What We Are and What We Do

APCMH Merton and Sutton is a branch of the Association for Pastoral Care in Mental Health, also known as Being Alongside. It is a Registered Charity No. 1081642. APCMH Merton and Sutton runs a voluntary befriending service for adults suffering from mental health problems who live in the community.

Services Offered:

One-to-one befriending for those with mental health problems living in the community in the London Boroughs of Merton and Sutton and neighbouring districts.

Volunteer befrienders regularly visit a person who is experiencing mental health problems to have a chat, go for a walk, share activities of common interest – anything which makes life more enjoyable.

No charges. Minimum age for referral is 18 years, there is no upper age limit. No-one with a recent history of violence or addictive behaviour can be accepted on to the scheme. Befrienders of the opposite sex cannot be provided.

There may be some waiting time to enable accurate matching of a befriender and the person they befriend. All befrienders are trained volunteers.

Making Referrals

APCMH Merton and Sutton accepts referrals of all persons who wish to have a befriender if the person being referred:

  • is an adult, e.g. at least 18 years or over
  • has had no recent history of addictive or violent behaviour (i.e. would not pose a risk to a befriender)
  • is living in the community, i.e. is not in hospital at the time the referral is made
  • has a mental illness, or mental health problem (i.e. is not simply lonely) but is not going through a period of severe mental instability, and is likely to benefit from befriending
  • needs a friend, rather than a home help, provider of shopping and transport services, advocate, etc.
  • is referred by a qualified person in the mental health care services, e.g. a Social Worker, Community Psychiatric Nurse, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, G.P., Counsellor, or trained Care or Support Worker.

We do not accept self-referrals.  If you wish to have a befriender of the same gender please contact one of the qualified persons above, who may be able to refer you to us.

If you are considering referring a client to us, please phone or e-mail (see below). We will send you our Guide to Referrals and a Referral Form.

What is Befriending

APCMH Merton and Sutton provides a voluntary one-to-one befriending service for adults with mental health problems living in the community within the London Boroughs of Merton and Sutton and adjoining districts. At present, we operate about 35 such relationships, each of which is on a same-gender basis. Some are a few months old whilst others have been running for over 10 years.

Befriending is a means of reducing the isolation that so often accompanies the experience of mental illness. By building up and maintaining a close relationship, social skills and confidence can be rediscovered and nurtured.

  • Each relationship is effectively a union of what the referred person needs and that which a befriender can offer.
  • Many relationships become genuine, warm and close friendships. Talking together or visits to the local café every week or two can develop into shopping trips, regular walks in the local park or countryside, and other outings.

Volunteering as a befriender

Befrienders are caring, committed persons with an open mind, willing to give of themselves in friendship. No experience or knowledge in the mental health field is required – volunteers are given free training. If a volunteer has had previous mental health problems, then as long as they are in a period of stability, their experience is valuable. We have an equal opportunities policy and welcome adults of all ages, backgrounds, races and cultures. References are taken up for potential befrienders, who must also undergo a satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Service check, which is a routine procedure essential for those befriending or working with vulnerable adults.

Training courses are held at intervals of about 12-18 months, comprising one midweek evening session, and two sessions on a Saturday. For those who wish to start befriending without waiting for the next training course we offer “interim training”; after submitting an application form, volunteers attend a one-to-one meeting of about 2 hours duration, where the essentials of befriending and our procedures are explained, and hand-outs provided for subsequent reading. Befrienders who have completed interim training and started befriending are expected to attend part of the next full training course, and the following support group meeting.