BHT Sussex is part of an alliance of organisations in West Sussex who work together to empower people to improve their mental health and wellbeing called Pathfinder.
Pathfinder prides itself on its volunteer Peer Mentors – people who use their lived experiences of mental health challenges to create a supportive environment where their clients can discuss their needs, as well as work towards achieving their goals and aspirations.

Clarrissa used to attend Peer Mentor groups as a client, soon becoming a Peer Mentor herself. This is her story:

“When I first came to Crawley, I was in a really bad place. I had a breakdown and wouldn’t go out or talk to anyone. I ended up having a visit from the Crisis Team at Langley Green Hospital. The first thing that I said was, “I’m not going anywhere, you are not taking me away.”

“A mental health worker came to see me every day for 7 days, which then reduced to every other day. Soon a lady came to speak to me about becoming an outpatient and what I could do whilst I was there. I was told about different support groups at Langley Green Hospital but I was not able to engage for 3-4 years until I was able to leave my house. I eventually did these groups for 12 weeks until they came to an end.”

“I thought that was it and I was back on my own but no. I was told about Pathfinder and what they could do for me after I left the hospital. I felt like I may be going back to square one and not being able to leave the house again, but I managed to meet up with Sean from Pathfinder at the library and we filled out the paperwork together. I was invited to join in a support group online. The groups were lovely and run by volunteer Peer Mentors, Kim and Harsha. They were both really welcoming and I felt part of the group even though I was so scared of meeting new people.”

“After a couple of weeks, I didn’t feel like a client anymore, I felt like part of the family. I came from the gutter to where I am now thanks to a handful of people, but it was Kim who pushed me to become a Peer Mentor, which I am now today. I questioned myself over and over and I thank Pathfinder and the Peer Mentor course facilitated by Emily, Pathfinder’s Engagement Officer. I knew I wanted to give back to the people who had helped me.”

“Thank you to everyone that’s helped me over the last 6 years: the people at Langley Green Hospital, Pathfinder, and especially Kim. I am now a Peer Mentor to help others and hopefully now I can help clients in the same way I was helped. I am now just about to start a cook and eat group.”

“My motto is: if I can help just one person I have done my job.”

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