Celebrating our peer volunteers

May 2023

A first group of volunteers have completed our new peer volunteer training programme and some of them are now offering mental health support in our services. We recently brought our established peers together with the next group of trainees for a special celebration event in Worthing

[Pictured: Nick Kidd (left), one of our peer support workers, with Alex (right), one of our peer trainees, at the celebration event]

We were delighted to welcome our peer volunteers to a celebration event at The Gateway in Worthing. The event recognised the contributions of our peer volunteers who play a vital role supporting others with their mental health throughout West Sussex Mind.

In particular, we were celebrating the achievements of the first nine volunteers to complete our new peer volunteer training programme, which trains people as support volunteers and develops pathways for them to progress into other volunteering opportunities and paid employment.

This programme was made possible by a £100,000 grant we received from East Head Impact, which allowed us to employ a specialist trainer to co-develop the programme with our peer support worker, Nick Kidd, and employ an apprentice to recruit new volunteers, administer the training and build relationships with local employers.

The celebration event was also a great opportunity for this first group of volunteers to meet the new trainees who are due to start the next eight-week training course in late May.

One person among the first cohort has already found a job as a support worker with local homelessness charity, Turning Tides. Meanwhile Alex, who completed the training in December 2022, is now volunteering weekly with West Sussex Mind supporting people one to one with their mental health.

Alex said: "I found the training deeply insightful and it surpassed all my expectations. The content was really good and was impeccably delivered in a supportive environment. It has given me a real insight into mental health, improved my listening skills and helped me to understand that everyone has their own stuff unique to them. You may not be able to understand every problem, but you can empathise and give people space and time, and this is invaluable. The course has helped me realise what I want to do, which is to work in mental health support in the long term."

Left to right: Kate Scales, operations manager of West Sussex Mind, with peer volunteers Denise and Christine

Recruiting and training more peer volunteers to become involved in our mental health support is one of our key priorities for 2023-24 and our new CEO, Kerrin Page, emphasised our commitment to this at the event.

Kerrin said: “If you’re experiencing difficulties with your mental health, it’s a very powerful thing to get support from someone who has walked in your shoes – and so we’re looking to train and recruit more peer volunteers into all areas of our work.

“It’s also an opportunity for volunteers on their recovery journey, because training to support others builds confidence and skills - and can be an important stepping stone into volunteering and employment."

Volunteering, social activities and Help Point service manager, Abbie Wraige, said: “The peer training course, backed by East Head Impact, gives people who have used our mental health services important skills and is an invaluable step in their recovery. We’re currently developing group supervision for our peers, to encourage reflective practice and mutual support, and will also integrate employability skills into these sessions, using guest speakers and partnering with employment support organisations."

West Sussex Mind is proud of its peer volunteers and is really excited about how they will develop personally through the training, bringing their lived experience perspectives to help support others. Huge thanks to East Head Impact for making our training programme possible.