Marsh Award for Mental Health Peer Support: Overcoming Barriers

These Awards are run in partnership with Mind and wider Peerfest partners and recognise excellence in peer led support for those experiencing mental health problems.

Peer support happens when people work together, or support each other, from their lived experience. It can take place informally and formally, in all sorts of settings such as in user led organisations, projects, support groups and in the workplace. It means different things to different people. It may also be called self help, befriending/wellbeing groups, meet ups, or mentoring. It also can take place online through digital means.

This Award recognises peer support groups that have overcome challenges, such as a lack of funding or restrictions during the pandemic, to keep running and providing vital mental health support.

Nominations for the Award are judged by an independent panel of people with peer support expertise, others with lived experience, and representatives from Peerfest partner organisations.

Caring and Sharing Rochdale and Breaking Barriers NW 2023

Caring and Sharing Rochdale

Caring and Sharing Rochdale started in 2017 with a desire to reach out and support Asylum seekers and refugees and those who are destitute and an aim to unite the community and provide equal opportunity and fair access for all whilst offering practical solutions to address issues such as poverty, social isolation, immigration, and poor mental health. They also provide volunteering opportunities to service users, helping them to access training to improve their employability skills and ultimately settle into life in the UK. They are embedded in the community and have an excellent track record in delivering a range of services. They support over 400 families, many of whom are African and struggle to cope with isolation and lack of communication with others in their new community. Through Caring and Sharing they are able to forge new friendships and support one another, while learning about their new community which helps them to assimilate.

Breaking Barriers NW

Breaking Barriers was formed out of the experience of two mothers who were disappointed at the lack of information and the gaps in provision to facilitate inclusion for disabled children and young people in their local area. They bring together families and offer bespoke support to help them meet whatever challenges they are facing through social groups and activities, peer support and counselling. They aim to raise awareness of the needs of disabled children and young people to ensure that their voice is heard, and work with organisations to ensure that they are inclusive and make reasonable adjustments where necessary. They recently opened a sensory room in partnership with Bolton Market Place, offering a safe haven for anyone with specific sensory needs which is accessible to families who might need it while out in public.

Previous Winners

Syrian Welsh Society, Haringey Over 50s Forum and Rain on Me 

Syrian Welsh Society (Star Project) 

The Syrian Welsh Society is led by a lecturer from Cardiff University and Syrian refugees who have settled in the local area. The Society is there for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in Wales following traumatic experiences and journeys. The Society promotes and supports the engagement of the Syrian Community in Wales with the wider community and works collaboratively with other organisations and groups to achieve its goals. The Society has now been running for 7 years thanks to volunteers and the self-funding from members and now runs a range of clubs which are a network and platform for people to communicate, support and socialise with one another. Attention to mental health and wellbeing is a key objective for the society, and they have spoken with the Welsh Government about how the mental health of Syrian refugees can be supported at a higher level.  

Haringey Over 50s Forum 

This forum is an advocacy group for people over 50 in the local area and is made up of people from a range of backgrounds. They help those who are struggling to get help from the Council or other agencies, and also act as an advocate for those who have no one else to rely on. They take a personal approach to supporting their members, by calling them, visiting them and providing activities for them to attend. The group was originally founded in the 1990s and is the only older people’s group in the area that covers the whole of the borough. Members are encouraged to lead independent lives for as long as they are able to and the forum allows them to be involved in the decision making regarding older people’s care in the borough.  

Rain on Me 

Rain On Me provides a safe, confidential space for adults aged 18-35 to speak freely and explore their personal development. They provide free peer support meetings where individuals can build resilience and share how they feel without fear of judgment and also offer befriending sessions for individuals who have severe social anxiety or don’t feel ready to share in a group setting. All who need to vent their mental distress and want a safe space to do so are welcome to join the group, many of them are from marginalised communities and many have experienced some form of neglect from professional services. The volunteers running the sessions are all people with lived experience and they also have doctors and mental health professionals on board to provide additional advice and support.