Meet Sarah Strong, Peer Support Coordinator | Our blog

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Trust Blog

The Maudsley Blog

Meet Sarah Strong, Peer Support Coordinator

I have experienced anxiety for as long as I can remember and have had multiple periods of severe depression over the last twenty-five years or so spending much of that time on anti-depressants to help manage the worse phases of illness. I didn’t seek help during my first depressive illness but the second time it happened my then GP in North London was very helpful. I was living in South London shortly after when I’d recovered enough to come off fluoxetine. My doctor was very keen that I should access therapy in conjunction with dropping my dosage. Over the next few years I accessed psychological services three or four times for CBT and MBCT.

A significant job change happened about ten years ago. I’d previously worked in a historical collection but while recovering from a depression episode I was offered a job in a mental health charity. While working here I became the coordinator of a peer and social support project in Croydon which was SLaM-funded, and I was imbedded in the borough talking therapies team. I worked there for several years before becoming a fully-fledged member of SLaM staff in February 2021 when I started as a peer support worker on an acute ward at the Maudsley Hospital. A couple of months ago I moved into peer support coordinator role in an expanding peer team. I can draw directly on my ward experience in the role to help support my colleagues and to work with other teams who are interested in bringing a peer support worker into their staff.

Having someone actively using their lived experience in their work can make a huge difference when coming into contact with SLaM services, and can help break down the ‘us and them’ atmosphere that often exists between service users and staff. We can use our own experience to relate more closely with service users and those that support them - to listen, to share, to understand, and to help enable them to sustain their own wellbeing in to the future. For me, physical exercise has become the single most important factor in sustaining good mental health. Helping others to increase physical activity during their recovery to feed both mind and body is something I’m particularly supportive of.

There are many more resources to help those who are facing challenges with their mental health than when I first experienced depression – phone and text lines, talking therapies, support groups, self-help courses, recovery colleges and more. Learning how to manage your mental health is an ongoing process and the ways in which you do this may change as the years pass. Seek help when you need it though make time to try things out and discover what works best for you.

 

 

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