Column: Support for mental health problems is available

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Research suggests that one in four of us will experience some form of mental health illness during our life.

For those affected, it can be a dark, anxious time, when you need the support of friends and family more than ever.

But in Doncaster we also have a local organisation called the People Focussed Group (PFG), which provides support to people who have mental health problems. Based at the Wellness Centre, Intake, PFG members know from personal experience the value of having someone to talk to and somewhere to go when mental illness strikes.

They provide ‘peer support’, which is the help that people with personal experience of a mental illness, or a learning disability, are able to give each other.

It comes in many forms, including social, emotional and practical, and is mutually offered and returned, allowing people to benefit whether they are giving or receiving.

Built on shared personal experiences, it helps those who have a mental health illness to focus on their strengths, not weaknesses, so they can move towards wellbeing and recovery.

PFG recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and the service operates every day of the year, including cooking up a hearty meal on Christmas day.

Project manager Kelly Hicks and colleagues like Glyn Butcher provide valuable support to over 800 Doncaster people every month.

Three of them have said what a positive impact PFG has had on their lives.

Lynne, 62, had a difficult childhood and didn’t mix easily with other children. She has been on medication for mental health problems since her teens and has borderline personality disorder and depression. She spent six months on a mental health ward and admits life is difficult.

She lives on her own but says PFG has enhanced her life to the point that she regularly travels on three buses from her home to Intake. She says PFG enables her to meet up with others in a similar situation and improve her confidence.

Graham, 52, has been a regular at PFG since 2012. He has Aspergers Syndrome and says that peer support has helped him overcome many problems. A one time loner who would shy away from people, Graham says he’s now built up a big network of friends thanks to PFG.

Tragedy brought Wendy, 46, to PFG after her nephew was murdered, sending her into a spiral of depression. She bottled up her emotions but thanks to counselling and support from PFG members she is making a good recovery and enjoys showing others how to prepare and cook meals during her visits to the Wellness Centre.