How our mental health support service helps people gain social confidence
For Mental Health Awareness Week, Jo Ellis, our Supported Housing Service Manager, explores how we help people who have anxiety gain confidence at social events.
This year’s theme for mental health awareness week is anxiety. As we’ve had several national social events recently – including the coronation and Eurovision – I’ve been reflecting on how we support people with anxiety to get involved, connect with others and gain confidence.
Group events are often a source of worry and stress for people receiving support through our mental health service. Some individuals overanalyse their actions, feel overwhelmed, or can even become physically sick. Left unmanaged, this can cause hopelessness, low self-esteem and cause people to avoid social situations in future.
We provide supported housing and floating support for around 400 people in London, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex. Our customers receive one-to-one advice to help them identify and reach their personal goals. We provide peer support from people who have lived experience of mental illness, and can also connect people to specialist health organisations as needed.
Many of our customers choose to focus on gaining confidence and overcoming social anxiety. It’s an important independent living skill that can help people build relationships with others, excel at work and in education, and flourish.
Recently, we supported residents at our service in Watford during the run up to their coronation party. Here’s how:
- We organised the event collaboratively with our customers and peer workers. This ensured everyone’s preferences were met and empowered them to get involved
- We held a series of small ‘practice’ gatherings in the lounge before the main event. Everyone had the opportunity to socialise with a support worker present, in a non-judgemental environment
- We told our customers in advance that there would be food at the party, and made it clear they wouldn’t need to eat any. This took some pressure off, as food is a common source of anxiety
- We said we’d love to see everyone and made everyone feel welcome. But we also told them they wouldn’t need to come and could leave at any time. Putting them in control of their own participation helped them feel more comfortable.
This approach worked well and our customers enjoyed a day that may have otherwise been stressful. Here are some of the comments we received:
“It gave us the opportunity to socialise and bond together some more.”
“It felt safe and relaxed.”
“We chatted about a whole range of different subjects... and there was free food!”
By listening to our customers, removing pressure and uncertainty, we enabled them to experience the coronation as they liked. This inclusive approach to events empowers people to develop their social skills in a safe, supportive environment. And once they’re ready to move on from our service they can do so with confidence.