Why Peer-Support is Key to Mental Health
Talk for Health is social enterprise that teaches the skills of therapeutic talk, enabling peer-groups in Islington to interact empathetically and authentically to bolster their emotional and mental health, for free.
By 2030, mental distress will be the world's costliest health problem (WHO, 2011). Talk for Health believes that the future of mental health is social. Better quality relationships, social support and connectedness are key to our mental health, combating the sense of isolation and loneliness that pervades many mental health difficulties. Those who have completed the programme - there is an impressive 91% completion rate - note that knowing that others understand or have experienced the same distress is the most comforting and helpful outcome.
'When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment, not the flower'
So, how does Talk for Health work? People who are experiencing mental distress and others, who simply want to actively take care of their wellbeing, are trained in the essentials of therapeutic talk. These include active listening, empathy and boundary-setting. Once they have completed the four-day programme, usually split across the course of a month, they are invited to join ongoing peer-support groups. In this way, Talk for Health supports social and community wellbeing as well as individual health.
Talk for Health was set up by psychotherapist Nicky Forsythe, who is passionate about distilling the core values of therapy and making them available to everyone. Research supports her idea. There are over 400 types of therapy, yet studies into which kind is most effective have drawn a blank - they are all found to be as effective as each other. It is the foundation of therapy that works - being heard, receiving empathy and having a safe space to talk about yourself authentically and honestly. Research has also shown that the right kind of listening and conversation from your peers can be as effective in supporting mental health and wellbeing as therapy (Jacobson & Christensen, 1994).
In November Talk for Health are launching a men's only programme, encouraging men to come and share their personal experience in a safe and supportive environment. Men's difficulty with expressing their emotions, or even recognising them, is something that Talk for Health patron and Turner prize-winning artist Grayson Perry sees as a huge barrier to robust mental health. He credits his six years of therapy as 'the best money ever spent' and 'the biggest influence' on his work. The men's only Talk for Health programme provides access to those men who are burdened with an archaic legacy of what it means to be male - strong, unemotional and in control.
You can contact Talk for Health on [email protected] or find out more at www.talkforhealth.co.uk