With thanks to funding from Comic Relief, our Peer Support Coordinators, Ellie and Hannah, and Director, Jess, were able to travel to Bristol to meet with members of the Bluebell peer support team, to share ideas and hear about each other’s projects, both of which are funded by Comic Relief.
Here at APP we are in the process of developing and trialling face to face peer support, and so it was so invaluable to hear Bluebell’s experiences as this is the support they provide. It was particularly helpful to hear about what information they ask families to give them, and their contact and relationship with outside agencies. At APP we have delivered all (or nearly all) of our peer support to date online and expanding face to face meet-ups feel like a natural progression… It’s also something that our women and families often ask for – we know how isolating PP can be and meeting others can be such a “lightbulb moment”. But we are also really conscious that we need to get it right, so speaking to another organisation which is already doing it so well was really valuable.
It was really helpful to hear how they explain to people who use the service the limits of confidentiality, such as around issues of safeguarding and think about how this translates from what we already do online. Bluebell also shared the forms that they use to collect and record information and it was good to see that some of this was covered in the things we had already thought of – plus other documents and ways of working gave us further points to consider.
It was interesting to hear about the different support they offer: groups held at their centre in Bristol, and individual support provided to people in their homes, and to discuss risk management and lone working policies. It was useful to talk about the different ways of involving professionals and making use of clinical expertise, while still keeping a focus on peer support. A key part of APP’s face to face peer support will be social groups, which fits with our aim of building a national PP community and alleviating the loneliness that women and families affected by PP can sometimes feel.
It was also wonderful just to connect with other passionate colleagues and share our personal experiences of perinatal mental illness: there is always a solidarity, understanding and power in those two little words: “me too!”.
Thank you so much Comic Relief for your commitment to facilitating connection and collaboration – this meeting will inform our practice as we develop APP’s peer support services throughout the UK.