Two “innovative” schemes have been set up in Wales so people with personal experiences of mental ill health can help others in a similar position.
“Co-production” services have been established by the Cardiff and Vale and Hywel Dda health boards.
People who have used mental health services, carers and workers can all access free online courses.
The sessions are taught by both professionals and those who have had mental health issues.
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Edwin Yhap, from Cardiff, is a full-time carer for his daughter, who has severe mental health challenges, and uses the Recovery and Wellbeing College run by Cardiff and Vale health board.
He said: “We couldn’t leave our daughter alone for any length of time with the fear of her wanting to take her own life. We’ve ended up in A&E several times and spent the whole night trying to make sure that you get the support that she needs.”
Mr Yhap, a former mental health nurse, is currently training to become a peer mentor, and said the courses, which have moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic, are making a big difference.
He said: “There is a degree of ownership and people like myself feel listened to, or feel valued, and they can contribute to something.”
Annie Proctor, mental health clinical board director at Cardiff and Vale, set up the college.
She said: “It is this aspect that sets it apart from other services available.
She believes helping the mentors to not only tell their stories, but actively help in the recovery of others, is “part of a fantastic wider change that we are beginning to see in improving mental health and wellbeing services”.
A similar approach is being taken at the Gorwelion Centre in Aberystwyth.
Hywel Dda health board has trialled a service which allows people to access the centre’s services directly, without going through a GP or needing to go to hospital.
‘Empathy and understanding’
The project has recently begun opening for longer hours, and offering emergency support 24 hours a day, six days a week, for those in need.
Ann Edwards, who has had depression for most of her life, is a peer mentor at the centre, and said she could provide “empathy and understanding [of] how scary it is to ask for help”.
She said she wished a similar service had been available to her when she was struggling.
“If I had somewhere I could go to chill out, to sit with someone independent, who makes you feel comfortable and safe, it would have made a huge difference.”