Experiences of a Peer Support Worker
By Christina Wilson, Peer Support Worker at The Cellar Trust
I work at Haven because throughout my twenty years of accessing services the thing that has really helped me has been peer support, having the chance to be able to talk honestly with people who had been through similar things enabled me to find compassion for myself.
I’m a Peer Support Worker at Haven; it’s an extraordinary place to work.
We support each other as a team and that contributes in a tangible way to the supportive, non-clinical environment at Haven. Here I feel we have the time and space to really listen to people empathetically, which is different to other places I have trained and worked in. We are able to be responsive to what is happening for the person on that day, and that in itself is remarkably powerful; we are demonstrating to people that what they are feeling matters.
To see the look of absolute relief on a client’s face when I say with honesty that ‘I’ve felt that too’ or that ‘I also tried to take my own life’ – it’s incredibly moving.
The work here is incredibly meaningful and fulfilling; I have had people tell me that they wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Haven, that attending regularly has literally enabled them to stay alive; another person told me that after years of feeling they weren’t been listened to they finally felt understood.
One of the people we saw in early 2017 felt she benefitted so much from the support she received that she now volunteers, jointly facilitating a support group for others with myself. Hearing her talk about her own experiences and journey, and using those experiences to support others, knowing that I was part of that, is very special. She inspires others, and myself, showing that what happens here transforms lives. The work we do at Haven isn’t just about managing a crisis or diverting people from A&E, for me it goes beyond relapse prevention; what happens here enables people to recognise and manage their own mental health.
Threads of Life
Christina has compiled a collection of women’s writing about their experiences of mental health, they are brought together in a book entitled Threads of Life, available from The Cellar Trust Cafe for £8. All proceeds to go back into supporting people through peer support and creativity.