Last Thursday I attended a buzzing and very well-attended event organised by the Norfolk Peer Support Network, held at The Shoebox in Norwich. Peer Support can be defined as:

“People, with lived experience of their own, giving time to help other people. This could be on a voluntary or a paid-for basis.”

As part of the event, I chaired a couple of informal discussions about peer support and lived experience (see pic, above). I opened one of these conversations with an anecdote about how, as a brutalised/traumatised fourteen year old, I had walked into the Deputy Head’s office at school, holding my arm out in expectation of a caning (I’m of a certain ‘vintage’!), whilst, with a dead-eyed stare, defiantly saying to him, ‘Get it over and done with.’ However, my ‘hard man’ act was instantly defused when, instead of shouting and beating me (a world I was all too familiar with!), he told me to sit down and began a conversation where I felt respected and listened to. He also shared some of his own ‘story’ and I realised that he wasn’t just a ‘suit’, but a man who, with support, had made himself better.

Participants who felt comfortable to do so, shared some of their experiences and explained the positive role that peers had played in their lives. We also had a few participants who have completed the excellent peer support/advisor courses offered locally by Adult Learning and the St Giles Trust (see flyers, below).

It was genuinely inspiring and humbling to listen to the experiences folk had survived and, with the support of peers (informal or otherwise), managed to use positively. That is one of the many positive things about joining the peer support community: we are able to use our hurt, pain and trauma positively for the benefit of others – and, in doing so, we are also helping ourselves (gaining a sense of purpose, meaning and achievement). I think that, across all the conversations, we agreed that there is huge power in having someone to believe in us when, at a particular point in our lives, we haven’t been able to do so for ourselves.

We also identified, some interesting ‘lessons’ relating to recovery. For instance, here are a few that we shared:

  • If thinking doesn’t happen, behaviour doesn’t change
  • We have to do something different to get something different.
  • Lapse is part of recovery
  • Take small achievable steps and build on what’s working

Hard wrought expertise by experience!

Within MensCraft we are really keen for our members to access the excellent peer support/advisor training that is available locally. It all fits with our aspiration to create a supportive, inclusive community where men are empowered to make positive contributions. With that in mind, please feel free to talk to me about this. I have also included some information about the courses offered by Adult Learning and the St Giles Trust (see below).

Colin Howey

Pit Stop Coordinator, Norwich

MensCraft

colin@menscraft.org.uk

07784 307970

Adult Learning’s Peer Support  course

St Giles’ Peer Advisor course