Clare Knighton – Fostering hope on an acute psychiatric ward through Peer Support

Hope. It’s a word often used in day to day conversation; I hope I win the lottery, I hope my partner has put the washing on when I get home. When we use the word hope in conversation, we are usually expecting something good or positive to happen but often it’s used without any action or thought to make the intended outcome a reality.

Well I’m going to talk about a different kind of hope. A hope that needs time, attention, nurturing and care. A hope that you can’t leave to fend for itself or ignore. I have blogged before, about the magic of peer support, of how transformative it has been for me and my personal journey. As I settle into this role, now well into my second year, other questions begin to surface, and I share them with you here.

I was a ‘frequent flyer’ to mental health wards before becoming a peer support worker. Now, somehow, magically I visit these places only as a staff member. Working side by side with the very people who have cared for me, seen me at my lowest, and seen me behave in a very distressed manner and now I’m part of the team. I really feel it. They check up on me, joke with me, and best of all, ask my opinion on how best to help someone. What more could anyone ask for? This integration into the team fosters my own hope and it grows daily.

I do spend some time helping people to understand what peer support is, but I’m happiest when I’m showing them what it is. How I can sit with someone in distress, and story share small bits to give them hope, that there is a way out of the darkness they find themselves in. How I can talk about my experiences of medication, when it worked well for me, when I resisted and how I got to a position to make my own choices. Or how I can suggest social activities that are going on outside of the ward, that can help give people other identities than that of’ mental health patient’.

Peer support on an acute psychiatric ward is all about growing hope. It’s fast paced; you never know how long you have to work with someone, how long they will be there, or even how ready they are for peer support. Even those who say they don’t want peer support, I can still help. Sitting with someone in silence is still a way to show them that you are there for them, and the hope sits there with me, waiting for them, being there for someone when they need it. Hope is also fostered in the language you use – positive affirmations, compliments and a genuine belief that someone is so much more than their diagnosis. Many people I see have lacked positive support in their lives, and who doesn’t want someone to believe in them? We all benefit from that and just because someone is detained under the mental health act doesn’t mean they can’t have hope; I am living proof!

An acute psychiatric ward may seem a place where there isn’t much hope that it’s all about control and dis-empowering people. I know different. Without being sectioned I wouldn’t have found peer support, I wouldn’t have been encouraged to apply to do the training, and ultimately change my life. All the staff want the same thing, for the person to recover and now with peer support on the team, I do all I can to prevent a ward becoming a revolving door, like it was for me for so many years.

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Clare is an accredited peer support worker based in Worcestershire, a passionate coach, mentor, cat owner and lover of kindness..NHS champion..survivor….expert by experience. You can follow her on Twitter @knightonstar for daily tweets about peer support.

You can also read more of her other fantastic posts here

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Note from editor:

If this post has sparked your interest in peer support, you might like to know about our specialist peer support training course which starts in London in June.  The Institute of Mental Health was the first nationally accredited education provider in the field of peer support training. A key element of the training is the model of co-production, co-learning and co-facilitation, whereby all training is delivered by two trainers who between them have clinical expertise and lived experience of distress. These experiences are grounded in an academic understanding of recovery and peer support. This authentic approach to training, enhances the learning experience and offers an opportunity to role model effective co-working of people with different backgrounds, demonstrating effective peer working. The training helps organisations to embrace the Recovery agenda and support the development of skilled Peer Supporters.
Closing date for applications: 5 May 2017

 

 

 

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1 Comment

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One response to “Clare Knighton – Fostering hope on an acute psychiatric ward through Peer Support

  1. It’s a shame there isn’t more peer support courses online or evenings. Bristol based & working full time, only things I have seen our day time only. Wish I could work half the week as paid, and half the week as a volunteer!

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