A local man with a passion to help others has set up a mental health peer support group in Ashton.
Andre Rogerson from Ashton, felt there was a gap in local support services and wanted to create a safe space for people to come together to share their stories and tips for maintaining positive mental health, without fear of being judged. The group’s ethos is in line with Wigan Council’s mental health awareness campaign, #TogetherWeCan, as it focuses on peer support to challenge negative thoughts and how talking with other people is more powerful than struggling in silence.
Andre, who is a trainer with the Samaritans and is also a qualified therapist said: “I know there is a lot of national support and health professionals locally offer medical aid to people living with health conditions, but I wasn’t aware of a community support offer. “I wanted to provide local people with a level support that is focused on them helping themselves and each other. People are able to go at their own pace. I invite them to share their story and then facilitate the groups’ discussions. This has a knock on effect and helps others to feel comfortable to voluntarily engage.”
The group runs every second Thursday evening in St. Luke’s church hall in Ashton and predominantly helps people with milder forms of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and offers bereavement support.
Andre continued: “I wanted to keep the group closed as I feel it’s better for sustainable recovery. If people drop in and out weekly, it’s hard to build a strong support network. Of course, people can come and go as they please as recovery periods are different for everybody but I am keen to know who each of the service users are and want to be comfortable that they will benefit from talking therapies.”
The church hall was chosen with the subject matter in mind as it is a non-clinical, neutral space that people find relaxing. St Luke’s welcomed the peer support group, which means Andre can ensure the sessions are free, although people are free to provide donations.
Profesor Kate Ardern, director for public health at Wigan Council said: “People don’t always realise the underlying drivers of what makes them feel a certain way, so peer support is imperative to help individuals understand their thought processes. “Sometimes, engaging with health professionals may be daunting, especially if it’s the first port of call, so offering a community option will be an effective way to help those who are not yet comfortable speaking with their GP. “We do encourage individuals living with poor mental health to speak to their doctor if their feelings don’t subside, but it’s important to emphasise that there are other avenues to access support.”
Anybody who is interested in Andre’s peer support group can find out more information by searching ‘Mental Health Peer Support Group’ on www.communitybook.org or by emailing [email protected]
To find out more about the #TogetherWeCan campaign, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/togetherwecan