Marsh Award for Mental Health Peer Support: Peer Support in Marginalised Groups

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 those working with specific or hard to reach groups of people.

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.

Aupeers Thursday Peer Support Group  2021

Aupeers Thursday Peer Support Group is a free to access group that aims to provide online peer support for autistic adults at any point on their journey. Their core goal is to provide mental health and well-being support through the recognition that they are not alone and reducing negative beliefs, reducing isolation and promoting connection. The group reaches out to and includes members simply by understanding the environmental, social and personal needs without judgement, providing a unique space which is tailored to their member’s needs.  For example, the group agreement includes statements such as understanding lack of eye contact and allowing for processing time, no other space that they access understands or allows for this.  They meet once a week for an hour via Zoom with each member having the opportunity to share their experiences. The group is ran by a trained peer support facilitator who facilitates the sessions and the time they have to contribute. The Aupeers Thursday Peer Support Group has a main priority is to ensure the sustainability of the group and seek funding to grow and increase days and reach potential new members.

Previous Winners

Black Men Real Talk

This group is a community engagement activity based in Leicester and provides a forum for the exploration of different approaches and perspectives to encourage more men from Black communities to become involved in the mental health conversation. As mental health becomes more talked about, it is important to create safe spaces for Black men to talk about their experiences and issues that are concerning them. The group is challenging the stigma surrounding mental health in this area of society and encouraging men to become more openly vulnerable and share their emotions. The group is run by Black men for Black men and helps to transform small talk to real talk. While the group was originally run through in person sessions, it moved online during the pandemic and continues to attract a good audience. 

Focus 4 1, Asian Women's Peer Support Group, Peer Supporters in Community Liaison

WINNER: Focus 4 1

Focus 4 1 is a BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) Adult Mental Health User-Led organisation which encourages members to develop skills to improve their lives, provides information and structured activities and challenges the stigmas and discriminations surrounding mental health issues. Members have the opportunity to share their skills and lived experience within the group, as well as engaging with third party organisations and providing feedback on their experiences the South West London and St George’s NHS Mental Health Trust. This feedback has led to improved provision of mental health services in hospital and after care with the home treatment team. The group’s user-led approach gives every service user a voice and helps them empower themselves and other people. All Focus 4 1 members are involved in the development and design of the group and it has become a way for the BAME community to start talking about their mental health and get the help that they need.

RUNNER UP: Asian Women’s Peer Support Group

This group raises awareness of mental health issues, tackles stigma and builds strong peer support and trusting relationships for women from South Asian communities in Oxford. They provide a bespoke service, catering to 8 different languages and a number of members who cannot read, write or speak English. They put on a range of physical and educational activities for the women and celebrate the cultural events for all of their cultures. The group is led by two professional workers with lived experience of mental health, who understand the stigma attached to mental health in these communities. They support the women to overcome the challenges and barriers they face in getting the support that they need. The group provides outreach support to provide a safe space for the women to address issues surrounding wellbeing and mental health. They are encouraging the women to take ownership of the group and empowering them to become more involved in their local communities and reach out to other women who might need support.

RUNNER UP: Peer Supporters in Community Liaison

This group of 15 volunteer peer supporters provide support to people who are in contact with the criminal justice system, drawing on their own lived experience to provide one to one support in the community and in the courts. They work with Together for Mental Wellbeing, alongside their Liaison and Diversion services which support people from a range of backgrounds and communities who experience mental distress and are somehow involved in the criminal justice system. The volunteers provide a space for people to talk about their experience without judgement, help them feel less alone, discover their aspirations and link them with the practical support they might need. The volunteers themselves meet monthly to support each other in their roles, with additional support from a Peer Support Coordinator. The group promote the voices of people with similar lived experience through a series of films about people’s experiences of mental distress in the criminal justice system.

Mindful Mums and Central London OCD Support Group

Mindful Mums, Bromley

The group provides emotional support to women during the perinatal period (pregnancy and the first year following the birth of a child). The Mindful Mums walking group has been particularly successful, enabling expectant and new mothers to connect with others with similar experiences. The walking group meets once a week in Crystal Palace and the sessions encourage regular exercise, sharing of mutual experiences, and development of social connections during pregnancy and in the first year after birth. The average attendance is between 25-30 women. The group is organised by two volunteers, who have experience of feeling stressed, low, anxious or have struggled with their own mental or emotional well-being during the perinatal period, and wanted to give something back to other women.

Central London OCD Support Group

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the most common mental disorders, affecting about 1-2% of the population. For some, the effects can be debilitating. The Central London OCD Support Group was set up in 2005 with the belief that peer support can dramatically improve the mental well-being of people with OCD. The group is open to anyone over 18 who has OCD or a related disorder, and their family and friends. They meet once a fortnight, addressing a wide range of topics relating to OCD. Individual members identify, and are supported to achieve, certain goals, helping them to move forward in their lives. The group has helped hundreds of Londoners feel less alone with their OCD, encouraged them to seek treatment and helped to fill gaps in professional services.