Our programme is peer-led, that is it is led by people in recovery from eating disorders and/or addictions and delivered to people in recovery from eating disorders and/or addictions. It is a group of people who have a similar shared experiences and we use those experiences to support one another. It’s non-hierarchical, though one person leads the group, everyone is equal in the room. Regardless of what stage in recovery they are, each and every person has a lot to bring to the group — a lot to offer and a lot to learn.
There’s a hell of a lot of power in someone being able to say Hey, I’ve been there too, I get it. You’ll get through this.
Peer support goes beyond what a medical professional can give you, you could have all the treatment in the world but understanding and kinship creates a lasting bond that can help to foster hope and motivation, even in those darker times. Mental illnesses can make a person feel very alone, hopeless, like there’s no way out or that no one could possibly understand how this feels. Peer support fights those thoughts, it creates a safe space where people can explore their mental health problems and it can bring us together, to feel welcomed and less alone.
Our groups are designed to be a safe and creative environment for our peers to attend. We always start the day talking about our mental health, how the past week has been and a goal for the coming week but as the day goes on it becomes a place where we laugh, make jewellery, drink tea and delve into whatever conversation strikes us at that moment. Sometimes that might be about what’s on TV this week, or it could be a lengthy and heartfelt discussion about the ways mental health services have failed so, so many of the women in the group. The wonderful thing is, we can spend time talking about the really hard stuff, and then go on to make a piece of jewellery and suddenly find ourselves in hysterics as we try to think of the ‘punniest’ name for the piece.
Peer support enables us to enter a space where we know that our voices will be heard, that our experiences — whilst unique — are not alien, but it does not have to be a space where all that is spoken of is the shared experience. Through creating this environment, we enter a space that offers hope, friendship and creativity. Individuals are free to be themselves because they know that they are in a space where others, like them, are trying hard to overcome problems that they may have struggled with for years. These can be hard, testing and painful experiences to bring into the room, but knowing we’re all in it together has the power to create lasting change.