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Mentoring with Mind


Mentoring with Mind

By Mark Leahy

In the last issue I reported on the OUPS Cambridge Region's Autumn Day Conference on mental health & wellbeing and you may recall that Sarah Hughes, CEO of Mind in Cambridgeshire, gave a presentation entitled: Shame no more - mental health today which explored and discussed questions such as: Is society changing its attitude towards mental health quickly enough? Are we still too afraid to talk about mental illness? Should we disclose how we are really feeling - are we likely to get help or be victimised?

Such questions are wholly relevant, even at a time when we see increasing numbers of media personalities disclosing their own mental health issues and an increase in campaigns promoting awareness of mental wellbeing. The mental health charity Mind, along with Rethink Mental Illness, is a partner in "Time to Change", England's most ambitious campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people who experience mental health problems.

Sarah's passionate and eloquent presentation has prompted me to share with you, in this edition, some of the work which I am privileged to be a part of with Mind BLMK (Mind in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes).

Mind BLMK is a partner in the Milton Keynes Advice Network Partnership co-ordinated by MK Citizens Advice Bureau. This involves a number of local organisations working in partnership together to provide an improved service to clients. Mind BLMK's role in the partnership is to provide a mentor service to enable clients to set, and work towards achieving, agreed goals which will assist them in improving their wellbeing. A primary aim of the service is to support clients to work with the services of other organisations within the partnership when necessary, to enable the client to experience the maximum benefit of the services they receive.

About Mind's Mentors
Mentors are volunteers trained by Mind BLMK to support clients in creating an action plan to work towards their goal(s) identified from completing a Mental Health Recovery Star assessment.

The Mental Health Recovery Star is a tried and tested tool for supporting and measuring change and was designed for adults who are managing their mental health and recovering from mental illness.

The Star is being used by many Mental Health Trusts as a tool for optimising individual recovery and gaining the information to create recovery-focused Care Plans. The Star Chart is co-developed by the client and the Mentor Co-coordinator (or Mentor) in partnership and covers ten life domains. These are:
 Managing mental health
 Self-care
 Living skills
 Social networks
 Work
 Relationships
 Addictive behaviour
 Responsibilities
 Identity and self esteem
 Trust and hope

The Recovery Star can also be used as a method of collecting quality and performance data and has become a standard assessment, monitoring and care planning tool within clinical teams.

Volunteer Mentors are selected for their interpersonal and communication skills and receive formal training for their role to enable them to support a wide range of clients.

Mentors are not counsellors but can pro-actively support service users and help them to set goals and remain focused on them in order to achieve them.

My own experience as a Mind BLMK Mentor
As a voluntary mentor at Mind BLMK I provide one-to-one support to clients experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems such as stress, depression, anxiety or other wellbeing issues.

The work is challenging but very rewarding and enables me to support people in a very practical way. I have worked with clients who have suffered issues such as PTSD following serious assault, and anxiety and depression as a result of bullying at work. One young man who, although only in his mid-thirties, had been in prison on twenty three occasions and had tried to commit suicide three times; trying to deal with his drug addiction was a huge challenge for him.

These individuals also often have debt problems and issues that arise as a consequence of their circumstances, such as housing problems, learning difficulties and physical health issues. In my experience they may be individuals who seem to have "fallen through" any safety nets that society might provide and perhaps have difficulty navigating the dis-jointed range of (often under-funded) services which are available.

Mentoring requires a commitment to working with one person for a period of up to twelve weeks, at the end of which, the objectives and goals will hopefully have been achieved. As part of mentoring, support is given to the client to help them engage with services provided by eight other local organisations, including the Citizen's Advice Bureau and Relate.

There may occur additional support requirements throughout the course of the mentoring and, therefore, the ability to identify the need for referral to other local support organisations, as necessary, is important.

At times, supporting the client means challenging their preconceptions to ensure that these do not stand in the way of progress. However, doing this, whilst simultaneously supporting them in building their self-confidence and improving their mental well-being, can be challenging. Balancing this with encouraging them to become more independent and to reduce their dependency on the service is not always easy, but seeing progress is very rewarding.

Back-up and support from the Mentor Co-ordinator is always available; so although it is one-to-one mentoring, the mentor is not alone or left to their own devices. Nonetheless, for mentoring to be successful the client must be willing to make changes to work towards their goals.

A mentoring relationship is founded upon trust, mutual respect and confidentiality. It enshrines the values of Mind BLMK inasmuch as it aims to meet individual needs and promote recovery, wellbeing and independence.

Mentors meet with clients at one of Mind BLMK's venues or in a public place for 1-2 hours at a time, normally once a week for a period of up to 12 weeks. Suitability of prospective clients for the mentoring service is assessed and occasionally a decision not to offer mentoring is made, if deemed inappropriate. An Introductory meeting is arranged by the Mentor Co-ordinator between a client and a Mentor. Once the introduction has been made and goals are discussed, the mentoring relationship begins.

Mentoring can be frustrating - for both client and Mentor - but with empathy, a desire to understand the perspective of others and a will to help those who are vulnerable, it can be extremely rewarding work.

For more information
If you are interested in becoming a Mentor, or would like to have a chat about what is involved, you should contact your local Mind organisation to see if they run a Mentoring Scheme. If you live in the Bedfordshire or Milton Keynes area, please contact Mind BLMK by calling 0300 330 0648 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Additional information can be found here: http://www.mind-blmk.org.uk/get-involved.html

The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

This article originally appeared in News & Views Spring 2015.


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