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Mental Health Foundation: Standing Together

What is Standing Together and who is it helping?

The Standing Together Project aims to improve the emotional health and community connections of older people living in supported housing, as well as to reduce loneliness and isolation.

From late summer 2015, project staff have been facilitating weekly self-help groups for periods of six months, in retirement and extra care housing settings. The groups are for tenants who are experiencing memory loss, mental health issues, learning disabilities, and experience significant loneliness.

This project is a partnership between the Mental Health Foundation and Housing & Care 21, a UK housing organisation providing social housing and support to people in later life, including people with dementia. We also now have a new partner in Notting Hill Housing.

Candy Worf talks about the remarkable stories of one of our Standing Together groups – the ‘Rotherhithe Babes’ – and why she wrote a book about them. Read Candy’s blog or download the book.

How do the groups work?

The groups begin through building relationships with staff and tenants and holding ‘taster’ sessions for potential participants.

Initially, ground rules are developed to enable people to think about what they want from each other, in order to keep the group’s safe spaces. It’s an opportunity to talk about what people hope for from the groups and to establish that the groups belong to the participants, not the facilitators.

Group activities are based on themes which might be seasonal or practical, as well as emotional. As the first cohort of groups began in the summer, a starting point was holiday memories, using items such as postcards and sticks of rock for reminiscence and an activity exploring the meaning of each others’ names.

We also use events in the Mental Health Foundation’s calendar like Tea & Talk to promote conversation about mental health and wellbeing.   

Why self-help groups?

This model of self-help groups is rooted in building relationships with people, seeing them regularly, listening and initiating conversations. We believe we are making an impact on people’s quality of lives. People tell us that they enjoy the groups and thank us for facilitating them. They are visibly enlivened by the groups, the opportunity to talk and share experiences and reflect on how to manage life’s complexities. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to see the positive impact the groups can have on people.

Read Gillian’s story of overcoming loneliness.