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.
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.
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.