garry Ellison, Peer Trainer

“I attended a course, organised by the Recovery College about understanding substance abuse and Mental Health.  It makes me feel better about myself if I can attend and more so if I am able to participate.  On this occasion I was able to.  It also helps me feel more confident to continue and build on these experiences.” Stephen Murphy, Southside Rehabilitation Association (SRA).

The eight courses I have done at the Recovery College, as well as support from Carers Hub Lambeth (including a 10-week personal development course through City Lit) have been invaluable.”  Joanna, carer and peer supporter.


SLaM Recovery College has been in operation since January 2014, following two successful pilot terms in 2013. Manager Kirsty Giles gives an overview of a centre that is offering  hope, control and opportunity.

The college offers free workshops to users of SLaM services, their carers/supporters and SLaM staff members, which are jointly developed and taught by two trainers – one who has expertise through lived experience as a service user and/or carer and the other who is an expert by profession or job role.

Everyone who attends the Recovery College is called a student rather than a service user, carer or staff member. You can say as much or as little about what brings you to the college. The college staff aim to provide a safe learning environment where people can learn from each other’s experiences about mental health and wellbeing. The Recovery College is an educational setting that compliments the clinical services provided by SLaM. The trainers can’t provide students with therapy or treatment, but knowledge and skills to support a recovery process or journey and can signpost to where clinical services can provide support.

The student group is made up of 70% service users, 17% staff and 13% supporters, so there is always a diverse mix of people in the room, both to learn from and to share your experiences with.

A few statistics about SLaM Recovery College in 2014:

– Course and workshops increased from 10 in the pilot to 55 currently available

– 68 trainers delivering courses and workshops including 25 people with lived experience (many who are delivering more than one course)

– More than 350 people are enrolling each term from a variety of backgrounds and from all four SLaM boroughs

– Courses were delivered in 12 different venues both in the voluntary sector and SLaM locations

SLaM Recovery College has provided flexible working opportunities for people with lived experience to co-produce workshops. During 2014, seven people with lived experience were employed by SLaM to work in the Recovery College in a number of roles including administration and as peer recovery trainers. The demand for course places has been very high which has lead to a further five peer recovery trainers being recruited into contracted SLaM jobs.

The Spring/Summer SLaM Recovery College term starts on 20 April and runs until 10 July. The prospectus and timetable will be available from mid March 2015.

Please go to the SLaM Recovery College website for further information at

Kirsty Giles is pictured above at a recent Open Event at the Living Well Partnership. The Recovery College is just one of the many organisations and resources that you can tap into at the Living Well Network’s regular event held on the last Thursday of the month at 65 Effra Road, Brixton, 11am – 12.30pm.

Karen Hooper

‘Solidarity in a crisis should be 24 hours’

Anna says peer supporter was a lifesaver

Anna says finding a flyer about Solidarity in a Crisis’ peer support crisis phone line and its links to the community helped her when she was at a low ebb.

It was a time when the voices she was hearing were at a bad point and she was desperate. In the past she had phoned the Samaritans, “they do care”, she says, but they don’t have the “depth of understanding”, that she was able to explore with Solidarity in a Crisis (SiaC) peer supporters.

Anna, aged 34, found the flyer about SiaC in her GP ‘s surgery and this along with her own insight, has helped her to find coping strategies to get through the worst times. It has helped her to explore more about her diagnosis of schizophrenia (she has experienced two psychotic episodes and was sectioned both times and spent a month in hospital the first time and a week, the second).

In the past she has been to A&E but didn’t find this worked for her because on that occasion she couldn’t get the “medication or psychological support I needed”.

Anna has learned considerable about the fact that the lived experience of mental health can be a quality; that going through a crisis, as hard as that is, can be cathartic. Having the back-up of Solidarity in a Crisis peer supporters, who have shown by their own lived experiences that you can turn your life around has helped, both when she has spoken on the phone and when she has met up with people in the community. The community meetings are arranged once the person has met up and been assessed and discussed further how the project can support and help them move on.

“They helped me to identify that anxiety is my trigger and they signposted me to other services, including a psychologist,” says Anna.

Anna read the flyer in June 2014. She was struggling after she had returned to her job in corporate marketing, she thinks, too soon after her hospital admission. She was hearing voices and her medication wasn’t working. Her mental health issues, “have held my career back” , she says.

Wise words were a lifesaver
“Before June, I didn’t know that you could take a multi-approach to the diagnosis,” she adds. She describes how the first SiaC peer supporter she spoke to on the phone that night helped to “talk me down”, when she was suffering from “extreme anxiety”. That, as well as sharing his own experiences and adding, “some wise words, which were a lifesaver”, have helped her get through the darkest times.

There’s also been the chance to start learning more about what it means to live with mental health issues by exploring this via Mosaic Clubhouse, hosts of the Living Well Partnership and courses at the Recovery College. These have included courses in Mindfulness and the Tree of Life. She has also gained knowledge and insight from others experiencing similar suffering through a Hearing Voices group.

Anna says peer supporters have also helped her to better understand how her GP can be involved in supporting her and this has shifted emphasis on relying on secondary services. “It’s got me back to normality,” she says.

For Anna, the reaffirming and summarising, the words that confirm that somebody is listening, illustrated by another Solidarity in a Crisis peer supporter reveals the true experience of the peer support tenets of being genuine, empathetic and congruent … These has been fully exemplified in her experience with Solidarity in a Crisis, so that even at the toughest times she feels there is the hope of the lived experience of others to help her carry on on her recovery journey.

At the end of our conversation there is a message to commissioners, “Solidarity in a Crisis should be 24 hours, we need to talk to people during the day also… it’s been a lifesaver to me.”

Click here for Solidarity in a Crisis opening hours and numbers

Karen Hooper

New team leader hails from Spain

Maria joins Solidarity’s crisis team

Though only two years and a half in the UK Maria Gonzalez has had an interesting journey from coffee shop assistant to the new Team Leader of Solidarity in a Crisis.

Maria (pictured left) studied psychology in her native Spain, she is from Seville, and had hopes of becoming a clinical psychologist but her journey took her to different places. She became a carer to her father after he suffered a stroke when she was 10, and although it was always challenging things got worse with time. She battled her own depression when this task became overwhelming. “I stopped my Psychology degree for a time (which I managed to finish later and graduate a trained psychologist).”

She is committed to volunteering. “I’ve been volunteering my whole life,” she says… Part of her studies included a volunteer internship in hospital acute services.

Three years ago Maria, who spoke no English, and her partner made the decision to move to London and her fascinating journey began. “You can only learn so much English talking about croissants and bacon butties”, ” says Maria wryly about her coffee shop job (she became a trainer with the company) so I decided to quit that job.”

She joined an organisation in Greenwich called HER Centre, which was working to empower woman by building on their skills. She became a trustee of that organisation.

From there she worked as a mental health support worker in an eating disorders unit… “I wanted to do something for people,” she adds.

She became Project Assistant with the Volunteer Centre Lewisham in two different projects: Helping Hands, which provides practical services to people within the community and Time Out, peer support, where service users accompany others to appointments, such as to hospital, as well as shopping, going to the gym,etc.

She had been all that time volunteering for Mosaic, which works with families of children who have been sexually abused. Now she is employed there part time and manages the organisation’s training.

“I have been always interested in supporting the most vulnerable: that is why I did my internship in an acute area and wards, and why I volunteer for Mosac,” says Maria, and that’s why I am looking forward to the challenge as Team Leader of Solidarity in a Crisis.”

Pictured above with Team Leader Maria Gonzalez (left),  are Stephanie Karimi, Peer Support Hub Co-ordinator and Faith Summers, Community Connecting Lead (Certitude).

Karen Hooper

Solidarity in a Crisis gives me the wow factor

Rosetie has grown professionally through project

I started with Vocational Services (South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, SLaM) at Beale House as a receptionist. I helped them for some time until I had a thought of going back to study. Shaun Williams, Vocation Matters Project Manager, helped me to apply for Lambeth college where I was successful and did a Diploma in social work Level 3.

I continued my journey to look for employment through Vocation Matters. I was connected to Vital Link (service user and carer engagement group feeding back to the then Primary Care Trust, NHS). I used to attend meetings, events and this is where I met Jessica Aguedelo. It was a peer support event and Jessica (then co-ordinator) introduced Solidarity in a Crisis (SiaC) and told us she needed people who had a mental health experience to work as peer supporters. I was interested and she posted me more information about the job. I did my interview with Jessica, got through and started to work as a peer supporter for SiaC.

A kind heart to support people

I have gone through various training to do this job, both on-line and face- to-face. This has given me a lot of understanding and knowledge to perfect my job. I have got a lot of support, both from peers as a team and the management. Peer support work has given me a lot of confidence and an experience that am not the only one who has suffered in this world…but other people suffer the same as well. It has given me a kind heart to support people of diverse groups and keep their confidentiality – 1.1 supervision has helped me to grow professionally. This is when you discuss your achievements at work,what more help you need to do your job, necessary further training and your way forward. I am happy to say that my experience with Solidarity gave me confidence, knowledge and self-esteem. It helped me to move a step further in Certitude as a company and I am now employed as an Employment, Training and Education (ETE) trainee advisor.

I am training towards NVQ level 3 in information and guidance, and while working, I am training towards a qualification as a pathway to employment. I feel this is a great chance for me, and I would like to advise my fellow peer supporters to grab opportunities, which Certitude has in order to move forward. I am happy that Solidarity as a project is growing at a high speed and am really happy with Patrick, the Peer Involvement Co-ordinator who has helped me to grow professionally.

Wow Solidarity… We are moving forward and I think the kind of support we give to people in a crisis is highly appreciated, because even professionals want to know more about how peer supporters work. SiaC in Lambeth has inspired other boroughs to start a crisis line so we are expanding to Lewisham and Southwark, so I am pleased to be a product of Solidarity in a Crisis.

Rosetie Bwayi

Click here to read more about Solidarity in a Crisis

I’m dreaming of a Mosaic Christmas

John explains why the Clubhouse has “given me back my smile…”

What does the mental health system mean to you? For most people there are stigmas attached to psychiatric hospitals and people in general shy away from talking about them.  It’s uncomfortable for some when they see someone in a wheelchair or someone who is blind walking through a crowd, while if  they see someone with a less disabling condition, such as a walking stick, or someone on crutches with a broken leg, then it’s not such a problem. But suppose someone in your family ends up in a psychiatric hospital, or develops a problem such as depression or has a mental breakdown, how would they cope with that? Some people turn their back, some will try to justify it with excuses, but in reality, we as a nation are divided on how we treat people with mental health problems.

I was very uncertain of myself for such a long time and found it difficult to interact with others; I lost my confidence and felt very guilty about my past, so much so that I ended up in hospital for a considerable time. I was aware that I was unable to cope with my problems and needed professional help. At  first I was reluctant to ask  for help, I thought I could do it all on my own, but I only made things worse. I became very ill, I also tried to end my life because I felt that I didn’t deserve to be alive, but I had already been earmarked as a person in need of psychiatric intervention.

At first I declined any help, but after a prolonged stay in hospital I gradually changed my way of thinking, so much so that I begged for help. After taking part in various courses to help me understand my plight I was given the opportunity to attend something quite alien to me which was called the “Mosaic Clubhouse”.

At first I was unsure what to expect, or what to do, but once I was introduced to the people at Mosaic, I found I wanted to get involved more, rather than just a couple of sessions a week. Eventually I was attending five days a week from nine to five, with the exception of life skill groups, which I had to attend.

Christmas at Mosaic

When Christmas came around I felt that I wanted to be with the people from Mosaic. I saw them as my extended family, I still do, and until that first day I attended  Mosaic I felt that I had no future to speak of. Christmas with Mosaic helped to heal the imbalance I felt within.  I had no close friends to speak of which hurt to know, you tend to lose friendships when you suffer with a mental problem, or a personality disorder, but I felt at home when I attended the Mosaic clubhouse. The Christmas period for most is a time of peace and love and forgiving, people feel close to their relatives and friends, but to those of us with emotional problems, sometimes Christmas time can push us over the edge, there is a time when some people feel more vulnerable, Christmas is one of those times. Without Mosaic I wonder what would have become of me. I have Mosaic to thank for giving me friends and a sense of belonging. I can’t say that I am friendly with everyone all the time, but isn’t that what happens in a family? They argue… that’s not to say I don’t like Mosaic, I do, and I have found over the years that I have been a member, I have become closer to both the members and staff.

Now that Christmas is almost upon us again I will turn to the people I care for, both for help, and to help others. Because that is what Christmas is all about at Mosaic. So instead of dreading the Christmas period, I am looking forward to it. Mosaic has given me back my smile. My name is John, and I am proud to say I am a Clubhouse member.

John is pictured above at a recent birthday party at Mosaic, where he helped so much that they called him the doorman. Meanwhile, the main collage of photos were taken at the recent Mosaic annual general meeting where the Hospitality and Horticulture group did a joint presentation with the maintenance team. They made delicious chocolate truffles which they shared with everyone. John read a very witty poem about the units’ work. Click here to read John’s poem 


World Aids Day makes me feel depressed! Why do I feel this way?

Peter has lived with HIV for 25 years,so why does its December 1 commemoration make him feel this way?

I have asked myself this question every year since I was diagnosed HIV+ on 1 August 1990; a day that stands out for me like a Kennedy assassination or a Princess Diana car crash moment. My life certainly did change that day as the reality trickled into my brain and the advice from the Dr was to ‘put my house in order’, given that my CD4 count was well below the AIDS diagnosis level. There was an offer of AZT medication which I robustly refused, given that I believed it was killing more people than it was saving. In a haze of thought I remember asking the Dr ‘how long do I have? About 18 months if you are lucky’ , was his frank reply.

I was a Mental Health worker (a Yorkshire man in exile, now living in London) so I did have some insight as to how physical and mental health can impact on each other. I also had a family history of ‘black dog moments’ courtesy of my Father who had his own dog. There were times when he would allow only me into his week(s) of self imposed asylum. I would take food into his bedroom and slowly talk him into coming back to the outside world. I became a teenage therapist for a man who had to retreat from the world when his depression took hold.

My own mental health screamed for attention at the age of 17 when I developed a taste for recreational drugs, alcohol or any upper/ downer that enabled me to function and deal with my own cyclothymic moods. It was a short, sharp shock when my parents gave me the option of ‘voluntary’ hospital treatment, or they would agree to me being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. I saw the option for what it was. A six week stay in the local psychiatric unit where I could become part of the revolving door system or I could detox and move on. I chose the latter and found another reason for me to join the mental health profession!

The professional mental health system which I became part of in 1980s’ Yorkshire was based on the medical model of (liquid cosh) phenothiazines, benzodiazepines, physical restraint, isolation, ECT and a hierarchical system where the Consultant Psychiatrist on each ‘therapy’ unit was a strictly male God. To question any decision made by the patriarchy was deemed subversive and staff or patient could be sanctioned for questioning the medical model. They had never asked me if I had a psychiatric history, so ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ worked for me and I became a one-time service user working in the system.

Surviving the system

It was my appreciation of irony that got me through three years of training to become a Psychiatric Nurse. There were as many damaged people running the asylum as there were patients who were deemed unstable but I survived my second time in the system. Following my 1990 diagnosis I became a ‘service user’ of the many alternative therapies that were freely available at the time. I tried and tested more treatments than you could wave a red ribbon at but for me the introduction to acupuncture became a valued therapy that I still use today. Over the years it has detoxed, pain relieved and generally sustained my physical and mental well being. It enabled me to have clarity of mind to deal with the toxic side effects of the combination drug therapy. My mental health has had highs and lows over the years and occasionally my psychological needs were not met with the same integrity as my medical needs. I vividly remember a Dr at my HIV clinic handing me a prescription and saying ‘I am sorry but I can’t make you be happy’, when I had told her that I was feeling very depressed again.

It will be 25 years next year since I was diagnosed HIV+ and I have numerous poignant memories of the many people that I have met on this trek. I still think about the black African woman sitting in the hospital pharmacy, removing the drug information leaflets from her medication packs and putting them in the bin. I asked her why she was doing that and she told me that she did not want her family to know what the medicines were for. I recall walking out of a bar one night on World Aids Day and the bucket rattler thanking me for my coins and wishing me a ‘happy world aids day’ . Oh, the irony. I hope that one day the red ribbon and World Aids Day will be confined to social history and in the meantime I have promised myself not to be depressed about it any more. Onwards and upwards!






Peter’s story provokes mixed emotions for Pandora

I am encouraged that he is here 25 years on from his diagnosis. This gives hope to everyone especially those recently diagnosed. I think my key messages are, 10 years on from my diagnosis in pregnancy, get tested and protect yourself as well as others. Don’t take risks with your health. If you are tested early and can start medication before your immune system is too weak you stand a chance of living a long and healthy life. You can also prevent the spread of this costly disease. Don’t assume it won’t or can’t happen to you. I am white and heterosexual not gay or African.

The stigma of HIV and AIDS is far greater than the stigma associated with mental health problems. I have both but I am far happier talking openly about my mental illness than I am HIV. Silence among people sharing lives together can lead to disease spreading so stigma must be fought. HIV must be seen as a long term health condition that it is possible to live with

Pandora (name changed to protect identity).

Lambeth’s new Peer Support Network

Peer Support Hub Co-ordinator Stephanie talks about her journey to find a new job, which she loves doing.

 I was born in Surrey but grew up mostly around the Lambeth area as I went to High school near Streatham. I currently still live in Surrey and in my spare time I enjoy sight seeing in the hills near where I live and go shopping and out to eat at local village restaurants.

I started working for Certitude as an apprentice in health and social care in 2010 and then after completing my course was offered a permanent contract as a support worker in one of our mental health supported housing services in 2011.

I have worked with many people suffering from a range of mental health diagnoses, such as paranoid schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar, personality disorders and some people who have a dual diagnosis. This was challenging at first as I had never worked or been involved with anything around mental health personally. But as time passed I became more experienced and it became easier to understand the people I was supporting and how best to support them. Working with a person-centred approach made things more rewarding as I was sure that the people I was supporting were getting the quality support that they required. During that time I worked on a couple of projects alongside Skills for Care. I had my case study published just over two years ago, which is about my journey through health and social care and also about my goals and aspirations for my career in the future.

 Experience of unemployment

I was also featured in the Mirror, Evening Standard and a couple of local newspapers about getting young people back into work. The job market was tight and not a lot of young people knew about jobs available within the care sector. We wanted to promote jobs that young people may be interested in but didn’t know where to apply for them. As a young person who was out of work and stuck at the job centre for over a year trying to look for work, I had some experience with this. I knew how it felt to be stuck and not knowing what path to take, whether to go back to studying or work. But I was given the best opportunity to do both and it changed my outlook on my options for my future career. Getting onto a health and social care apprentice course helped me to find the job I now love and enjoy doing.

 For my new role I will be running the Peer Support Hub, which includes use of the rooms, advertising and promoting our peer support services, as well as other outside services within Lambeth. I also will be working closely on the online aspect of peer support as well as working with the employment, training and education officers to ensure that people who access and also offer peer support are further supported in pursuing their goals further afield. I will be having some events going in the future at the hub for people to attend who use the services, focusing on running workshops and training. Some of the training will be offered directly by the hub but a lot of training will also be delivered at the hub by external partners. I have been visiting other peer support services to show our support and keep good networks within peer support in Lambeth. We aim to make the hub a central point for peer support, making it vibrant, informative, and accessible as well as it being a place to learn. We are currently working on mapping all the peer support initiatives in Lambeth, encouraging use of the hub for peer support related activities as well as offering support for the growth and sustainability of peer support in the borough and beyond. I will be sending out updates of events and workshops that will be happening at our Hub and also if any service from Lambeth would like to use the rooms for any type of peer support they are available to be booked via myself.

Contact: Stephanie Karimi at the PEER SUPPORT HUB / FANON CENTRE

Direct tel: 0207-737-2888, Mob: 07710-389-679

Email the Peer Network :

The Lambeth Peer Support Network has held a number of events so far. Recently it heard about a new report Integrating vocational & peer support: an exploration – VIP. There have also been a social inclusion workshop and  a peer support recruitment drive, as well as a session  on digital inclusion. The network events are open to everyone, professionals and non professionals who have an interest in receiving or offering peer support.

Getting my life back

As he emerges from the shadows, Stephen says he needed to know what was out there to help him move on

Before people can engage with activities to help get them back to life they have to know what’s out there. That’s the view of Stephen Murphy who made a great ambassador for SRA (Southside Rehabilitation Association), when he fronted their stall at the recent Living Well Network open event.

The monthly event at the Living Well Partnership in Brixton, brings together services, organisations and individuals who are supporting people to build on their assets to help them move on and get the best out of their lives.

Stephen, 57, was introduced to SRA by his CPN. He believes it was timely as he had become totally isolated, “It was the length of isolation that was taking its toll,” says Stephen who joined SRA three months ago.  “I was suffering from stress and becoming anxious and I realised I had to do something about it.”

While Stephen stresses it was important for him to make that decision, some of the things that helped included the relationships he forged at this difficult time.  “I had a CPN who was constantly trying to encourage me to try and become more active, but I found it difficult. I had tried going to another day centre and tried to educate myself further with limited success.  After another very long period of isolation and not being able to do anything even though I had plenty of interests my CPN suggested and introduced me to SRA.”

Stephen, whose bi polar diagnosis came later in life, identifies other positive moments in his journey. He joined Mosaic Clubhouse in 1997, “it felt like a very good place where I fitted in,” he says. Although he is still a member he felt he needed other options to enable him to take the next steps.

Now he is participating in the training programme at SRA’s West Norwood site four mornings a week and learning to word process. “I feel SRA suits me more now. Here I am also doing courses, which SRA has introduced me to, to improve my skills and knowledge and better understand how I can help myself.  I am doing a Driving Ambition course (through First Step Trust, see below) and have signed up to do courses to help me understand my illness and the ways it affects me. I attended a course, organised by the Recovery College (see below) about understanding substance abuse and Mental Health.  It makes me feel better about myself if I can attend and more so if I am able to participate.  On this occasion I was able to.  It also helps me feel more confident to continue and build on these experiences.”

Real work experience

Says Stephanie Correia, SRA’s  Chief Executive Officer:  “We work with people with serious mental health problems who want to return to open employment. In order to give people real work experience we run three social enterprises- printing, catering and cleaning – and we are always looking for people who want to recover, who need help to get back to work and engage in the community.

“We also provide work placements or volunteering opportunities for our local community. These people help us to run and manage the organisation,” adds Stephanie of SRA, which has been providing these services since 1991.

Come and see us if you want to:

• Improve your work and social interaction skills and mental well-being

• Increase your confidence, independence and employment potential 

• Get help to access adult education, other services and employment

Contact Stephanie or Caroline on 020 8766 6688 or Email:;

Check us out on

Driving Ambition (First Step Trust) is an incentive scheme enabling young adults with mental health problems to gain a driving licence and improve their job prospects.

Click here for more information

Click here for information on another First Step Trust course

The Recovery College runs workshops and courses to help participants become an expert in their own recovery or that of someone they care for. Call 020 3228 3643 or

or check out their website:

The next Living Well Network event, where you can meet Stephen, is on November 27 at 11am-12.30pm at the Living Well Partnership. Click here for flyer


Karen Hooper

Photos: Ade

Resolving my demons

Retiring GP and Collaborative member Ray Walsh gives a moving account of life behind the stethoscope

It is ironic that my involvement in the Collaborative has empowered me in making my decision to retire. I have been preaching the importance of building and maintaining relationships but fail to nurture my own relationships. One of those is my relationship with myself; in the past five years I have had a litany of health problems many of which would be diminished if I reduced my workload.

One of my earliest memories is not a joyful one. I was standing in the hallway at home with my brothers as my mother was being ‘taken away’ under a section. It saddens and angers me still that the family never discussed this even after her death in 1992. It was unmentionable. My mother was mentally very well for the last ten years of her life. My parents planned their retirement for a long time down to minute detail. They were preparing to move out of Dublin and my mother was already building her connections in their chosen new home area. Six months before my father’s retirement date mum was diagnosed with a cancer and died a few months later, she was 62. I do not wish to be in the same position. I am retiring in order to develop my relationship with myself and with those close to me while I can. My retirement will not diminish my passion to reduce the stigma of mental illness. No family should endure ‘ an unmentionable’ illness. This is more harmful than the illness.

 In 2000 my brother took his own life, I was his ‘carer’, a role I had neither chosen or desired. His death made me question my abilities as a brother, a carer and as a GP. The  Collaborative has given me the opportunity to resolve some of the demons that I had lived with following this tragedy.

I was embarrassed by the kind words from David Monk (Collaborative Chair pictured with Ray and Natalie Sutherland) at the Oval meeting and the thoughtful card and gifts. Embarrassed because I have already benefited more from the Collaborative than I have been able to contribute to it. Though I am retiring I shall remain a Lambeth resident and service user of health services and I would be honoured to be permitted to remain a committed member of the Collaborative and Living Well Network so that I can repay some of the debt I owe to the inspiring carers, service users, professionals and commissioners.

 One of the enduring features of the Collaborative has been the acknowledgement that no service is or can be perfect and that no individual is or can be perfect. We can only do our best and always be willing to listen, to change and to improve. No individual or organisation can have all the answers or solutions. The Collaborative has and will continue to provide solutions but there will always been new issues and problems to resolve.

 Ray Walsh

 Ray was a member of the NHS Lambeth CCG Governing Body and was the Mental Health Lead and lead on Sexual Health.

 Photos: Natalie Sutherland and Stacey Hemphill

 Click here to read about the Collaborative event 

Getting in touch with nature helps wellbeing

Loughborough Farm has helped Zeenat move forward after stress took its toll

“I was a very happy go lucky person with four grown up lovely kids , running my own successful business, traveling the world.  I was under a lot of modern day  stress as many of us are these days , but one day I just woke up and had a nervous breakdown and everything fell apart. 

“I’ve been to hell and back,”says Zeenat about her  3 years of severe clinical  depression, “it was horrible”. I had the breakdown in 2011, it was really bad; I lost all sense of direction, I couldn’t speak… I lost all emotions, i was unable to leave home without escort, unable to keep personal relationships   – I just lay on the sofa for two and half  years.

“I was on  medication, which didn’t work and made me put on weight and feel like a zombie …  in the end I had ECT (Electric Shock Treatment), which really helped.” 

Zeenat explains that at times she was suicidal and self-harming , but was afraid of going into hospital and was treated by the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) Home Treatment team, which meant she was able to stay in her own home.  She has also been supported by the SHARP (Social Hope and Recovery Programme) to go to the gym and has taken part in a cooking group, dancing group and mindfulness as part of their healthy living workshops. She enjoys yoga, pilates and aqua aerobics and has also been supported through Look Ahead and has coffee once a week with her peer supporter.

Discovering Loughborough Farm, a community food growing project  has helped her with recovery . “My son was walking past and told me about it, says Zeenat who has four children, aged between 23 and 33. She lost her fourth child. She has lived in the area for 13 years . The farm has bought community spirit to Loughborough Junction.

 “The farm really helps, it’s somewhere to go, you get to talk to people and it’s helped me get my confidence back,” she says. “I have enjoyed doing the training with Fabrice at Myatt’s Field community greenhouses and there’s something about being in touch with nature that makes you feel much better. It’s nice the way we get to share the produce. I use the herbs and garlic  in my chicken and Lamb curries and salads on side. I also use lot of greens for my stir frys as part of my healthy eating for wellbeing.”

Zeenat is hoping that what she is learning on the farm will inspire her to start working on her own garden. “I have a big garden at home but I am just learning  and hopefully I will find someone to help me,” she says. She is also keen to show others how the farm can inspire and help people to move forward.

Zeenat says although her emotions are “not quite there yet I  feel I am now back to my normal happy and active self.”

Loughborough Farm is on Loughborough Road near the junction with Coldharbour Lane, opposite Wyck Gardens. Sessions are held Tuesdays and Saturdays, 1-3pm and Thursdays 6-7pm. 


 Karen Hooper

Finding a way through the fog

Getting a referral to the Living Well Network Hub provided a bit of relief in what has been an exasperating 15 years’ experience of services

I meet Matt at the first open event of the Living Well Network being hosted by Mosaic Clubhouse (at the Living Well Partnership site in Effra Road). He has been invited by Rosie Crawley, Support Worker with the Community Options Team (COT), part of the network, who has been working with him to address some immediate problems around his benefits and housing, which have taken him to crisis point following his mother’s death. 

Matt, aged 38, feels that few people listen or get what he’s on about when he describes what it is to live his life. “I’ve told my GP about the problems I have filling out forms, talking to people… I find it difficult communicating. I can’t link things in my brain or concentrate. It makes me feel desperate, which has led to self-harming, depression and chronic anxiety. “

Over the years he feels he has been pigeon-holed by services, prescribed the wrong medication and self medicated with alcohol.  He speaks also  of a life working for the Post Office, which was difficult because of his communication problems though he held down a job for 15 years and then took redundancy. He has a sister and a former girlfriend who keep in touch.

Nowadays he says he plans his day as he walks his dog. “I make a list in my mind, sometimes I’m walking and crying… this is because when I try to make a plan I cannot seem to form even a simple thought. . .There is nothing. . . Just fog.

Getting an introduction to the Living Well Network Hub and Rosie to address the practical issues in a number of sessions  have been helpful,” he says. “It’s amazing the way she gets through those forms, I really have to thank her for everything she has done and for  listening to me and helping me to understand things.” He was also able to get a half hour session with a psychiatrist and slowly it is emerging that he may have attention deficit or a personality disorder. Getting a correct diagnosis and appropriate medication is imperative he says. 

“To the mental health professionals and other support network clients who may be in the same situation as myself I would like to say I believe had I been correctly diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage, I would have been exploring the world enjoying life and love… far away from the dark road I now walk.

“The help, support and medical treatment that the professionals provide, or could provide to their clients can not only have an effect on their daily life but their ENTIRE LIFE,” he stresses.

Says Rosie: “When I first met Matt in April he was in a really vulnerable position and did not know where to begin; not only had he lost his mother a few months previously, but he had no benefits coming in and no rights over his late mother’s tenancy despite having lived with her for years. Since then he has made excellent steps towards his recovery and his social circumstances are now much more stable. I really admire the way that Matt has been able to deal with such a stressful situation on top of his recent bereavement.

“Matt is a pleasure to work with and despite the difficulties he has, he always comes to appointments and works hard to provide the various bits of paperwork I’m always asking him to find! As you can tell by reading his story, he is a very insightful, intelligent and sensitive person and the way he describes his feelings is very moving.”

She explains: “The Community Options Team provides up to 12 weeks of social and practical support to Lambeth residents who are experiencing mental health difficulties. Most commonly we support people with issues around benefits, housing and social inclusion. The aim is that at the end of 12 weeks people have the skills and knowledge to support themselves in a sustainable way, drawing on the support of the community around them.”

Matt has an incredible curiosity and drive to research and find out how he can help himself and he says the open event has also helped as he was able to find out about mindfulness sessions set to start in Autumn, which he thinks could help him focus. 

He sums things up thus: “People with mental health issues have ambitions, aspirations hopes and dreams and desires too, but somehow cannot always work out a step by step process to guide them towards their goals.”


Karen Hooper          


The blue sky is still above

A carer’s struggle with her own mental health is helping to shape a new project for teenagers


“To be a carer is to find unconditional love and care within yourself…  to become uncentred within your own needs and expectations…” says Joanna Oleszczynska who has learned much from supporting her daughter, while coming to terms with her own struggle with depression.

Joanna who recently joined Missing Link as a peer supporter (the service has been supporting people on the wards and as they are discharged from Lambeth hospital back into the community) says training for the role triggered memories she had buried of  her own experiences of mental health when she was younger. She had a chance to unblock and explore these feelings and as a result she has started a project for teenagers who she believes aren’t catered for in the mental health system. She says it is crucial to reach them in the early stages of depression and other mental health issues.

Joanna is growing her project through the Music4Children community hub, which is attached to the White Lion pub in Streatham. She wants young people to lead and shape the weekly workshops for themselves. Joanna, who is Polish and has lived in the UK for 14 years says it was determination and strength that helped her to come out of “my own unwellness, which empowerd me. “Working as a peer supporter has brought a natural healing process into my life and also allows me to meet some extraordinary people,” she adds.

Says Missing Link co-ordinator Lucas Teague: “Carer peer supporters bring an invaluable perspective in having lived experience of using mental health services in their own mental health needs and in caring for a loved one. This helps to recognise issues to be addressed from both sides of the fence.”

Joanna has found courses at the Recovery College (South London & Maudsley) – as well as support from Carers Hub Lambeth (including a 10-week personal development course through the City Lit) invaluable. Her motto is one of mindfulness, “live the day for the day” . Joanna believes being a carer is empowering. “The sleepless nights and constant worries are replaced by paying attention to the beauty of happy and beautiful moments, which sometimes are a lot more simple than we thought as it can be a smile, a positive response or just a good day, ” she says. “Caring reveals the strengths we didn’t recognise before, it comes from love and pays back in love.”

For more information on the teenage workshops contact Joanna at


Blue sky above

Our photograph was taken by Dr Tamara Russell during a carers’ mindfulness session in Brockwell Park. “Mindfulness training reminds us that even when the clouds are fluffy or dark, the blue sky is still above,” she says. 

“Lambeth carers with the support of Sarah Bennett at Carers Hub took part in the five week Body In Mind Training at Mosaic Clubhouse. Over five weeks we explored the themes of mindfulness and their relevance to carers’ lives. Just giving permission to look after themselves was a major theme and many of the carers immediately engaged with this.  Noticing that it might feel uncomfortable or difficult to do something different and put yourself first was also a theme but many of them were really courageous and went for it!  A number of the sessions were held in Brockwell park where the group had a chance to reconnect with nature and the beauty of the walled garden and a chance for an ice cream at the café – real acts of self care that nurtured them and provided a chance to “fill up the tank” rather than letting it empty”.

For more information see


Karen Hooper


Help me make it through the night

Peter had presented at A&E more than 100 times before he discovered Solidarity in a Crisis on the end of the phone line.

Peter appears relaxed when we meet at the Dragon Cafe at Borough, south London.He’s much more laid back than I am expecting for a man whose life experiences have pushed him to the edge and seen him present at A&E in crisis more than 100 times.

The reasons for Peter’s life spiralling out of control and taking him into mental health issues are complex, but they began when he lost his father in 1985 at the age of 18.

For Peter now 47, until that time, “I had money in my pocket (he was working in theatre as part of a production crew) and everything was sweet.”

He recalls the experience as if it were yesterday. “I’d been talking to him just half-an-hour before,” he says of his dad Bill. “I went into the garden, when I came back the bathroom door was locked, I called and he didn’t answer. ” Peter discovered that his father had passed away.

“I was petrified… I just ran away from my life, that day,” he says. “At 18, it was at a time when I should have been getting to know my dad.”

The following years of supporting his mother following her breakdown, and her death in 1995 pushed him further into alcohol and drug dependency to cope. “I started drinking, I got in trouble with the police, I was ducking and diving,” he says. “I was in and out of a relationship and my partner had a miscarriage. I was in and out of rehab and homelessness and developed neuropathy.”

A recent cancer scare pushed him to the brink yet again: “I thought, ‘my life was a mess because of alcohol (he has been dry for four years), I feel like a burden and now I might have cancer’ . ” The reprieve from that is another corner turned.

Peter is not alone in his isolation. It is estimated that 50 per cent of people, already in mental health services present in crisis at A&E out of hours because they have nowhere else to go to feel safe.

“You feel very alone, alone in your mind… frightened at times,” says Peter, “you want someone to talk to and sometimes it’s hard to get through to people at A&E.”

Peter is testament to the human spirit that with the right support people can get through and find what they need to move forward.

This has included linking up with Solidarity in a Crisis (SiaC), (Certitude, part of the Lambeth Collaborative) an out-of-hours peer support service that’s been operating on the phone over the weekend. Once people have referred themselves, or been referred and met up with Peer Involvement Coordinator Patrick Nyikavaranda, they can meet up with peer supporters in the community over the weekend.

Seven days a week

The first time he phoned Peter says, “I was nervous, it was about 11.30pm on a Friday night… There was a voice there that could understand me and listened at the right time. I have found them so helpful, understanding,” he says. “I am not the sort of person to call the Samaritans, I’ve always panicked… I let out a lot of emotions that night.”

Peter sees the service offering something different because of the lived experience of the peer supporters (including carers). “They listen because they have their own experience, they understand about depression, feeling suicidal, being sectioned and being on a ward.”

Such is the success of the service it has gone seven days a week. “When we developed Solidarity in a Crisis our aim was to pilot it at weekends to learn more about the demand for peer led out-of-hours crisis support, ” says Nicholas Campbell-Watts, Certitude’s Director of Mental Health. “People using the service have told us that SiaC is definitely needed throughout the week, so in agreement with commissioners we are really excited to now extend the support available to people.”

As well as talking to someone on the phone, Peter welcomes the weekend contact with peer supporters. “Solidarity are amazing people. I have met up with them in the community, I know they are there,” he says. “I was making a lot of snap judgements and found simple things would light me up… they helped when I was getting frustrated and angry. Meeting at a cafe and having a cup of tea shows that people have similar human experiences and their approach is more holistic.”

Peter brings to the peer support relationship the experiences of his own recovery journey. As a last resort, he went into the Maytree, a sanctuary for those contemplating/ feeling suicidal. The house offers a four-day stay (you cannot return) with 24-hour support from volunteers and staff. “I left when it was snowing… It was the end of 2011. It was really emotional… I started crying.” The experience was so profound that Peter used his own experience to train as a befriender and he volunteers still; being able to give back has helped him.

What has also helped recently is a Reading Out Loud group, swimming and “toning up”. Solidarity has signposted him to Community Connecting (Certitude) which supports people to connect to activities they are interested in.

It has been a struggle but Peter feels he has found a prescription for living. “I know there are going to be good days and bad days but I am learning to deal with them knowing there is help out there.”


Read more about peer support 

Read Hamza’s story about being a peer supporter 

Karen Hooper

Photo: Young Adults project, Living Well Partnership

Click here for information about Solidarity in times
Freephone: 0300 123 1922
Or text us on: 0788 9756 078 (am)
0788 9756 083 (pm)

Or email:

Contact Community Connecting:
tel:020 7737 2888,

Living Well… a year on

The Living Well Partnership celebrates its first birthday as hosts Mosaic are shortlisted for two charity awards.

There’s always a real buzz and a warm welcome at Living Well Partnership headquarters in Effra Road, Brixton. Light streams through the glass environs and everyone looks engaged.

After only one year in its new building, new partners seem to be “queuing at the doors to be included,” says Lee Elliott, Employment, Education and Training Co-ordinator, “with new courses from WEA (Workers Education Association) in Black History and Community Interpreting, as well as the Recovery College providing a whole range of courses accessible to the community (dealing with the initial diagnosis of a mental health problem to making plans for the future). Tuesday evenings see a fitness coach leading keep fit classes, Thursdays see members running baking workshops… the list goes on.”


Meanwhile, the new Young Adults project is doing sterling work putting together a young people’s resource pack and are “key to our future development”,  adds Lee.

Things are really shaping up as a recent focus day revealed. “It was really positive with lots of energy, ideas and fun, ” says Chief Executive and Clubhouse stalwart Maresa Ness.

“The work was done with staff and members together and then trustees joined the day to hear the unit priorities and discuss strategic priorities, such as fundraising, Transitional Employment Programmes (TEPs), personalisation and enablement.There were presentations from each of the units (Business & Administration, Employment and Education, Hospitality & Horticulture) and one of the main priorities focused on “evaluating how we have been working since we moved in and how we can improve things, such as training,” adds Maresa.


Biggest challenge


Mosaic’s partnership with the Lambeth Collaborative, as hosts of the centre started a year ago, but Maresa’s involvement with the clubhouse (part of an international movement) dates back 20 years. Maresa helped set up the original clubhouse at a time when Lambeth was known as ‘the psychosis capital of Europe’  (see her moving account of  ‘my brilliant moment’ in the video at the bottom of the page).

Being nominated for a Charity Award (Disability category) and now a Charity Times award is important says Maresa, “because the clubhouse is co-produced, winning an award would be a celebration of members’ achievements. This would demonstrate to members that the contribution they make in peer support and running the clubhouse, for others, who, like them, live with severe and enduring mental health conditions, is valued externally.”

The transition to the Living Well Partnership has been our  “biggest challenge in 20 years!” she exclaims. “Members and staff have planned, trained, organised, created and developed all the environmental, policy and system changes together.  The community has never felt more focused or vibrant with so many more opportunities for members both in the clubhouse and outside thanks to our many engaged partner organisations.”

In the last year;

We received 389 referrals

30 members secured employment outcomes

94 educational outcomes were achieved

4 new TEPs were added

Since it opened 129 people were supported through the information hub.

489 were supported through the Clubhouse in 2013/2014


12-week offer

Behind these numbers are real people whose lives have been transformed. Lee Elliott describes one person’s journey through the 12-week programme after fronting up at the information hub with difficulties relating to an imminent eviction. “He’d also been referred to Mosaic Clubhouse as a potential member. He joined the Employment, Education and Information Unit and quickly became a highly valued member, helping create visual displays on the new smart boards, develop ideas for stronger celebrations of TEPs at the monthly Employment dinner and helped other members develop their IT skills. Within 10 weeks, he felt able to return to work and found full-time employment.”

The focus day examined the 12-week programme and how people can be supported to meet their goals through short term access to the initiatives and opportunities on offer both in-house, with partners and in the wider community.


Testimony to TEPs


Paul Moreton, who started work in January as Project Administrator with Missing Link peer support service (Metropolitan), says “my amazing journey into employment could not have been achieved without the support of Mosaic, they realised the benefit these experiences were having on my confidence and suggested I take another step forward and start a job via the Transitional Employment Programme, TEP, with SHARP” (Social Inclusion, Hope and Recovery Project, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust). Read Paul’s story

“During the time that Paul worked at SHARP he greatly developed his confidence and skills and was an integral and valued member of the team,” says SHARP’s Team Leader Marieke Wrigley.  “It is so heartening and inspiring to see what he has achieved and to read his story.”

“Paul is a great contribution to Missing Link,” says Co-ordinator Lucas Teague, “he really understands the peer support workers. As well as being committed, hard working and willing to go the extra mile.”

Summing up Lee Elliott says, “Paul’s progress from his first contact with Mosaic Clubhouse, through to his TEP with SHARP and his job with Metropolitan demonstrates both his own determination and resilience and the fantastic opportunities that are generated when organisations work in true partnership. Many congratulations, Paul – we’re proud of you!” 


Hospital in-reach

At the heart of all the work is peer support and nowhere is this more wonderfully illustrated than in the in-reach work at Lambeth hospital. “I have seen some amazing changes in patients,” says Programme Manager Beverley Randall of the project that brings people daily from the ward to the centre to take part in activities (read more).

Clubhouse member and driver John recently took people to the seaside at Whitstable. “We read out some poetry on the beach after going for a fish and chip lunch that was so fresh, I can’t remember ever having fish that tasted so good, ” he relishes (read John’s trip report).


Survey headlines

So just a year on it looks like the Living Well Partnership is firmly on the map. The  headlines from a recent online survey reveal that there is a good level of knowledge about the range of services provided, particularly around education, training and employment. Impressions of Mosaic Clubhouse are overwhelmingly positive.

Looking to the future there are many initiatives planned that will give members “more opportunities to grow, gain confidence and skills,” says Maresa. These will include  “teaming” so that people can volunteer daily to be a unit  “team leader”, as well as “challenge yourself Friday” where individuals are encouraged to volunteer for something they have never done before. And more people will be encouraged to work in the information hub now there is a grasp on training needs.

They are also encouraging members to learn to make cheap and nutritious food at home, as well as a weekly “newsflash” so that members make a bulletin to be shown on the smart screen at Friday get togethers. There are plans for even more TEP and education opportunities and ways to make the service even more accessible to all cultures, ages and gender.

The Charity Awards is organised by Civil Society Media ( and sponsored by the Charities Aid Foundation ( Charity Times awards will be announced in October.


Karen Hooper

Photos: Matthew and Young Adults project 


Check out Maresa’s ‘My Brilliant Moment’

‘My Brilliant Moment’ broadcast on the Community Channel (SKY) 24.02.14 (06:45) & 28.02.14 (18.45).



Find out ‘Why we love Mosaic’


I must go down to the sea again

John is in the driver’s seat as we head for Whitstable

Mosaic Clubhouse members went to Whitstable for a day at the seaside recently as part of the hospital in-reach programme. Whitstable is located on the north coast of Kent, in southeast England. It is approximately 8 kilometres north of Canterbury and approximately 3 kilometres west of the seaside town of Herne Bay.

 It only took us about an hour-and-a-half to get there. Although there was a little drizzle on the way there it had stopped before we arrived. We had a hot drink in the café and took a stroll along the beach. We read out some poetry on the beach after going for a fish and chip lunch that was so fresh, I can’t remember ever having fish that tasted so good.

 We saw some beach houses that had been converted from the old traditional fishermen’s huts. They are rented out by the night for about fifty pounds a head. I noticed that part of the beach looked like it consisted of small pebbles and seashells. As we walked past the harbour we noticed the fishermen prepping their nets for their next trip to sea. Although Whitstable is a tourist attraction, it is still a busy fishing harbour. It would have been nice to see out to sea but it was a misty day and the view was somewhat restricted.

 Whitstable is famous for its oysters, which have been collected in the area since at least Roman times. The town itself dates back to before the writing of the Domesday book. Whitstable’s distinctive character is popular with tourists, and its maritime heritage is celebrated with the annual oyster festival. The trip back was uneventful with some rain in places but they were only short showers. We drove back on the M2 motorway and A2 dual carriageway and were back in London in no time. Every one said that they had enjoyed the trip and wanted to go on another as soon as possible. As the driver, I can say I really enjoyed myself and I am also looking forward to another trip to the seaside soon.

Driver and trip reporter John

Photo by Nancy Holden

Special thanks to Ronnie Wilson, CEO, First Step Trust

Growing trust on the ward

Beverley Randall, Programme Manager says it’s the Mosaic ethos that helped to grow in-reach work at Lambeth hospital.

I started working at Mosaic as a support worker in 2002. I loved the ethos, which is to treat people as people and that the mental health diagnoses is just a part of the whole person. Mosaic works with people’s gifts and talents and recognises everybody has a purpose in life.

I soon realised how much talent there was in the clubhouse community. How members worked together to support each other. An example of this would be meeting to accompany each other to appointments where there was anxiety.

Because of the clubhouse ethos, we were invited to lead a project in the rehabilitation ward in Lambeth hospital. The difference with this project was it involved both clubhouse members and staff. We were encouraged to attend the hospital once a day to firstly get to know the patients and secondly, to help patients who probably wouldn’t leave the ward for various reasons, to take part in the activities of the clubhouse, as well as in the community.

The best outcome for patients was when they left hospital they would be able to access mainstream activities in the community, such as libraries, parks and restaurants.

We have been involved with the hospital in-reach programme for more than four years and I have seen some amazing changes in patients. I remember one patient who wasn’t very vocal in the beginning, but over time they developed confidence and shared his love for the arts; we were able to visit an art galleryas one of our activities. This person had a wealth of knowledge about art and shared so much information with us. I had never seen him talk so much.When he left hospital he was able to start coming to Mosaic and has since moved on to doing a job placement.

Photo: Matthew

Friday is blooming great

The new Young Adults project at the Living Well Partnership is stemming isolation and forging the future

Fridays are blossoming for 18-30 year olds at Mosaic Clubhouse. The young adults  meeting is a space for people to get to know each other, make links and share issues and experiences. However, back from training with a fresh focus, Lena Malkin, senior  support worker and co-ordinator of the Business and Administration unit says it’s about  giving young people with mental health issues the same opportunities as their peers in the transition into adulthood, thus enabling them to engage across all age groups.

“The message is that young people want to do the same as their peers are doing –  studying, getting work experience, so it’s not so much about leisure and social activities but reaching out and connecting better,” says Lena. “People want study support, employment… they are in a transition period, but they are saying it’s not all about having fun.”

The group recently carried out a research project to identify what other organisationsare doing for young people with mental health issues. They followed it up with two focus groups, at Mosaic and the other on a ward at Lambeth hospital looking at addressing the gaps.

Plans are to reach out more into the community, presentations to hostels, for example, getting people to engage with the information hub, get employment and educational support and tackle isolation. Lena sums it up thus: “It’s about acknowledging that young  people have goals and helping them to achieve them.”

Picture this
The programme has also been running workshops on photography, illustration and animation – our photographs are the work of the groups’ budding snappers. It is run by trainee support worker Ade Adekoya with member Matthew. “I picked up photography while I was studying accountancy and finance at university and have never looked back,” says Ade (pictured below).








“The young adults have had to put their creative skills to work and it helps them engage in the media side of Mosaic. They are getting to grips with the principles of photography and videography.” – watch the video below. Support worker of six years Jonathan Morally sums it up perfectly when he says that this fresh focus gives young people “ownership… It feels a lot more exciting for them.” 





My amazing journey

Paul is impressed by the support he received to help him get back into employment

Three years ago I had never heard of Mosaic, Sharp or Metropolitan… now they are an integral part of my daily life and I could not have achieved the success I have without the support and opportunity they have all given to me.

 My story starts with Mosaic  (now hosts of the Living Well Partnership in Effra Road, Brixton). After only a short time attending Mosaic they began to involve me in the reception and other duties such as the charitable garden party. After several years unable to work due to my bipolar, Mosaic could see the benefit these experiences were having on my confidence and suggested I take another step forward and start a  job via the Transitional Employment Programme, TEP. These posts give people a chance to get back to a working environment. Initially I was apprehensive as I was not sure if it would be a success and if it would be the right working environment for me. However, I was persuaded to give it a try and assured I would have all the support I would need from Mosaic.

 I started working as a receptionist at SHARP, part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. SHARP stands for Social Inclusion, Hope and Recovery Project. It is a small multidisciplinary team of highly skilled professionals that provide psychological (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Family and Motivational Interventions) and social (Social Inclusion, Healthy Living Programme) interventions, which aim to increase social inclusion and facilitate recovery.

 I had great training from Mosaic support workers and my initial concerns about the job were soon forgotten. Working with people that understand some of the difficulties we have faced in our lives makes it so much easier to conquer the personal anxieties we face when considering entering back in to employment.

Before long I was trusted to open the building as part of my morning shift, start up the reception, liaise with the relevant staff member regarding any information and messages received and set up for the requirements of the meeting rooms. Working on reception really helped my confidence and skills grow.

 I soon began to realise what I could achieve with the TEP. With the support of Mosaic and SHARP I trained and achieved certificates in many subjects including:

• Minute Taking.

• First Aid.

• Safety Awareness and Infection Control.

• Safeguarding Adults.

• Understanding Personal Safety and Security.

• Principles of Infection Prevention.

• Health and Safety in the Workplace.

• Fire Training. 

 SHARP were confident I could develop my training further and offered to sponsor me to study a Diploma in Business and Administration NVQ via Bromley College. The course required me to attend college for one day each month, while continuing my employment at SHARP and carrying out coursework with the support of the TEP. I initially had anxieties about the course but it was not long before I was enjoying this as much as my work at SHARP.

 In October 2013 I passed the Diploma in Business and Administration NVQ. This was such an important milestone for me, after all those years spent without the confidence to work, I now knew that I was ready to move on from SHARP to new independent employment.

 Says SHARP’s  Team Leader Marieke Wrigley: “During the time that Paul worked at SHARP he greatly developed his confidence and skills and was an integral and valued member of the team. It is so heartening and inspiring to see what he has achieved and to read his story.”

 Going the extra mile

In January I started a new position as Project Administrator at Metropolitan. It was incredibly exciting to start my new job and although I miss everyone I worked with at SHARP and the support I had from Mosaic, I move on knowing that I leave behind an opportunity for someone else to benefit from all the amazing experiences and training that was given to me.

 Metropolitan is a leading provider of integrated housing services, care and support and community regeneration. My remit requires me to give administration support for designated care and support teams. I work within an incredibly supportive team and report directly to Lucas Teague, Missing Link Coordinator. Missing Link is a peer support service which provides support to patients in Lambeth hospital during their time on the ward and as they are discharged from hospital and their road to recovery continues at home. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to offer support to this group of people and give back some of the support that has been given to me.

 “Paul is a great contribution to Missing Link,” says Co-ordinator Lucas Teague, “he really understands the peer support workers. As well as being committed, hard working and willing to go the extra mile.”

 Moving on

My journey over the past three years has been amazing. I would never have imagined that there is such a high level of support to get people on the road to recovery and set them up for life through work and experience. It is incredibly reassuring to know that there are so many people out there who care about me.

 Should you be reading my story and considering a TEP or other opportunities to help you move on, I  would urge you to give it a go. Hopefully in the future others will have the benefit of reading your success story and be inspired to do the same.

 Paul Moreton

Says the Living Well Partnership’s Lee Elliott:  “Paul’s progress from his first contact with Mosaic Clubhouse, through to his TEP with SHARP and his job with Metropolitan demonstrates both his own determination and resilience and the fantastic opportunities that are generated when organisations work in true partnership. Many congratulations, Paul – we’re proud of you!” 

All systems go at the hub

A dynamic team with an ambitious remit reflects on the story so far

“There’s lots of will for us to make this work,” says social worker Bartek Zaniewski on day one as the Living Well Network Hub (the hub) opens its new ‘front door’  to mental health services in north Lambeth.

 Bartek (pictured left) has been charged with co-ordinating referrals coming into the hub (based at Elmfield House in Stockwell) and there’s an air of anticipation as this new team, with an ambitious remit, waits for the phones to ring. The hub is pivotal to all those referring into north Lambeth’s  mental health services. It is endeavouring to do things differently – in the words of the Lambeth Collaborative (the driving force behind the changes) ‘turning the system on its head’. So more back-up to GPs so that people experiencing distress can be supported earlier… before they reach crisis point. Equally for those in transition from the secondary care Community Mental Health Team (CMHT), to their GP (primary care) there is a commitment  to reconnect people to their communities and help them to find ways to be more resilient so they can get on with their lives.

 Those entering hub environs are being offered up to 12 weeks’ tailored support in a personalised plan – ranging  from psychiatric input, specialist voluntary sector support, to help with someone’s daily living skills, employment, benefits, for example, and peer support.

 As a former care coordinator with the north’s CMHT,  Bartek knows how tough it is on the caseload heavy frontline. “The hub brings the opportunity to respond beyond crisis,” says Bartek, “to not have to say ‘no’ to people”. The new approach means support for those who don’t meet the criteria for secondary care services;  for all who pass through the door “finding ways to change what happens quicker, and that’s not replicated”.

 Bartek says he wanted to do something “more consistent with my social work training, around social care and recovery”, and brings his frontline expertise to the hub’s  multi-disciplinary team of senior practitioners.  Referral to the new integrated clinical and social care service means a person’s needs can be identified quickly (the team brings nursing, social work and occupational therapy expertise) and triaged to appropriate support.  So if needed Bartek will speak directly to the CMHT if someone requires secondary care; but the hub also works with nurses from primary care (through the Primary Care Support Service, or Pass team) and the voluntary sector (Community Options Team, COT).


Backing up GPs

Diana Alfageme has been working with the Pass team since its embryonic days, helping to shape how GPs might be supported around their patients’ mental health. The  team of four mental health nurses is working across four GP clusters in north Lambeth, up to seven practices each, and spending between one to three days a week at identified surgeries, working with patients and their GP. Working in a GP practice has “opened up my ears and eyes” says Diana who brings a wealth of experience to her role.

After qualifying as a mental health nurse, Diana worked as a forensic mental health nurse with clients in medium secure units, primarily with clients serving long periods of admission and detention. What was important in these situations was addressing the person’s holistic needs within the restriction of their detention status. Moving into care co-ordination in 2008, was a ‘”shock to the system…. and a massive learning curve”, says Diana of the more lone worker approach. The focus on caseloads, risk and clear documentation, meant you “never switch off” and it was difficult to balance this with the therapeutic relationship you want with the client while also having to keep ahead on issues around benefits, housing and so on.

 Diana’s calming personae would put anyone at their ease, however, working in primary care has meant further adapting her skills and her approach and she has been surprised at how much can be achieved in a relatively short time span with the ability to work more creatively with the person directing their own support needs.  It’s early days and it is an ongoing learning curve. She tells me of someone she’s been working with who suffers from depression who had not appeared to have made much progress for a number of years. However, after 12 weeks things seem to be changing ( as reported by GP). The person had struggled with their medication, had tried counselling and felt very stuck. Now things are improving… The person’s meds have been reviewed and adjusted, her mood is lifting and she has been motivated to reconnect with counselling. She reported she benefited from seeing Diana at the GP practice, knowing that there was seamless communication and care between herself and her GP. She also benefited from sign posting to benefits agencies and knowledge that there was a wealth of non-statutory services available within primary care.

 “The  initial reaction from the GPs has also been positive as they are are seeing improved communication, better response rates for their patients and improved outcomes for their patients,” adds Diana.

  “It’s still early days but it feels it is running well, ” says GP Raj Mitra from the Lambeth Walk group practice in Kennington. “Having Gideon Lamptey (from the Pass team) with us once a week is helping us better coordinate care for patients with serious mental health issues. After 18 years as a GP it’s like a dream come true. It’s a big step for us to be able to have this access, previously it was that you had to be referred into secondary care to get any support, now they are coming out to us and it links to the voluntary sector.”

 Joint working

Mark Young, manager of the Community Options team (COT), which brings a group of voluntary sector organisations to the hub, says the individual’s needs are important.  He is inspired by the new way of working. Mark was involved with the original Collaborative AAP (Assessment, Action and Planning) prototype, which helped to shape the hub’s new front door.

 “The joint working approach is really positive, especially the daily referral meetings and the two-hour weekly review where we discuss people in more detail, ” he says. “Access  to the 12 week support isn’t sealed in stone and there’s lots of flexibility and I feel listened to and that suggestions are taken on board. It’s all about what benefits the person and we have to be guided by the individual.”

 It is also about people understanding ‘the offer’ (Collaborative/hub language for what’s on offer should people be referred). For example, where relevant people can access a  personal budget –  it could be for something like a camera, or a course that helps someone’s well being. There is also the added dimension of both formal and informal peer support.

 Missing Link peer supporters share their lived experience and can meet those referred to the hub for up to 12 weeks in the community.  “I think the hub team are really open to doing things differently and as such appreciate the contribution of peer support, ” says Missing Link Coordinator Lucas Teague (pictured right). “I think there is still some way to go though in getting peer supporters properly integrated. Presently the budget covers peer supporters to offer 2 hours paid work with their peer, we need additional capacity for more of them to attend the client review meetings. From what we’ve seen with the original AAP prototype having the right mix of people around the table in the right numbers helps to change the dynamic and bring a different perspective. This is crucial if we are looking to view mental health issues jointly within a social and clinical context.”

 The hub team has come a long way since it waited in anticipation for the phones to ring. Since that day some 286 referrals have passed through the new front door.  The focus remains on targeting resources and identifying needs.

 Bartek explains: “People may be functioning fairly well, for example, if they suffer from depression or anxiety, they may not need 12 weeks support, so it is about finding ways to build skills/confidence;  they may be waiting to see the IAPT (Improved Access to Psychological Therapies) so it might be about getting someone to do something everyday that’s focused and targeted.”

 It’s a demanding time but Bartek likes his job. “I find being in a position to help people a privilege,” he says.  “Our task is not that much compared to what some of the service users and carers have to do to get through each day, we have the opportunity to ‘step back’, they don’t. Sometimes you do get fed up  but then usually one of your colleagues or a positive shift in a client’s circumstances gives us a much needed lift.”

 People can be introduced to the hub by their GP and it is hoped that self introduction will be piloted soon.

Karen Hooper

Photos: Sophie Walker






Reflections on a prototype

How the blueprint for the new Living Well Network Hub was shaped

Mark Young was working as a Community Support Guide when he took part in the Lambeth Living Well Collaborative’s AAP (Assessment, Action, Planning) prototype in the summer of 2012.The prototype brought together a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and peer supporters to work differently with three key risk groups from secondary and primary care.

Mark,  (pictured left with Gideon Lamptey from the Primary Care and Support Service, and Liz Lawrence from Community Connectors) who was working with the Community Options Team (COT), found the experience invaluable and it has given him an excellent vantage point as the Living Well Network Hub opens for business. The journey highlights the co-production ethos to treat everyone as partners in service design and delivery.

Reflecting at the time on the intensive six-week prototype Mark explained that “everyone invested a lot of effort, put their jobs on hold (or did their job as well, scaled down a bit). It was great to be able to meet up with the team three times a week. “I liked the fact that clients weren’t assigned to specific people, it was more a team’s caseload and that each member brought different skills… On the COT team we all have similar support service backgrounds. I liked the way that every client was discussed in detail and really valued the input of peer supporters. “While people did form specific relationships with clients, the open caseload as a team responsibility worked well.” It also helped Mark to recognise that working with people on what works best for them can also be a bonus, for example, “engaging on a practical level (helping someone to have their flat cleaned and putting someone in touch with an old friend) felt like a result”. Having access to personal budgets also helped people’s goals to be more achievable.

Mark says having access to peer support advice was an excellent resource. It also highlighted different approaches to safeguarding and risk. “As support workers we tend to go out in twos at first to ensure things are ok… Peer supporters didn’t have the same barriers as members of the team may have.” Peer supporters from the first Missing Link cohort involved in the prototype said they felt valued, “that at last our voices could be heard amongst clinicians”,said one. “We were up for the challenge to be tested by the complex cases and everyone was very supportive, said another. “They appreciated our input, which was our lived experience and human-centred approach to service users”.

Commenting on the new hub Mark outlines the similarities, meeting regularly to discuss clients, “we have input from a number of teams with different skills/knowledge and good access to other services within the Living Well Network,” he says.

The second cohort of Missing Link peer supporters are now working with referrals from the hub for up to 12 weeks in the community. “I think the hub team are really open to doing things differently and as such appreciate the contribution of peer support, ” says Missing Link Coordinator Lucas Teague. “I think there is still some way to go though in getting peer supporters properly integrated. Presently the budget covers peer supporters to offer 2 hours paid work with their peer, we need additional capacity for more of them to attend the client review meetings. From what we’ve seen with the original AAP prototype having the right mix of people around the table in the right numbers helps to change the dynamic and bring a different perspective. This is crucial if we are looking to view mental health issues jointly and within a clinical and social context.”


Karen Hooper

Photo: Sophie Walker



Mosaic on course for 2014

Exciting educational links are being made at the Living Well Partnership site

It was a great way to see out 2013 when Mosaic Clubhouse members celebrated their achievements at a special awards ceremony, followed by a party. 

The event highlighted the successful partnerships growing between Mosaic (which hosts the Living Well Partnership in Effra Road, Brixton) and the City Lit and Lambeth College. 

Members proved their hard work gaining Certificates of Achievement (City Lit) in Customer Services, Peer Support, British Sign Language and Money Management. Meanwhile, those who have been attending year-long courses in Computers, Creative Writing and Basic Literacy (Lambeth College) received Certificates of Attendance. 

All courses are run at the Living Well Partnership site; the idea being that people will use this as a stepping stone to further their education and attend courses at the colleges. 

Alison Backhouse, Lambeth Project Coordinator, praised the enthusiasm from Mosaic members to open the doors to the City Lit in Lambeth. “You really helped us to get going,” she said. Michael Ratcliffe, Interim Adult Learning Quality and Curriculum Manager, Education, Learning and Skills – London Borough of Lambeth (pictured presenting Byron with his Customer Services’ certificate) promised lots of opportunities in 2014, including a commitment to enhanced money management courses to protect people’s “financial fitness”. 

Summing it up for Mosaic, Nancy Holden, Support Worker said, “it was a great event to reflect on members’ achievements; City Lit courses are up and running again this year at Mosaic giving more people the chance to take part”. 

Karen Hooper

Photo: Georgina Rodgers


Vital link to personal budgets

A new report and toolkit have been shaped by the work of two local lived experience advisors

Two former members of Vital Link (the service user and carer group that helped to reshape mental health services in Lambeth) have been involved in a three-year study on personal budgets.

Lisa Shokir (pictured above), a stalwart campaigner for people who use services was joined by carer Dawn Downs (in the last year of the research) as lived experience advisors on The People Study (Personalisation Evaluating Outcomes, Practice and Lived Experience of Mental Health Service Users).The research was carried out on four local authority sites in England by the McPin Foundation and Rethink Mental Illness, in partnership with Kings College London and the University of Birmingham. It was funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

“We wanted to get information from people who had applied for a budget and interview them three times in a year, ” says Lisa. “We had to write a report to update on personal budgets and a user-friendly toolkit has been designed based on the information we gathered.” Lisa and Dawn were filmed during the study.

“It was interesting looking at the different criteria on the different sites around England,” adds Lisa. “I’ve learnt a lot too doing case studies, data analysis and coding.” The journey came to an end in October when the two joined another researcher from one of the sites to talk about their findings to social workers in Norwich. “I’ve come to realise that personal budgets are a great concept but difficult to implement because of costs. I will miss people I’ve been working with but I’ve already had a call about another project.”

Personal Budgets in mental health. An insider’s guide for people using mental health services, carers and mental health workers.
Download for free at

The website gives a link to personal budget stories.

The findings are also presented in a paper: Larsen et al. (2013), ‘Implementing personalisation for people with mental health problems: a comparative case study of four local authorities in England: Journal of Mental Health 22 (2): 174-182

Karen Hooper

Peer support – part of our DNA

How peer support is changing lives in Lambeth.

“The level of support I am giving is the same level of support I received as a peer supporter and this has helped a lot with my recovery.”

“What I’m doing for me, I’m continuing with a title, says Patrick Nyikavaranda, Co-ordinator of Solidarity in a Crisis, demonstrating the reciprocal value of peer support. This out of hours project, along with Missing Link and Connecting Communities are the flagship peer support initiatives from the Living Well Collaborative (the Collaborative).

Outside of these, the inspirational peer to peer work at Mosaic Clubhouse (as hosts at the Living Well Partnership) is motivating and giving people a purpose in life. (click here to read Linda’s story)

The Collaborative has developed the Peer Support Framework to support its vision to make peer support “part of our DNA”… to grow and develop peer support so that it becomes possible for anyone using mental health services to offer to help others, or to ask for help from another person with lived experience, ” says Nicholas Campbell-Watts, Director of Mental Health, Certitude.

This comes at a critical time as welfare reforms, ATOS  and the ‘bedroom tax’ further disenfranchise those already made vulnerable  by the damaging impact of social inequalities.


Learning from experience

An extensive range of learning is emerging from an evaluation of peer and vocational support,  which is helping to forge an innovative pilot project.  “We found the extent of personal and social invalidation reflected the extent of the distress, ” says Mark Bertram.  “The good news is that with the right conditions people can find their own way through, turn their lives around and improve mental health, well being and quality of life.”

Lambeth and Southwark Mind co-produces Self- Management courses (mixed group, women’s group & BME group, in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation), as well as the fortnightly Peer Support Group, where lunch in a local cafe is much valued. -For more information contact

As a group member reflects:  “I have been to many groups before only here have I found I can talk openly without fear of judgement.”

The Collaborative vision to tap into the “huge potential  of service users and carers” is timely… their stories are  testament to the value of lived experience. As one mother so  poignantly captured of her carers’ meetings:

“The people who attend the group have become important because they are living with the realities of getting through each day with mental illness, not the headline grabbing sort, but the humdrum day to day sort and I realised that I had support when I felt no-one could help.”

Solidarity in a Crisis, which also supports carers has seen its number of referrals increasing. “There’s few people who can say ‘I saved someone’s life today’, ” says Patrick of his team of 8. “Several of our peer supporters by being empathetic and listening have been able to support someone  who was talking about taking their own life.”

Hamza talks of peer support as his “calling” and describes the “seismic internal change in myself” and seeing “the light come on in others that I’ve encouraged”.

Missing Link’s peer supporters have reached more then 1,300 service users, both formally and informally as they meet with people on wards and in the community after their  transition from hospital.   A peer supporter describes how a client called him when he was relapsing into psychosis

” I asked him why he called me and why he didn’t call the CPN and he basically said again because it’s too clinical.”

Co-ordinator Lucas Teague believes in people’s ability to change and reform their lives and is inspired by his team’s achievements. “They work with difficult situations and complex people and the success reaffirms the quality of lived experience. There’s rarely an emergency because of the high regard given to making people feel supported and this enables  them to feel autonomous in making decisions in their work.”

Such is its success another Missing Link cohort has gone through the eight-week training and peer supporters have started  working with the Community Options (COT) and Primary Care Support Service (Pass) teams as people face the uncertain transition from their community mental health teams to their GP.

Some people aren’t ready for  the level of engagement it takes to be part of a formal peer support project: “What’s required is that leap of faith… for some it’s the first time that their lived experience has been seen as a quality and that can be a real revelation to people, ” adds Lucas.

The intent  to grow more informal peer support networks to build community resilience remains a  Collaborative aspiration. Timebanking and Community Connecting go some way to address  the isolation people face. 

Community Connecting (Certitude) encourages people at risk to connect with others around shared interests, to grow their confidence in trying new things and meeting new people. It’s online platform, Connect and Do, helps people map where they are and plan how they move forward and share their experiences.

  “I was housebound most of the time due to mental health needs, but my coach helped me to find a knitting group in my local area and attend the group every week, ” says Alice. “I met new people there and made friends.  My friends are teaching me new stitches and crochet techniques.  I find knitting is very peaceful and relaxing, taking my mind off from all the worries.”

Timebanking is another way that peer support can be embraced. For every one hour you spend helping someone you will earn 1 Time Credit. Everyone’s time is valued equally so you give an hour and you get an hour back.

“Time Bank is not about saving money,” stresses Elisee Silcott, Timebank Broker with Southwest Lambeth (a partnership with the Collaborative).”You have to be prepared to give something back.” Elisee links in with people at the local  Hetherington Group Practice and, with her other hat on as  Employment and Training Officer she is able to reach residents at her base at Riverside in Acre Lane, Brixton.

“I joined Timebank at a time in my life when I was not doing anything,” says 19-year-old Duane. “My mental ill health I felt was holding me back from engaging and I was in and out of trouble, until my keyworker advised me to join Timebank. It was fun for me as I picked up a new skill learning how to design t-shirts. At the workshop I was also encouraged to think about setting up my own business as a second option to finding a career.” For more information contact 

The power of peer support rests with its simplicity. As Patrick Nyikavaranda puts it, “for the 5 people I will support in the next 5 days, between one and 3 of them will go on to support another 5 or more.”


Follow Lucy’s story in our peer support video:


Who cares?

It’s not just those who use services who appreciate peer support, carers also need someone to talk to

I care for my son, 26, who became a ‘service user’ about a year ago. I was to become very familiar with this term. He had been having problems in his personal life for a few years and had deteriorated quickly, due to an incident that triggered extreme behaviours.  I’m still unable to tell anyone how I got to this point in my life, however, I believe the support from the carers’ group has impacted in a positive way. I attended my first meet in January. Shellshocked is a term that describes how I appeared.  The facilitator who invited me was there to greet and put me at ease. We introduced ourselves, each person with a life story that I hadn’t realised existed.  I couldn’t believe the struggles people went through in dealing with extremes of behaviour, psychosis  and paranoias, some of which I recognised as my sons. I queried the term ‘service user’, that was my son, who he had become. I’m not going to patronise the people who come to the group because, like myself they don’t see themselves as some kind of hero , more like a  ‘lying martyr’ as others have  heard me describe myself and the care I give. At that first meet, hearing people’s frustrations and looking at the faces of the people, all women who cared for (and still do) a loved one , it felt alright to admit that things get tough… no judgment, just a feeling of empathy, understanding and weariness that came across in that first meet. The people  who attend the group have become  important because they are still living with the realities of getting through each day with mental illness, not the headline grabbing sort, but the humdrum day to day sort and I realised that I had support when I felt no-one could help. All in one meet… amazing.”

A room with a view

At Mosaic Clubhouse members and staff walk side by side

“I came into Mosaic one day and Lee (Employment, Information & Training Coordinator) said, ‘I want your opinion’… It was the first time in my life anyone had ever asked me for my opinion.”

There’s a silence as Linda Oneill, 47, relives that moment of validation. We are in the information hub, the pulse of the Living Well Partnership in Brixton, where Linda as a Mosaic Clubhouse member and trustee helps to  host  the service, dealing with enquiries on the information line and signposting and offering support to those who are experiencing mental health issues.

She feels lucky that her hospital admission for severe depression in 2010 lasted only eight days. “They thought it would make me worse to stay there so I was discharged to the Home Treatment Team,” she says.

A visionary on that team took her to Mosaic, which was then based in Balham. It was a time when she couldn’t hold a conversation and felt totally isolated, “I only had one friend who was based in Maidstone, ” she says.

“Lee put me to work on the magazine, In the Mo, I’d never used a computer before… the reason Mosaic worked was because people were patient, ” she says. Slowly she started to gain confidence and started to chat to other members and was really surprised during a Recovery Star workshop when another member asked if she could give her a hug.”I panicked… It was the first time I’d hugged someone… ” After that she started to appreciate the value of relationships as she got  to know more members and  was able to share her lived experiences.”

Linda has come a long way – she speaks to lots of professionals about Mosaic and recently did peer support training with City Lit. She’s a great ambassador for this service  because “I know what it’s like to bang your head against a brick wall”, that feeling that no-one is listening. At Mosaic both staff and members walk side by side she says. “What’s important for others is that you can listen; it doesn’t get rid of the problem but it eases their mind.”



Hamza’s calling

The peer support path – an amazing journey from addiction to recovery

How has peer support shaped your recovery journey?

I am an addict and my recovery journey began when, after being in active addiction for 20 years, my drug counsellor suggested I try Narcotics Anonymous. There I met addicts who had found a way to not only remain abstinent but to realise a much more meaningful and rewarding existence. The 12 step program that was put together by hopeless alcoholics in the 1930s has been (and still is) my salvation.

This basic spiritual program of action has inspired me to look at how I might be useful to others who suffer from addiction and/or mental and emotional turmoil. Before this, I had tried to reduce my habit largely on my own, using will power; with this disastrous approach I ended up being sectioned and hospitalised before being treated in the community where I was medicated and received various forms of treatment.

Initially when I left hospital and was on medication I continued using narcotics and for a while this was my solution for getting through the day. It was only when the drugs no longer gave me enough respite from misery and depression that I accepted the solution of the 12 steps. Since then peer support in its various forms has been my ‘passion’ and I feel as if it might to some degree be my calling.


You have experience of both informal and formal peer support, which has linked you  into other networks?

My experience of formal (including Solidarity in a Crisis, Missing Link) and informal peer support has given me great insight into the potential of both forms of mutual aid. The collaborative possibilities between them seem boundless and  I have collaborated with a myriad of organisations, like the Certitude Community Connecting, Connect and Do, and Travel Buddy projects, to name but a few.


You say you are inspired when people you work with find their creative burst.

Yes I have indeed been inspired by feeling the seismic internal change in myself when I’ve explored my ‘passions’ and/or creativity. I have also seen the light come on in others that I’ve encouraged to do so. 

This inspiration has led to me creating a personal development project for people with a lived experience of active addiction and/or mental and emotional turmoil. The project is called Recovery In Action and I’ve been given funding and support from CSV (Community Service Volunteering) and the Lambeth Living Well Collaborative Peer Exchange initiative.


How do these initiatives spur your hopes for the future?

I hope to see more forward thinking initiatives like the Peer Exchange. I hope the Collaborative continues to set positive examples like this for other organisations to learn from and maybe emulate. I am hopeful that my network of like minded individuals will grow and become part of the necessary change to support planning with our uniquely holistic approach to helping people maintain good levels of durable well being. My vision is for the implementation of this basic approach to be far reaching and boundless in its ability to influence positive change within services, organisations and charities that are resourced to help people with mental illnesses.

From just about surviving to thriving

An evaluation of peer projects has produced compelling evidence for shaping the future

An extensive range of learning is emerging from an evaluation of peer and vocational support, which is helping to forge an innovative pilot project.

The plan is to explore the integration of vocational and peer support, so that peer supporters can get vocational guidance to move forward and service users on vocational journeys can link in to peer support.

Mark Bertram says that one of the factors that came through from analysing the one-to-one indepth interviews (with seven people involved in vocational and peer support projects) was the need for agencies to work more closely to ensure that peer supporters have a career pathway.

Mark says that earning money, either on training or peer support projects was important because people felt valued.The  cost benefits of peer support emerged too – both for the peers supported and for peer supporters who were less likely to have a crisis or return to hospital. An economic model is needed to formulate the cost savings.

“We wanted to find out what works for people. What are the conditions and types of person centred support that facilitate a learning change and growth process,” says Mark- who currently manages vocational services for SLaM in Lambeth. “Having a successful user run vocational project here, takes peer support to another level.


Critical time

“We’ve got a  large, compelling evidence base that tells us, as in the title of our report suggests, that when people’s life experiences and assets are validated, they can go from ‘Just about Surviving to Thriving’.”

This comes at a critical time as welfare reforms, ATOS and the ‘bedroom tax’ further disenfranchise those already made vulnerable by the damaging impact of social inequalities.

As well as being validated as an individual, those in vocational projects highlighted self referral, and equality based trusting relationships as important. They also wanted activities that matched their aspirations and to be guided by insightful people who were efficient but  compassionate, acknowledging that change can be slow, difficult and each person has to work at their own pace.

One person said:

“I have something positive in my life – now I have an answer to the question what did you do today- I’m coming alive again.”

The evaluation highlights a number of themes for shaping the future:

  • How do we scale up peer support so it has a significant cultural impact on mental health services?
  • Peer supporters tell us as a result of their work hospital admissions are being avoided and people are being discharged from community mental health teams (CMHTs). How do we formulate a model that calculates the cost savings of peer support?
  • We need to identify what constitutes effective support for peer supporters and ensure it is in place.
  • We need a co-produced mechanism that monitors the quality of mental health services from a service user perspective.
  • A  continuum of peer support can be developed from a hub that has learning and hope at its heart . This could start from survivor/user led self management programmes and extend into a whole range of peer support- both individual and groups.

“What’s really important to bear in mind is that all the life struggles people experience are always understandable and it’s these struggles that seriously damage people’s mental health and well being. We found the extent of personal and social invalidation reflected the extent of distress. The good news is that with the right conditions people can find their own way through, turn their lives around and improve mental health, well being and quality of life. Our approach has always been authentically person-centred, to find out what happened to people and what they want to do – rather than what’s ‘wrong’ with them.”

All in a day’s work

Peer supporter Carl shares his insight on why Missing Link is fit for purpose

“It happens a lot that people will be discharged from the hospital, they are given care packs to help, but they are discharged and they are told: “If you’ve got any problems here’s the number of the CPN, give them a ring”. In my experience, they are not really the right people, because they are far too clinical. Even care coordinators… which is why people are reluctant to call them.

 “So, when he started relapsing into psychosis a client called me up because he had my card; I’d given him on the ward. So I went to meet him the next day because I couldn’t visit him at the time, it was too late in the evening. Anyway, I spent two hours with him, sitting listening, listening through why he felt he was relapsing. I bought him a coffee and we sat and had a chat and then I explained our service. I actually asked him why he called me and why he didn’t call the CPN and he basically said because again it’s too clinical.

“There is a need for the clinical side of it, I am not trying to say there isn’t but it’s just all totally unbalanced. And that’s the way I see it and that’s the way the people I work with  feel about it. They just offer tablets, more pills, which they don’t want because they don’t seem to work in the first place. So that’s why he said he called me because he thought he would get a better response because at least I would sit and listen, and not judge him, and not advise him in any way. We are not there to advise people we are just there to sit and listen with them, we’re not there to tell them what to do, and it’s not our job.

 “He appreciated the fact that I’ve gone out to visit him when I did, instead of having to wait for 3 weeks that it might have taken to see his CPN or his care coordinator if he could have actually got hold of him or her.

 “The two hours we spent together just listening, chatting and just being with him, he actually really appreciated that. And then I asked him if he’d like to continue to see me again in the same sort of structure and he said he would. So that was a really good experience. It’s quite interesting actually because he told the psychiatrist that he was relapsing and instead of calling him or her he called somebody else. I don’t know what they felt about that but he told them why, that he gets better service, person centred… he did tell me that his psychiatrist was actually impressed and he had heard of our service. And I think that was the first episode, that he’d actually heard of one of his patients actually using the service and then the important feedback he got from it.

 “So all in all it was a good experience, it just illustrates really that the peer support service is fit for purpose, and works. And the people who use it benefit from it, and we benefit from it as well.”

This extract is edited from a peer story telling session run by the Innovation Unit. The idea was to collect stories and then map the insights of peer supporters against the themes emerging (these include transition, medication, positive impacts of peer support, lived experience and dignity in acute wards). These will then be shared with the Collaborative to help co-design and shape services. We will be bringing more stories over the coming months. Thanks to Fan Sissoko and Ajo Clua.

Glad to be alive

Michael and Sam reflect on an inspiring journey together

 I didnt think I was going to make it… I got involved with gangs and got attacked by guys with machetes when I was 15. I knew they were coming for me and I had to wait… I was afraid and confused and ended up in a coma.


Michael  Justice says it was hard to get over his horrific experience and by 19 he was a heavy drugs smoker, just to “keep calm”.  His mental health deteriorated and he’s had long stints in hospital – his first admission for three and later two years.

“It was stressful, to stay in hospital,” he says. What kept him moving forward? “Friendly people, wards with computers…”

 Michael had been in hospital for a year in 2012, when he met Missing Link peer supporter Sam on the ward. Sam says: “He is a really lovely guy and very quiet. He loves shopping… He was hard to actually talk to, to get a really good conversation out of him at first.

“But I’d arrived and got him chatting. The staff said, ‘I don’t know what you’ve done Sam but you’ve got him talking’ . Sam was keen to keep Michael motivated. “As soon as I said to him, ‘what can we do for you’, he grabbed me and said, ‘shopping, take me out’. So I took him to the West End, we had a lovely day and he really enjoyed it and bought what he wanted.”

 Michael was on escorted leave and Sam assured staff, that “he didn’t run off, he stayed with me, he didn’t cause me any trouble or make me feel uncomfortable.He was a pleasure to be with. He was happy and we got on really well.”

Before then she helped to sort out a problem with his money, which was five weeks late. “This upset him… he felt angry, he felt let down… and I had to calm him down, and I said, ‘don’t worry, I am going to sort it, you will go shopping, this day will happen’. And in the end obviously it did, the money did come along.”

There were other issues to explore. “His friends were using substances and he was losing his unescorted leave and that’s where we sort of come in and we try to motivate him and that was working and me and him got on really well. So I am quite happy, and the staff were really pleased with the work that I was doing.”

Sam supported Michael to go to Mosaic Clubhouse, which hosts the Living Well Partnership, where he takes part in various activities. Looking back Michael feels lucky to be alive and finally feels safe. “When I am inside my home, in my hostel room with my new carpet, Nintendo and new clothes it just makes me happy,” he says.

“I keep my mind occupied, music, training, doing press-ups,sit-ups. I like travelling on trains and the underground.”

Sam says supporting Michael has helped her to achieve her goals. “I’d lost my confidence, I hadn’t been on the tube for 18 years,” she says. She joined Vital Link(service user and carer group, which helped to reshape Lambeth mental health services), which gave her the foundations for her peer support work. She is moved by the great strides Michael has made. “I’ve loved working with him,” she says.

Michael finds it hard to believe that peer supporters have lived experience of mental health. “They come with their beautiful support and they show they are still alive, they are still in one piece and living their lives… It makes me want to achieve my goals and keep safe.”

Part of this story is edited from a peer story telling session run by the Innovation Unit. Thanks to Fan Sissoko and Ajo Clua.

The missing link

Lucas Teague explains what it takes to be Co-ordinator of a successful peer support service

Patience… and believing  in people’s ability to change and reform their lives, as well as  holding onto the important value of relationships, are the qualities Lucas Teague says are essential to his role as Co-ordinator of Missing Link peer support service.

“It’s about being present and there for the person,” says Lucas who brings 10 years’ experience as a support worker to the role. He insists that it was the quality of those  relationships that helped people to turn their lives around.

Missing Link, went live two years ago with 10 peer supporters on wards at Lambeth Hospital, supporting people over 12 weeks as they were discharged from hospital… a time when people are at their most vulnerable. Since then it has reached more than 1,300 people, both formally and informally.

Lucas is inspired and impressed by the ability of the team. “They work with difficult situations and complex people and the success reaffirms the quality of lived experience. There’s rarely an emergency because of the high regard given to making people feel supported and this enables them to feel autonomous in making decisions in their work,” he says.

Such is its success another cohort has gone through the eight-week training and have started  working with the Community Options Team (COT) and Primary Care Support Service (Pass) as people face the transition from their community mental health team back to their GP.

Lucas’ work is about communication: a balance between responding to the strategic needs of the Lambeth Collaborative (his post is hosted by Metropolitan)  and personal needs of his  peer supporters. As part of the Collaborative they have become significant players in an explosion of co-production, redesign and culture change. Their work is taking them beyond the original remit to work with the SWOT (Social Work and Occupational Therapy) team,supporting people to move on from residential care. They are also facilitating Tree of Life workshops – an innovative project to bridge the gap between clients and staff on wards – and are involved in a crisis house prototype.

Denis O’Rourke, Assistant Director Integrated Commissioning – Mental Health, NHS Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group, says the contribution of peer supporters from Missing Link has been “key to all areas of improvement led by the Lambeth Living Well Collaborative over the past two/three years. Their training programme has been an important foundation in helping to bring about this process. We need to significantly increase access to peer support in order to continue to improve and transform services.”

Some people aren’t ready for the level of engagement it takes to be part of a formal peer support project and that’s why access to informal peer support is part of the journey. “What’s required is that leap of faith, for some people it’s the first time that their lived  experience has been seen as a quality and that can be a real revelation to people,” says Lucas.

With peer support at an exciting point, what’s needed adds Lucas is “investment in infrastructure and ongoing employment opportunities within peer support”.


Banking on peer support

Sharing your skills and socialising

“Time Banking is only successful because of peer support. Each member of the time bank inevitably helps another in one way or another at different times, it’s about sharing knowledge, learning and skills exchange,” says Roz McCarthy, Co-ordinator of  Time Bank, Lambeth South Central.

“It took peer support to get people out and on the road  to improving their mental health and well being when we organised a walk talk event.  Time bank members supported each other and shared knowledge on the area, the surrounding nature and the best places to go.  Together they worked through the 5 ways to well being based on what each person experienced on the walk.  This proved to be a great tool to facilitate well being as each person felt that the walk had made a difference to them.  Some said ‘I would never have come if so and so did not invite me.  I don’t do walks, I am glad I came, it was a great day out and when is the next one?’.” Below a member shares their story.


Time bank is not a service that has an exit date like other services within Lambeth

 “It is a very unique service.  You are not just a number but a person and this has restored my confidence and self esteem.  Three years ago I saw myself as a waste of space, today I see myself as a wonderful individual. And I will continue to be a part of the Time Bank.

“The peer support from time bank members was great I was able to socialise with people that had issues around mental health. One of the main things at that time was that it provided an out of hour’s service,  such as Friday night Social, as well as some weekend events which is when I was at my lowest.  Within a few months I had a network of new friends that supported me and I started managing my days and weekends much better

“One of my main areas was that I never went out.  I had worked all my life and was faced with staying at home with an illness I could not begin to understand.  Early intervention from Time Bank staff and the introduction to individual time bank members made all the difference. I felt more supported by people that understood me.

“I found myself doing general tasks, from office work to contacting other time bank members asking them how they were doing and what support they may need.   I was able to go to seminars and do presentations about my involvement with time bank as a service user who had some peer support and the benefits that this provided. I liked tea and chat as this was an opportunity to meet my peers and talk about our week, the support we needed or had had, and ways in which we could support each other through exchanging skills. While at time bank I was encouraged to set up and manage my own project  for various adults within my community. That gave me a sense of value and empowered me to have a voice.”

Airdrina’s Story & Integrated Health and Social Care Personal Budgets

This video is just a small snippet of Airdrina Drake’s story, but a snippet that she and we feel is pretty important.

“Airdrina, My Story So Far” – The impact of personalisation in Lambeth. from Innovation Unit on Vimeo.


Personalisation is at the heart of culture change in Lambeth. For the last 3 years Lambeth has been hard at it, trying to reshape the way everyone looks at mental health support, ensuring that people being supported are enabled to have as much choice and control as possible.

One of the more practical examples of personalising support in Lambeth is our development of integrated health and social care personal budgets (in conjunction with our input into the national Personal Health Budget pilots) – funding and support planning that promotes a person as a whole, not someone artificially split along the bureaucratic lines of health and social care services.

Airdrina Drake was one of the first Lambeth recipients of an integrated personal budget. Before receipt of her personal budget, she was living in a residential care home limited and held back in her life by the services that were funded (to the tune of £62k/annum) to support her to live. Now, living in her own flat, being supported at the times of her choice by the people she’s chosen as support workers, Airdrina is beginning again to live the life she wants, rather than the life services say she can have. This more personalised co-produced approach has freed up £45k/annum which is now able to be used to support many other people to receive support at the right time, in the right place and by the right person.

This film, first shown at a Royal College of Psychiatry event at the beginning of October 2012, proved to be very powerful in illustrating the benefit of personal budgets, and positive feedback was received from many attendees on the day, many asking if they could also share the film within their own trusts and teams. If you would also like to use the film, please get in touch

Feast on your life

“I want to feel better and to help people who are recovering because I have those feelings of mental health to support others,” says VB, a woman who is strong of spirit and resilient to the core.

VB has recently joined Missing Link as a peer supporter on its new venture, working with those who are in transition from their community mental health team. Peer supporters are working with the Community Options (COT) and Primary Care Support Service (Pass) teams, sharing their lived experiences with people for up to 12 weeks in the community. 

Peer support is all about having somebody walk by your side who isn’t trying to fix you but just being there and empathising. While they may support you to do practical things, like sorting your benefits, the uniqueness of Missing Link peer support lies in the fact that those involved have lived experience of mental health. So just having someone to listen could be all it takes to start to turn your life around.   VB knows how this feels because when she was at a low ebb, it was linking with others in similar circumstances that changed her life.

VB praises Missing Link’s co-ordinator Lucas Teague, who has known her since she joined Vital Link and encouraged her to keep believing in herself. Vital Link worked to reshape mental health services and do things differently for people in Lambeth and Missing Link is its prodigy.  The encouragement has helped VB build on her skills. In  2012 she gained certificates in peer evaluation at Southbank University (Qualitative Research and the Advanced Qualitative methods and Vital Involvement in training and learning).

VB says her faith is her foundation and over the years she has built on that, always prepared to try new things to get her through the terrifying things that happened to her in 2004, which  created her mental health problems. After that, her GP referred her to a counsellor and from there she started attending Fanon Resource Centre (Certitude). She joined the women’s group, the choir and started to cook. She gained much from a New Beginnings course (Expert Patient Programme) to help her  cope with her depression. She started volunteering on a ward at Lambeth hospital as part of Fanon’s in-reach work,  thanks to the support of her key worker who walked by her side. ” I know how scarey mental health can be and I want to put something back; that’s why I go and and cook the breakfast every week. I am also cooking voluntarily at the new Living Well Partnership hub once a week, cooking is important to my culture and my recovery.”

Up until  June 2004  VB was happy, healthy with a bright future ahead.  She was born in Jamaica “before independence” and  has four grown up daughters and a son and grandson there. She had moved to England in 2002 and was studying for an NVQ in Health and Social Care.

 VB was living in Brixton and on that fateful summer’s day in 2004 she had popped in to see her friend in the local restaurant where she worked as a chef. Little did she realise that the events about to unfold would change her life forever.

She was enjoying her lunch and talking to her friend when suddenly two masked police officers burst into the kitchen carrying guns and wearing helmets and bullet proof vests.

“One of them pointed a gun in my face and said ‘get down’, says 56-year-old  VB. “I was extremely  frightened… He said something about a drug’s den and I had no idea what he was talking about.”

VB and her friend were made to lie face down; they were handcuffed with plastic ties and transported to Lewisham police station. VB asked the arresting officer for her bag, which had been left in the restaurant but the officer in charge told him to leave it.

The ordeal lasted 18 hours. VB was strip-searched and moved to Catford police station where she was held overnight. She was further traumatised as she had her period at the time. “It was disgraceful the way I was left in that  state in the cell,” she adds.

VB was released the next day without her bag and had to beg the bus fare back to Brixton (her bag containing her bus pass and keys has never been returned, though her mobile phone,  which was also in the bag has).

Looking back on her ordeal, VB says. “I was in shock, I couldn’t remember anything, my head felt like it was exploding. I stopped studying, I was depressed and threatened suicide.”

 The months that followed were agonising. At first VB refused to have a solicitor because “I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, I certainly hadn’t been involved in any criminal activity”. Eventually she changed her mind and after reporting to  Brixton police station several times with her solicitor,  she was told there would be no further action  taken against her. Although she made an official complaint against the police and got a letter back, which confirmed she had been in the  ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ , she Is unhappy about the outcome. The Home Office still holds her passport and she awaits a decision about her right to remain in the country.

VB is resolute that it was those who had lived experience of mental issues that got her through. She is proud as she feasts on her life and looks forward to becoming a peer supporter. “I  feel highly supported by the Collaborative group”, she says.

Karen Hooper

The Art of Recovery

“The anxiety curve is something I have only recently understood and painting or drawing is probably the best thing to do when it is running its course.”

Artists across London shared their work with the public over the Open Studio weekend on October 5th and 6th. Here a Lambeth artist who took part in the project powerfully articulates how art shapes her recovery.

The thing about having the diagnosis, and a label, is a name for what is happening to you.  For me that was a relief for quite a while. It was a way out of the guilt of not being 100%.  When I looked at myself I could detach myself from those things and often those things took up so much of my energy there wasn’t a lot left. Producing art could be done in most moods and on most days and I didn’t find a struggle due to my hard work in the past towards my artwork; I had developed an ability, which not only allowed me to enter university when I was unable to take my other exams due to my episode, but also, continue to work without requiring my mind to be stable, because the ability was already developed.


















I found so many of my troublesome thoughts were about myself and how I would react or people would react to me. If I had more self-esteem I believe this would have been less of a problem. There was once an assembly at school, where we were asked: where do we get our esteem. My answer now is the same as general well-being.  You cannot depend on someone to give it to you. I am not saying this because people are unreliable, but the independence in itself gives you esteem. Similar to teaching a child, independent thinking is important for the same reason. There are things which make me very very happy. But if I  seek them when I am feeling unwell, their function changes.

 I was very often told to distract myself from troubling thoughts. But I wanted to be as much a part of society as anyone else and to do that you have to do boring things, things you don’t want to do in which you cannot simply stop and do something distracting. Even  when producing art, you have to set up, you have to clean up. Right now I don’t see intrusive thoughts as a massive problem anymore and recently I have thought it was in the past for good until it comes back and I think it will never leave.

The anxiety curve is something I have only recently understood and painting or drawing is probably the best thing to do when it is running its course. If it is a powerful thought, a distraction will delay it, reassurance may not be available, and so waiting for it to pass while relaxing seems like a good option. I don’t like a lot of relaxation techniques because the less I am doing the more my mind wonders. I know the point is to clear your mind! But I  have done this and feel very sad when there’s not an idea or person in my life running through my head. So I suppose my journey is to train my mind to think about what I want to think about. 

First step… trust

“When you do time, you can’t get it back… it made me learn not to come back,” says 24-year-old Aaron who had to learn the hard way when his drug-related lifestyle landed him in prison and having to deal with mental health issues.

“When you do time, you can’t get it back… it made me learn not to come back,” says 24-year-old Aaron who had to learn the hard way when his drug-related lifestyle landed him  in prison and having to deal with mental health issues.

“I was happy when I was high,” says Aaron looking back at his days of smoking cannabis, “but it was the weed that made me crazy.”

It was during the 11 months spent between prison and hospital that  he decided it was time  to move on  and “stopped smoking weed”.  He says that talking to chaplains and prison staff helped, as well as the support he got from his mum and family (he has six brothers). 

When he came out of hospital he moved into a hostel for two years. He had a short relapse in 2011. This year he moved into his own council flat. “It feels good having my own home, I feel fully independent.” Going to the gym, cooking and healthy eating have helped him to stay well. “I learnt a lot inside, how to cook, how to make healthy sandwiches and I did yoga. I got 12 certificates while in hospital from gardening to managing mental health, understanding about the triggers to relapsing was really important.” 

Building trust has played a major role in Aaron’s recovery and his hopes for the future to be a car mechanic. At the start of the year he was referred by his hostel key worker to the West Norwood SMaRT garage run by First Step Trust  (FST), a  charity providing employment opportunities for those excluded from work because of mental health issues and other disadvantages. The SMaRT garage (which stands for Socially Minded and Responsible Trading) gives practical on the job experience and links to nationally-recognised qualifications and support applying for jobs.

Aaron had already started a college course in mechanics through another organisation (he gained Level 1 City & Guilds in Motor Vehicle Mechanics) but the funding was cut and he was keen not to lose the skills he’d gained. He attended Bromley College three days a week and gained his Level 2 City & Guilds and plans to do Level 3 next year.

But on Mondays and Wednesdays he can be found at the West Norwood garage, where his skills and confidence have gone from strength to strength.  “It’s a good environment to learn, the staff are patient, so the willingness to learn becomes greater because of the support,” he says. 

Aaron has had a chance to travel to the trust’s other site in Woolwich and attended the launch of the Crayford garage recently. Vicki Butler-Henderson, racing driver and presenter on Discovery Channel’s Fifth Gear and BBC’s Top Gear got the  proceedings off to a racing start. Aaron says he was moved by the inspirational stories about the workforce and how people get back into work. “It makes me feel I want to get a career and a salary. I’m 24 and I think it’s about time. When I came out of hospital the first time I got a job in Gap (he worked in retail from the age of 16 and says this experience has helped him when dealing with customers at West Norwood).  This time I want to get my CV up to date and shape up to mechanics.”

The garage is a place where there’s an understanding that people are coming from a similar place… even if little is said. “Men talk about cars and things,” says Aaron wryly. “Everyone has a rough patch in their lives, it’s about how you recover; it makes or breaks you I guess.”

 SMART opening














 Garage Manager Grant Holland can empathise with Aaron and his workforce.  It was only six years ago when he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia and dyspraxia. ” I’ve spent 34 years doing what I enjoy – repairing cars, teaching in college and running workshops. If anyone is having a hard time I can say, if you want to do it you can, I’m a prime example.I’ve got shed loads of qualifications to degree level but I ‘ve struggled all my life with paperwork and I  can’t play cricket because of problems with co-ordination.”

Six months into the job Grant is clearly an inspiration to the workforce members who are trained in a range of jobs from cleaning the cars to helping rebuild engines. “You have to support people to come to an understanding that they have to start somewhere,” he says, “and then learning to treat people as apprentices.”

Employment Development Worker Guyto-Joseph Vel is moved by the transformation he has seen in people in his 16 months in post. “The guys are often shy, withdrawn , sometimes don’t speak and have a lot of self doubt… the transformation is incredible as they get to know each other and socialise. ” The workforce is evolving and changing with up to 26 people on its books. Guyto runs a job club, supporting people to update their CVs and meeting to discuss their Personal Development Plans. The garage had funding to put people through their driving tests – three people have just passed their driving theory and two will be test ready by December.

FST’s CEO, Ronnie Wilson MBE, says FST recognises the importance of giving people the chance to experience the pressures, responsibilities and expectations of working life. The people who join us have experienced exclusion or are unable to participate in mainstream opportunities such as the work programme.
Work and access to paid employment plays a crucial role in supporting people’s recovery and full participation in society. FST and other organisations involved in the Living Well Collaborative and the wider community can all play a positive part in supporting this. We would strongly urge you to use SMaRT garage at West Norwood and Abbeville’s Restaurant in Clapham. For more information please go to


9 Windsor Centre,
Windsor Grove
West Norwood
SE27 9NT

0208 761 2269

Photos: © First Step Trust 2013

News from Abbeyvilles’ restaurant next month.

There’s no place like home

Forty-year-old Ricardo feels that his life has taken a change for the better since he moved into his new home in Herne Hill.

Forty-year-old Ricardo feels that his life has taken a change for the better since he moved into his new home in Herne Hill.

The placement with Southside Partnership is a five-bedroomed terrace house with large garden minutes away from the bustling Herne Hill ‘village’, with its extensive amenities and close to Brockwell Park.

Ricardo, who hails from the Portuguese island of Madeira, has been living in England for 13 years. Before he became unwell he was living in a flat in Tulse Hill. He ended up in hospital in 2010 after he started hearing voices and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was in hospital for about three months. His lack of English made him feel “isolated” though he was visited by his sister.  He became stable after having depot injections, which he continues to have every two weeks.

On leaving hospital Ricardo moved to a hostel in Streatham. He is proud that he was “very independent” at the hostel. “I wasn’t escorted when I went out”, he adds, “I was pushing myself forward trying different routes when I went out.”

He also tried volunteering with First Step Trust’s gardening project. Ricardo lived at the hostel until he moved to a temporary placement in Streatham for three months. The move to his latest placement was facilitated by his care co-ordinator and a former member of the SWOT (Social Work and Occupational Therapy) team.

“I wasn’t happy in Streatham because my room was too small and I couldn’t have any of my belongings out,” says Ricardo. “I’m happy here because I have a much bigger room….”

He is also getting to know the other two residents who moved into the house shortly before him and is happy in the knowledge that there is support on hand from house key worker Earl Boothe.

As well as helping with the move, the SWOT team has helped him to think about his future with his Support and Recovery plan.  The placement package gives Ricardo five hours of support a week and he is looking to have English tuition classes and has expressed an interest in photography – he likes “buying cameras and taking photographs”.

Ricardo is taking each day as it comes as he settles into his new surroundings. He enjoys going to Brockwell Park and likes to go out for coffee in Brixton; and in true Portuguese style enjoys eating pastel de nata (custard tarts).

He likes to watch TV and is a keen Arsenal supporter. He enjoys listening to music – Bon Jovi and Jimi Hendrix are his favourites. One of the best things that has happened to him is he now has a girlfriend called Isabella whom he met in Macdonald’s.

“It’s very good to have a girlfriend to keep me company and to have someone to share things with,” he says with a big smile, “she’s been encouraging me to speak more English.”


With this latest placement Ricardo feels inspired because he knows he is closer to achieving his dream of having his own flat and is looking to this happening within two years.

Karen Hooper

Volunteering and connecting can be a positive force in recovery as Peter Duncan is discovering.

Volunteering and connecting can be a positive force in recovery as Peter Duncan is discovering.

Peter Duncan’s tattoo is more than a work of art – it’s his reality check and a stark reminder of the “demon depression that keeps holding me back”.

“I see those demon eyes staring out at me whenever I get nervous in a crowd…” says Peter of his tattooed arm. Peter has suffered with depression since his mother died in March 2011. But despite the dark days Peter is making great strides… taking control of his life in his various volunteer roles and finding the therapy that works for him.

Peter, 47, had been caring for his mum for six years when she died unexpectedly after an accident (his dad died in 2011). Four days later he suffered an angina attack… and his situation got worse when the council tried to evict him from the family home of 44 years. He felt suicidal… “I didn’t want anything except someone to talk to,” he says.

Peter believes (as well as medication) it was timely referrals that helped him take the first steps on his road to recovery. Firstly, from his GP to a therapist (via the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service in Lambeth) and then to Status Employment, a service that supports people to get back towards work.

Although he hadn’t worked for 12 years meeting Status’s Phil Fuller, Senior Employment Advisor, has given him hope for the future.

Peter brought his rich background to the weekly and later monthly meetings with Phil. He had left school at 13 after being bullied and was self taught. He became a punk rocker at the age of 16 and had done a spot of acting and later became a doorman at a bikers’ club.

“Phil was marvellous, really good; he helped me look for voluntary work,” says Peter. This has seen him on the reception desk once a week at Vocational services, Beale House, which Peter says has helped turn his life around.

“The staff are extremely pleasant which helps if you come in after having a bad week… it makes me feel wanted.”

And other opportunities have blossomed; through the Volunteering for Well being programme Peter joined the 12-week Friends of Archbishop Park (Peabody Trust) gardening project.

Despite being incredibly nervous Peter says he had to go out and “face the demons inside myself… to find the determination to push myself.” And he is surprised by how enjoyable it was meeting other people, planting, digging and watering. And what advice would he give to others?

“Try and go out and face something that you know you can’t do and put body and mind.”

 Sarah McDonald, Volunteering for Well being Project Manager is passionate about how volunteering and connecting can be a positive force in recovery. “It is a pleasure having Peter volunteer here at Beale House, and we appreciate his contribution to the gardening project at Archbishop Park. He has proven a committed, reliable and a caring member of the team,” she says.

“Volunteering is a great way to feel connected to your local community and improving well being. Peter’s story illustrates this well. Since being supported to volunteer I have seen his confidence grow, and it’s great seeing him set new goals and take up new challenges.”

These new challenges have also encompassed a personal health trainer and weight watchers and involvement with the Expert Patient ‘New Beginnings’ programme addressing depression and anxiety… “I have met some wonderful people and it’s really boosted my confidence,” says Peter. Such is Peter’s success that there may be an opportunity for him to become a tutor in the future. Melanie Francis, the programme’s co-ordinator says she saw Peter (the only man on the course) grow from “cocoon to butterfly” over the seven sessions. “He really took control of his own life. He’s got so much determination and has also been helping lots of other people, he feels useful.”

And it doesn’t stop there. Recently Peter has become a drama support assistant on a 12-week drama course, which has received two years funding for a programme circus art and drama alongside employment support. Peter took part in the peer-led drama course run by Status Employment last summer and now wants to support others. He helps with administration and phones people to encourage them to attend.

“I feel they are giving me an important job to do and it makes me feel valued, he says. Peter admits he still gets the demon wobbles, but that’s why, “I want to give to other people because I know how it feels.”

by Karen Hooper


Val’s Story

“Everyone has at occasional times bursts of sanity.” A wry comment from Val who has suffered from depression for years but knows that the ways out might start with Timebank or your GP…

“Everyone has at occasional times bursts of sanity.” A wry comment from Val who has suffered from depression for years but knows that the ways out might start with Timebank or your GP…

“When you know you are on the way down, don’t wait till you hit rock bottom, go to see your GP before things get really bad…” that’s the advice from 61-year-old Val (Valentine) who has found the resources that are right for him to overcome years of depression…

Val’s depression became severe after his mum died in 2005 (he had been caring for her since 1987 after a traffic accident. His dad died in 1980). Val’s heart attack a few months later laid him low. “It was not a nice place to be, I just switched off,” he says. “The only time I went out was to go to the post office to get my money, to do my shopping and then back home.”

Those dark days turned into two lost years; a shocking realisation for Val looking back today on a life rich in experiences, which have proved his resilience and tested him to the limits. In 1970 while on a “jolly”, serving with a Royal Air Force ground crew, he was forced to land a light aircraft after the pilot was struck in the face with a lump of plastic following a bird strike. “Once we were down and landed I got out and did a Pope John Paul (kissed the ground), ” he says nonchalently, “luckily I’d had a few flying lessons.”

Tragically a year later his fiancé, also serving in the RAF was killed in a plane crash and Val’s life spiralled out of control and he was forced to leave the service.

But in 1973 he got back to work as head porter with the Royal College of Surgeons and over the years took on other jobs (ironmonger’s, motorbike messenger , and searching for oil on a seismic survey).
Later he became a guard for London underground; a job he sustained for more than 14 years until he was sacked for smoking (cigarettes) on board his train back to the depot. “To this day my body is still switched into the shift system I was working,” he says.

Ask Val what helped bring him out of the darkest moments after his mum’s death and he can pinpoint his recovery journey.

A doctor who made a referral. A support worker – who got me to a mental health team, Fluoxatine (an anti-depressant) and most importantly Timebank.

“I went to the Clapham Park Timebank in 2008; Timebank is very important in recovery. I went to the meetings and there were social events to the theatre and Lambeth country show… There was no stigma; we were all in the same boat, we all had similar experiences.”

As his life was renewed Val joined Vital Link, a group of carers and those in mental health services working to help redesign mental health services in Lambeth. He was a Vital Link representative in the crucial embryonic days of the Lambeth Living Well Colloborative. “I didn’t say much, but what I did say was listened to,” he says. He also found out about Green Routes, a charity refurbishing computers, “a nice place to travel to.”

Equally important, through Vital Link, Val was able to explore his childhood fascination with science and the stars joining the Camden Amateur Telescope Societyy (CATS), helping to build a telescope and buying his own.

Val has been to hell and back… he recently endured another heart attack but was “mentally in a far better place”, and has found the strength within himself and with the right support to move forward. He knows also how stigma around mental health can hold people back. “If you ask around those that use services you might find a common detestation of authority, because it’s about a loss of control…The moment you get anyone else involved you are losing control of a part of your life; it’s the reason why people with mental health issues resist.”

Audrine’s Story

Audrine talks about doing a Voluntary Training Course that led to a volunteering into employment contract

Audrine talks about doing a Voluntary Training Course that has led to a 6 month volunteering into employment contract with Thames Reach

Oliver’s story as a Community Support Guide

Oliver works as a Community Support Guide at Lambeth Community Options Team. Oliver reflects on his experience of focusing on clients recovery.

My name is Oliver Hall. I am a Community Support Guide with The Lambeth Community Options Team(COT)

I have been working for COT as a Community Support Guide for the past year, having been seconded from my position in a Thames Reach high support mental health hostel.

I was first introduced to the Collaborative when I replied to an internal email advertising a new an exciting opportunity within the Community. I applied for the position and was very excited when I received the telephone call informing me that I had been successful.

At the beginning  time was spent designing leaflets and logo’s, and assisting the Team manager Terri to create forms, paperwork and a database to securely store all of our information.

I gradually started to build a small caseload of clients who were being discharged from their CMHT. It was at this stage that I was introduced to the Recovery Star and Recovery and Support Plan- I had previously used the outcome star so understood the principles of the tool.

One of my very first clients was a man who had been engaged with mental health service’s for the last 11 years and was feeling well and stable.

Working through  the Recovery Star together  enabled my client to explore his long forgotten aspirations and begin to identify his skills and worth within the community.

It quickly became evident that the majority of my clients were not used to thinking of themselves as  valued members of the community and were unable to identify their talents and skills-leaving them in the belief that they have no role in society.

My client was keen to get back into work so I introduced him to a volunteering training program hosted by Thames Reach and he completed and submitted his own application form-Completing his own application form was very much the first step for my client and reinforced the Collaborative  principles of Co-production -facilitating rather than delivering.

My client was accepted onto the Volunteering course and he immediately immersed himself into the work which consisted of classroom based work and a placement within Thames Reach. Most importantly the course enabled my client to develop peer support networks and realise that the greatest experience he has is his own life experience of living with a Mental health issue-something that he could use to help other people who he encountered within his placements at Thames reach.

I feel that my way of working has changed dramatically since joining the Community Options Team-I have realised that in the past and with the best intentions, I have disempowered my clients and not allowed them to use and develop the skills that they have and need to get on and live a fulfilling life.