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Putting lived experience to good use in Milton Keynes' Campbell Centre

15 February 2017

TWO former patients of CNWL’s Milton Keynes mental health unit are putting their experiences to good use through a new venture that is paying dividends for themselves, for staff and patients.

Mark Sanderson, 28, and Lorna Adams, 22, both spent time in the Campbell Centre as patients during periods of mental ill-health, but are now the centre’s first peer support workers.

A key role of a peer support worker in an inpatient setting is to support individuals with re-engaging and connecting up with their local communities and accessing employment and leisure opportunities after a hospital admission.

Among their duties, Mark and Lorna help train staff on peer-centred ways to liaise with patients; advocate on behalf of patients; take part in group meetings and one-to-one sessions with patients; and help prepare patients for discharge back into the community.

Mark has been in post since the end of August last year, following a period of voluntary work at the centre twice a week to help with the patient newsletter. He leapt at the chance to do peer support work and has never looked back.

He said: "This has given me a purpose to wake up, a purpose to get dressed, a purpose to get into work and start helping people who’ve been through a similar experience. All I want to do now is what’s best for the patients.

"My own wellbeing is also important and since I’ve started here, I’ve never felt so good. It’s boosted my confidence."

His aim now is to become a peer counsellor.

Lorna, who is studying psychology through the Open University, only started as a peer support worker at the centre in November last year. Before this, she was running a support group for people who self-harm, through which she met Mark and was invited to run some training on self-harm.

"I feel like I’m giving back something as I’ve taken a lot from the mental health field,” she said. “I’m really enjoying it here."

Anecdotal evidence from patient feedback forms suggests this is a role that patients are finding helpful for their wellbeing on the ward because of their shared experiences.

“The people I’ve worked with think it was nice for them to be able to talk with someone who has had lived experience and wasn’t judging their situation. I was there as a listening ear and showing them that recovery was possible. I think that’s the main thing that people get out of it,” said Mark.

Clinical psychologist Dr Peter Ord said: "I’m really pleased with how things have gone so far. Mark and Lorna have really made their mark. They’ve been opening people’s awareness of what’s possible and through them, we have been supporting other people to make a difference and that’s a powerful contribution that peer support workers can make. 

"Our hope is ultimately about improving the quality of someone’s experience of care from the point at which they first come through the door. We are trying to develop a person-centred care. There’s a lot more we can do in that respect in terms of making it more consistent."