MindOut the LGBTQ Mental Health Service reveal how they achieve excellent results.
“Peer support is lifesaving. MindOut services are lifesaving!”
“I’m still suicidal, I’m not out of the woods, but with the support from my group (Out of the Blue) I am getting there. I have hope!” (MindOut service user 2016)
At MindOut we try really hard to capture that holy grail of information from people who use our services: what it is about our services that really works so that you feel supported and helped in both the short and long term…in short how do we help you recover?
This is what we found out this year:
We believe that our peer support groups have an impact and thankfully so do our service users.
♦ 80% of group members reported significant reduction in the frequency and intensity of suicidal thoughts.
♦ 60% reported significant improvements to self-injury.
These results show that our groups contribute to saving lives and reducing emotional pain because members are able to share this distress and not feel so alone with overwhelming feelings.
We have a variety of different ways of getting this feedback from people, one of which is before and after self-assessment ratings about personal wellbeing and resilience. So before someone attends a group they rate their ability to cope, be cheerful, have energy etc and then again after the group has finished. This is one way of capturing whether the experience of being in the group is what made the difference.
Bringing people together to share their difficulties and support one another really works!
When we collated all these self-assessment ratings for 2016 we found that:
♦ 62% of people who attended peer support groups (and who completed the assessment) felt their wellbeing improved and many felt it improved significantly.
♦ And 70% of people who received peer mentoring felt their wellbeing improved and again many significantly.
People are complex, mental health is complex and recovery is not about just about getting better, but through sharing our experiences we can face our pain and distress and learn to manage these thoughts and feelings.
Here is a first person example of how peer support can work and how profoundly it can change a person’s mental health.
How MindOut made me proud of who I am
Janette is a peer mentor and online support volunteer for MindOut. She came to a MindOut peer support groups a couple of years ago and felt for the first time she had landed in a safe space where she could explore both her mental health issues and her LGBTQ identity and truly be herself without being judged. The support she received enabled her to see herself with more hope and she gained confidence to apply for a job – which she got. She has also trained to be a volunteer with MindOut. Being a black lesbian has not always been easy for her, but MindOut has helped her feel proud of who she is.
I finally had a safe space to share
I came to MindOut’s Open group about 5 years ago and it took me a couple of weeks to get there but once I did I felt so welcomed and safe and when other people started to talk there was a lot I could identify with. It took me ages to say anything about myself but then the group worker invited me to speak – that permission was amazing and I burst into tears. I didn’t feel judged and the other group members were very receptive and I felt validated and ‘normal’ because other people were saying that they understood. So I continued coming on a regular basis and found it easier and easier to talk about what was going on. Because I began to share – then I was given a space to talk.
This was so important because I believed that everything that came out of my mouth was rubbish. The other group members helped me to look at myself differently and to have a voice.
Peer support gave me the confidence to get back into work
People in the group really encouraged me to apply for some paid work. At the time I truly believed that I could only ever be a ‘volunteer’ but the group talked me through the application process and my first interview in 20 years and helped give me the confidence to go through with it…and I was offered the job! The open group was so important because it was the first time I had met LGBTQ people with the same diagnosis as me it helped make me more self-aware and self-critical in a good way. It helped support me through my mental health crisis and eventually I stopped needing to attend but I know that if I have another crisis the group will be there to support me because it is the one place where I don’t have to put on a fake smile and pretend everything is ok!
I can explore my experience of being black
More recently I joined the BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) group which is fascinating being in a group where all the members are from different cultures and being able to talk about our different perspectives was so helpful, because when I step outside the door you can’t see my mental health problems, you may not even see that I have a physical disability as a result of my Multiple Sclerosis but there is no doubt that I am black.
I’m proud to be a volunteer
Just being part of MindOut has been amazing – everyone is welcoming and fall over themselves to thank you for your volunteering. I feel so appreciated, but more than that I feel part of MindOut, I feel proud and like I’m making a difference. It’s not just MindOut for mental health, or being LGBTQ…my wrist band says “MindOut for each other” and MindOut truly does that.
For more information about MindOut, click here: