Ivor helps to co-facilitate one of our Support Groups in Middlesbrough as part of the Side By Side project. Read on to hear his experience of volunteering in peer support:

Ivor shares his experience of Support Groups

I’ve been attending two of Bipolar UK’s Support Groups and now I’ve also started to co-facilitate the Support Group in Middlesbrough.

After going along to a network meeting in Stockton, I met Julie [Development Officer] and as soon as she told me all about Bipolar UK, I knew I wanted to get involved. I have a diagnosis of bipolar and I also support my twin brother who also has a diagnosis of bipolar.

I did have concerns at first about how many people would turn up at the first group meeting and about helping to facilitate the first group. I realised that this would probably be normal for anybody starting to volunteer! Setting up the Middlesbrough Support Group wasn’t difficult as Julie guided me all the way through. The hardest part was doing the first group but now it’s all plain sailing.

Being involved in the Support Groups and with Side by Side has been very important as I wish this sort of thing had been around when I was first diagnosed at the age of 19. I want to volunteer as I just want to help people with this mental health condition. After all, we are the experts.

The power of peer support

Peer support has made a difference to people in all the Support Groups I attend. At one group meeting, one member’s husband wanted to meet me as he could see the positive difference in his wife and he knew she was in a safe place.

Support Group members also come along to seek information and advice. We were able to share answers to their issues and I know that members went home happy as they’re able to use the advice and peer support they have from others in the group.

I hope to carry on attending and co-facilitating Bipolar UK Support Groups, while also managing my own bipolar. I’ve met some very good people through my involvement in the Bipolar UK Support Groups and I’ve also been able to meet wonderful staff from Bipolar UK and others involved in Side by Side.

Find out more about volunteering with Bipolar UK.

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