The SHARE project is a peer support group based in Lewisham that empowers people to share their experiences of living with and recovering from mental illness. It prepares people to speak about their mental health experiences in public, empowering them to help themselves and others. The scheme was made possible with funding from donors
Stories of hope and recovery
The SHARE (Stories of Hope and Recovery) project was developed by Vanessa Gould-Crouch, SLaM’s Peer-Led Recovery Project Manager, from a storytelling scheme that had been running at the Ladywell Unit at Lewisham Hospital. She developed a 10-week training course that enables volunteers to create their own story and to feel confident speaking in public.
‘It’s about saying ‘you know what, I had that bad time, but now I’m here, and this is how I’ve got through it and this is my message to you’’, says Vanessa. ‘The best people to encourage others are those that have been through the same kind of experiences.’
Claudia is a volunteer who took part in the first course the group ran four years ago. She lost both her parents when she was nine years old and was brought up in care. She was first admitted to hospital for mental health issues when she was 15, and since then has been in and out of hospital a lot – although she draws on the love for her two children to help her recover each time.
‘I hope when people listen to me and hear my story that they can pick up a little bit of confidence that I have in myself now,’ she says.
Graduating from the course
On Wednesday 14 May 2014, six volunteers from the latest training session graduated from the project. They received certificates to acknowledge their achievement, and shared their stories for the first time outside of the group in a public setting.
It was moving and inspiring to hear about the volunteers’ experiences, and the positive things that have helped them in the journeys of recovery: their families and friends, their faith, and activities like singing or reading and even watching the sun rise each day.
‘They’ve been absolutely inspirational and I’m genuinely proud of them all,’ says Carmine De Rosa, a former SLaM service user who is now a Peer Support Development Coordinator, and runs the SHARE project.
The SHARE project has benefited the volunteers in ways they didn’t expect, with a safe, non-judgemental space created that allows people to connect and support one another. ‘Even after we’ve finished the training, people continue to support each other and look out for each other,’ says Carmine.
New SHARE graduate Grace* agrees that there is a real camaraderie in the group where everyone has experienced or are experiencing mental health problems.
‘There’s a kind of humour that you get that people who haven’t been in hospital for mental health issues don’t ever quite get,’ she says. ‘And this space means you’re able to relax because you know everyone understands.’
The future of the project
This is only the start of the SHARE project. Two more training sessions are taking place this year and the plan is to develop the scheme across South London and Maudsley, so that all the people who take part are able to share their stories of hope and recovery.’
If you’ve been inspired by the SHARE project and would like to support more projects like this for our service users, please make a donation to SLaM today.
*Name has been changed