On 22nd June 2012 , our commissioner Terry Bowyer visited the peer led and ran charity ‘Safety Net’ which provides peer support for the local community’s mental health and wellbeing in Hertford.
The charity, which is a year old in July, offers a whole array of peer led therapeutic activities for those seeking local support. They provide counselling, wellbeing group work, art group, creative writing, complimentary therapies, social functions, as well as open-door days for people to just come in and socialise.
Safety Net is a wellbeing project ran by 5 volunteers and has over 40 local people on the books and regularly attending. It is supported by the local MP and regularly gets visits from local district councillors who are 100% behind it. They’ve also had support from local firms and businesses.
They offer help on an informal ‘walk in’ basis. Julie Abery (Founder and Chief Executive) said:
You don’t have to be in the mental health system to attend. If someone walks through the door with depression we’ll just listen and try to help. We are non-judgemental and want to break down stigma by involving our community – we provide a niche for this and we believe you can make life what you want it to be
Safety Nets motto is ‘We will catch you when you fall!’
The atmosphere there was warm, accepting, friendly, and accommodating with a sense of harmony between all involved as being equal as peers. The venue was great too, with clean and tidy rooms, a garden and smoking area, plus facilities. What stood out most was the whole peer support ethos. As Keith, an attendee said:
“Here people accept you whatever – even if they don’t know what you are feeling, they accept you are feeling it anyway and support you – it’s great!”
I love this place! It is a shining example of what peers can do for each other if they are properly resourced and organised. Who better to help support you than someone else who has been through it? In my other role as a Peer Specialist I know how effective this can be and I would love to see many more projects like Safety Net in our country because people really need it”