The misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental health problems can often lead to people with mental health difficulties feeling isolated and alone. The Fieldhead Befriending Project aims to help service users in the Wakefield locality develop long-term friendships and wider support in their communities.
The service has been established for many years and provides support to the many service users living in the community who feel excluded and find it difficult to make friends or meet people with similar interests. However, as the service has expanded the need for more people signing up as befrienders has increased and the Trust is appealing to any local people who might want to get involved.
Befrienders are volunteers who can offer four hours or more a month, for a period of at least 12 months, spending time with people who use trust services that have similar interests to them. The service aims to reduce the social isolation that can result from long-term mental illness and build self confidence of the people accessing the service.
Before working with anyone all befrienders must issue an application, go through an interview process and provide suitable references and be CRB checked. The Fieldhead Befriending Project offers all befrienders training and supervision throughout the befriending process and works closely with them and the service user to ensure the friendship is working out for both parties.
Many befrienders have themselves been service users and have personal experiences of many of the issues facing people with mental health problems, but this isn’t essential. Infact, so long as you are over 18 years old and pass the necessary checks anyone can become a befriender.
Service users are referred to the scheme by various health professionals and they are then matched up with a befriender according to gender, age, interests and where they live. They then meet on a weekly basis in the community and participate in an agreed activity, such as shopping, walking or simply going for a coffee.
The befriending process is constantly reviewed to ensure everyone is happy and benefitting from the project. Once a match has been made a review will be carried out after one month then again at the 3, 6 and 12 month stage. If the outcome is positive then the befriender will continue to work with their friend for an unlimited period of time.
Speaking about the positive impact of the scheme project coordinator Glynis Stirling said, "The befriending service helps aid recovery by building confidence and self esteem and encouraging service users to develop a more fulfilling social lifestyle. It gives people the chance to take part in new activities within the community and interact with a people who share similar interests. Social activities are also organised by the pastoral and spiritual care department at Fieldhead. These include social gatherings such as meeting for lunch or day trips with a group of befrienders and their friends, providing everyone with more opportunities to meet and socialise with even more new people. "
But it’s not just the service user who benefits from the scheme. Befrienders also experience increased confidence and self esteem from being part of the project and been able to offer their support to someone who needs it.
There are currently 20 services users who are linked up to the befriending service, but not all of them have befrienders. Eight of these are within the community but three people also receive visits from befrienders at Newton Lodge. Another befriender also spends time each week on Priory 2 at Fieldhead, chatting with lots of different patients.