Last year, the Bupa UK Foundation awarded Bipolar UK a grant to establish an Email and Telephone Peer Support Service delivered for and by people with lived experience of bipolar.
The service is a way for peer support to be accessible by people unable to use Bipolar UK’s existing face-to-face support groups or digital eCommunity. The service now makes more than 200 callbacks and writes over 300 emails a month to support service users.
Here James Trevelyan, Bipolar UK’s Peer Support Officer, tells us about his own experience of bipolar disorder and his role in Bipolar UK’s Telephone and Email Peer Support Service.
'As a person who has lived with bipolar for many years, I know first-hand the challenges people affected by the illness face daily. I can relate to people who are suicidal, have problems with addiction, have experienced abuse within the family, been through psychosis and are bipolar parents.
I have built up 10 years’ experience at Bipolar UK speaking to people affected by the illness and helping them with my insider understanding of what it is really like to have bipolar. For these reasons, I helped Bipolar UK establish the Email and Telephone Peer Support Service. I specialise in helping people experiencing severe bipolar depression and answering questions about medication and relationships.
Delivered for and by people with lived experience of bipolar, the new service is a way for peer support to be accessible by people unable to use Bipolar UK’s existing face-to-face support groups or digital eCommunity. We launched the service with the help of funding from the Bupa UK Foundation Mid-Life Mental Health Funding Programme.
We started recruiting volunteers in June 2018. Our volunteers are people who either live with the illness or have it in their families. The first training session was in August 2018. We then invited a first cohort of five volunteers to undertake three-month placements from September. The training was well-received and the volunteers have all been great. Some have gone on to work in a paid capacity in peer support or related sectors.
The service is open to anyone in the UK affected by bipolar, and we make more than 200 calls and write over 300 emails a month. The outcomes we evaluate the service against are that individuals with bipolar will:
- Feel less alone
- Feel more independent
- Develop, and be more able to maintain, more positive and constructive relationships
- Report an increase in their resilience
- Have fewer negative incidents relating to their mental health
- Manage their condition better
- Be empowered to talk with health professionals
- Have reduced demand for crisis intervention by statutory health services
- Have reduced suicidal thoughts and actions.
From a personal perspective, I have learnt a lot about myself and what I am capable of. I have learnt to prioritise and communicate well with the Services Manager and to ask for help when I need it. I have also learnt how to train volunteers and how to stay on top of my workload while managing others.'
I have really enjoyed the challenge of running the telephone and email service on a day-to-day basis over the past year. I have thrived on the new responsibilities and aim to inspire others and make people more optimistic through the help and support we have been able to, and will continue to, provide others affected by the bipolar.'