This week marks the second birthday of our Southampton-based Hand in Hand group. Our Peer Support Project Worker and Hand in Hand group leader Jonathan, shares what the group means to him.
This week I’m so excited to celebrate the second birthday of our Hand in Hand group, and the amazing impact it’s had on its attendees.
Hand in Hand is one of our many peer support groups across Southampton and the Solent area, which all bring together people with their own lived experience of a mental health problem. We chat, we laugh, we share our own experiences and mutually support each other. The groups are particularly great for those who are socially isolated and in need of a safe, confidential place to make new friends and feel part of their community.
Peer support is also special because people like me, who organise and run our groups, also have experience of living with a mental health problem. We too share our experiences and the ups and downs of our own journeys.
My peer support journey started when I began attending Solent Mind’s New Forest Wellbeing Service at a time where I really needed some support. I then started volunteering and helping others in the New Forest, before becoming a Peer Support Project Worker in October 2017. As a member of staff, and as a volunteer before that, my lived experience empowers me to support others in an understanding and meaningful way.
I always look forward to seeing the Hand in Hand group each week. We boil the kettle, get the biscuits out (sometimes buttery crumpets for special occasions!) and take a seat to chat about our week. We discuss the positives and the challenges with humour and insight and a lot of laughing. We share how we feel. and talk as friends, swapping information on useful services that could help each other to stay well.
Running the Hand in Hand group, also keeps me mentally well. When I attended last week’s Hand in Hand group at Harefield Hub, I was not feeling my best. In the last month I’ve not been myself, as some challenges at home and the winter weather has taken its toll. I arrived early to set up and waited to greet the attendees with a cheery hello.
As they came in, each person looked so happy to be there, and so much more confident than when I first met them years before. I went away feeling lifted and hopeful, and thinking about how important this group is to the community, as well as my own wellbeing.
This really is the essence of the group, and the reason why Hand in Hand is still going from strength to strength, two years on; that supporting and sharing with others, can make everyone feel less alone.
Happy birthday Hand in Hand!
Hand in Hand meets every Wednesday at 1pm, alternating between Townhill Park Community Centre and Harefield Hub each week.
Find out more about our Peer Support groups and register to take part, here.