Back row Steven, Linda & Shoaib Group 1 graduates and Peer Mentors for the current group. Front row Carol & Mary, Peer Mentors to Group 1
One of the hopes for Epilepsy Futures is to be able to support four participants from each group to become “peer mentors” and act as volunteer guides and supporters to participants in the following group.
Today (Monday 20th August) was the first chance for us to gather together a group of people who have had the experience of acting in this way with the programme.
Our group one graduates were the first people to undertake a six month Epilepsy Futures journey, and so we had to try to improvise by recruiting people who were involved already in a range of our services to act as mentors for them.
I think it is fair to say we have all learned a lot over the last year about the self management journey that can happen for participants on the Epilepsy Futures programme, and the mentors who graduated from group 1 certainly have more of an “insiders” understanding of the process of self discovery that people are likely to experience.
In that respect, they continue to be “pioneers” helping us learn more about the self management journey for people living with epilepsy.
We asked them some questions, to help them reflect on
- What are we learning about peer support?
- What makes effective peer support?
- What are the blocks to peer support?
This led to a wide ranging conversation, during which it was obvious how much those who have taken part in group one are still learning and growing as a result of their new roles as volunteer mentors.
Their experience has helped to consolidate more awareness of themselves and an deeper appreciation of the benefits and limits of a peer mentor relationship.
- “You need to have a belief in yourself and what you have to offer as a mentor, as well as a belief in the people you are supporting”
- “Good mentoring is about supporting people through bad times and good”
- “It’s about inspiring them, creating self confidence and building resilience”
- “You need to be honest with them, and not be afraid to challenge people to push their comfort zones, while balancing what is realistic and manageable”
- “If you are going to encourage them to take their next step, you need to be willing to do the same yourself”
- “As a mentor you need to be in a good place with regards to your own epilepsy, in order to help others”
However, they were clear that people need to want to make changes, and that the more ongoing personal issues a person has outside of Epilepsy Futures, the harder it will be for them to take full advantage of being here for six months.
Also, the mentors were really clear as well that while it is possible for them to be friendly, its important for people to understand that they are not their friends per se, as boundaries need to be clear and honest.
After their hard work, we rewarded them all for their ongoing support and enthusiasm with lunch at a local Italian restaurant.