Stand Together and Recover (STAR) are a local Blackpool support group, available to anybody over the age of 18 experiencing mental health issues. Anyone can self-refer if they feel they need mental health support.
We got an update on how STAR’s services have evolved over the course of 2020 and dealt with the ever-changing local situation during the coronavirus pandemic.
What services are STAR currently providing for those who need mental health support? (As of December 2020)
“We have expanded to two (group) sessions a week and will be moving into a new building in January where we will operate full time and be able to offer different sessions every day.
“About 10 weeks ago we got funding from the lottery to provide therapy and counselling to some of our members. So, throughout December, we have been finishing off the last few sessions of that. This has been highly successful, and we have had great feedback from the members who received this. They were all very grateful to have access to these services quickly, without a waiting list and have made great progress. In the new year we plan to apply for more funding to continue this and to start group therapy sessions funded by Great Places housing association.”
What happens in an average group session?
“We promote a very relaxed atmosphere, so in our general sessions people are welcome to do what they like. We provide craft activities or games for people who want to get involved but we also have a chill out area where people can relax and have a cup of tea and a chat.
“Our focus is providing a social environment where people can mix with others who understand what others are going through. There are always volunteers on hand for people who want some one-to-one support and somebody to listen.”
Have STAR had to change the way their services work because of COVID?
“Before COVID we would have been 30 and 40 people attending each session, but we have had to limit this to 15 people. This means groups are quieter and service users have a few more rules to stick to. This hasn't always been to everybody's taste, but we hope to see those members back when there are less restrictions.”
Has there been a change in the most common reasons people access STAR since the start of the pandemic?
“People suffering from anxiety has increased. We are also being contacted by a lot of people who haven't had mental health issues before. A lot of users are suffering from increased isolation which has meant that we have decided to open our services from anyone suffering from social isolation.”
What is unique about STAR?
“Our service is unique because every volunteer has lived experience of mental health issues. We do not turn anybody away. We don't ask that people have an official diagnosis, and we have no waiting lists. Anybody who is suffering mental health issues, learning disabilities or social isolation is welcome to come along. If they feel they need our services, then they are made very welcome.”
Why is group/peer support important for people with mental health problems?
“Peer support gives people a chance to discuss their issues with somebody who has lived that experience and will never judge.”
What is the best thing about being involved with STAR?
“From our evaluation reports, users have indicated that gaining confidence to be around groups of people and building their own support networks has been the thing they value most.”
What would STAR say to somebody who is unsure of taking the first step and getting involved?
“There is no need to be scared. We are a very welcoming group. Every single one of us has had to drag ourselves through the door the first time and despite how scary it can be what we have gained is well worth the fear. Nobody is pushy, you'll be welcome to just sit quietly if that is what you'd prefer but you will still be looked after. We work on your time, not ours. You're also welcome to bring a friend or family member. We want you to feel comfortable and that is the most important thing to us.”
How can people get involved?
“At the moment, due to COVID regulations we ask people to book in before attending. They can do this by emailing email@example.com or searching Stand Together and Recover CIO on Facebook.”
Get tested if you have any of these symptoms, a sexual partner has symptoms or you’re worried after having sex without a condom. Many STIs have no symptoms at all, like HIV. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.