“I am moving forward, and I do not say this lightly; I owe my life to Sutton Mental Health Foundation. That is the truth!” (Mark’s testimonial – read the full transcript here“)

Working on the model devised by Shery Mead, we have trained a number of people who use mental health services in Sutton as Intentional Peer Support Workers. In a pilot project, that soon became a permanent arrangement, our Peer Support Workers provided a service twice a week to Sutton Hospital, working with patients on the psychiatric ward. Sutton Hospital wards have closed, and the Sutton beds are currently at Springfield hospital in Tooting Bec. As more people participated in the training we have been able to be able to expand our services into the community, and have now set up Sutton Hopeline staffed at weekend evenings by Intentional Peer Support Workers. The number is 02081508872 and is open Saturday and Sunday 8.30pm until 11.30pm. We have accredited trainers in Intentional Peer Support and have been involved in delivering training to other organisations.

Vicki receiving her Peer Support Certificate from Paul Burstow

Vicki receiving her Peer Support certificate from Paul Burstow

Intentional Peer Support workers are people who have personal experience of mental distress and of using mental health services. They offer mutual support to anyone who feels that it may be helpful to talk about their own experience of mental distress and mental health services with someone who has been there too.

“Intentional Peer Support” is the term used to describe a variety of groups and/or practices where people seek to learn and grow as equals by drawing on their own and each others’ knowledge, skills and experiences. Peer support is most commonly found in settings where it is important that people of the same standing look out for each other, and where power, hierarchy, disempowerment and claims to special knowledge about others have been found to get in the way of people working together and caring for themselves and each other.

“The class was organised in such a way that we all learned from each other, and visibly grew together” (Martyn’s Testimonial – read the full transcript here)

Intentional Peer Support avoids the psychiatric or medical model based around a diagnosis and instead starts with people’s own stories.

Geoff on Ward 3, Springfield, for Patients' Council

Geoff on Ward 3, Springfield, for Patients’ Council

Intentional Peer Support is about creating relationships that make it OK for us to not just be in peer relationships, but to use them as a tool to take a bigger look at how we’ve learned to operate in the world… Being intentional means that we come into the relationship with a specific purpose in mind. While peer support assumes the characteristics of any healthy relationship, there is also a specific intention. The intention is to purposefully communicate in ways that help both people step outside their current story. (Mead, 2005, p.15)