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Befriending service launched for Stratford residents

Posted on 16, December 2013

Today national charity Together for Mental Wellbeing, officially opens the doors of its new befriending service ‘Stratford Friends’ to offer some extra support to local people living with mental health needs.

The project, supported by funding from Stratford Town Trust aims to link people with a mental health need – living in Stratford-Upon-Avon – to a local volunteer ‘Befriender’ who can offer them companionship and support. Dependent on an individual’s interests, needs and personal goals, ‘befrienders’ can help someone to improve their confidence, build social networks and reduce social isolation and loneliness.

The links between loneliness and poor health are well documented1 and a key risk factor for loneliness is mental ill health2, especially amongst older adults. Research has found that befriending schemes can reduce isolation, particularly for those individuals with mental health issues who have previously spent long periods in hospital and are now living independently in the community.3

Clare Potter, Project Coordinator at Together said: “We believe that there is a real gap in supporting isolated individuals with mental health needs locally. Making use of local resources and getting out in the community can be difficult, especially if you have spent a long time under psychiatric care and are now no longer using formal mental health services. If you experience a mental health issue, you often withdraw from social interaction – due to anxiety, loss of confidence or to avoid stigma from others.

“Our project aims to ensure the sustainable wellbeing of individuals in the Stratford Community who are living with or recovering from a mental health issue – with the befriending role acting as a bridge between them and their wider community”.

Stratford Friends’ volunteers try to support people to reconnect with and feel part of their wider community, by engaging in local activities that they enjoy, to help them to maintain their independence. Individuals can access up to two hours of free support every week and choose to spend this time with their befriender, however they wish, for example: to go out for a cup of tea and a chat in a local café, shopping for groceries, cinema visits, going to the local library or gym or support to join a local community group.

Carol, a service user at one of Together’s other befriending services in Suffolk, speaking about her befriender, said: “Each week we do different things but it’s mainly the company that makes a difference; we get on very well, we chat. I know I can call her at any time if I need to – it’s just nice to know that someone is there”.

She continues: “I have now become a befriender myself and offer support to three people over the phone each week – I can only hope they benefit from this like I myself have done”.

If you are interested in finding a befriender in your local area or you would like to volunteer to support someone in need, please contact Stratford Friends on 07785 461 720 or at: stratfordfriends@together-uk.org to find out more.

References:

1. Windle, K, Francis, J, Coomber, C. Preventing loneliness and social isolation: interventions and outcomes, Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2011.

2. One voice: Shaping our aging society, Age Concern and Help the Aged (2009).

3. Dean, J. and Goodlad, R. (1998) The Role and Impact of Befriending, Joseph Rowntree Foundation. http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/role-and-impact-befriending