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We’re working in partnership with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust to help more people recover from mental illness. Our Peer Support Workers scheme is employing people who have had lived experience of mental health issues, they use their personal experience to support others.

So far, seven peer support workers have been employed by Solent Mind to work for the Trust and a further nine will be in post by August. They will be working across four sites, including Parklands Hospital in Basingstoke, Elmleigh in Havant, Antelope House in Southampton, and Melbury Lodge in Winchester (mother and baby mental health unit).

Describing her reasons for becoming a Peer Support Worker, Charlotte Lucas, 23, said: “I wanted to try and make a difference that could have been made while I was poorly. I feel that if I had had a Peer Support Worker and somebody to look beyond that barrier of being ill it would have made a difference. I go home with a sense of satisfaction every day. Generally when people find out that you are a person with lived experience who wants to share it, it generally breaks the barriers down.”

Sue Forber, Solent Mind’s Head of Peer Support, said: “It’s about people with lived experience of mental health services being beacons of recovery for other people in similar situations, showing that recovery is possible. They embody hope for people. When you are very unwell, you can feel completely hopeless and that there is nothing in the future except that feeling of hopelessness. To have a Peer Support Worker make that contact with you and to know they have got hope for you can be the thing that makes the difference.”

Lesley Herbert, Southern Health’s Consumer Adviser, is helping to oversee the scheme. She said: “This scheme is about providing the right support to people to help them recover from the mental health issues. But recovery is not necessarily about being symptom free, or never being unwell again. Recovery is an ongoing process and this is what peer support workers are helping with. They work with people to find the best ways to manage their issues, regain a sense of control and achieve a meaningful life.”

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