Intentional Peer Support

Working on the model devised by Shery Mead, we have trained a number of people who use mental health services in Sutton as Intentional Peer Support Workers. In a pilot project, that soon became a permanent arrangement, our Peer Support Workers provided a service twice a week to Sutton Hospital, working with patients on the psychiatric ward. Sutton Hospital wards have closed, and the Sutton beds are currently at Springfield hospital in Tooting Bec.

As more people participated in the training we have been able to be able to expand our services into the community, and have now set up Sutton Hopeline staffed at weekend evenings by Intentional Peer Support Workers. The number is 020 8150 8872 and is open Saturday and Sunday 8.30pm until 11.30pm. We have accredited trainers in Intentional Peer Support and have been involved in delivering training to other organisations.

Intentional Peer Support workers are people who have personal experience of mental distress and of using mental health services. They offer mutual support to anyone who feels that it may be helpful to talk about their own experience of mental distress and mental health services with someone who has been there too.


“I am moving forward, and I do not say this lightly; I owe my life to Sutton Mental Health Foundation. That is the truth!”

(Mark’s testimonial – read the full transcript below“)

Click to Call Us

Out of Hours Support

“Intentional Peer Support” is the term used to describe a variety of groups and/or practices where people seek to learn and grow as equals by drawing on their own and each others’ knowledge, skills and experiences. Peer support is most commonly found in settings where it is important that people of the same standing look out for each other, and where power, hierarchy, disempowerment and claims to special knowledge about others have been found to get in the way of people working together and caring for themselves and each other.

“The class was organised in such a way that we all learned from each other, and visibly grew together”

(Martyn’s Testimonial – read the full transcript below)

Intentional Peer Support avoids the psychiatric or medical model based around a diagnosis and instead starts with people’s own stories.

Intentional Peer Support is about creating relationships that make it OK for us to not just be in peer relationships, but to use them as a tool to take a bigger look at how we’ve learned to operate in the world… Being intentional means that we come into the relationship with a specific purpose in mind. While peer support assumes the characteristics of any healthy relationship, there is also a specific intention. The intention is to purposefully communicate in ways that help both people step outside their current story. (Mead, 2005, p.15)


“As an outpatient under Jubilee Center I passed Sutton Mental Health Foundation on the bus many times on  my way to and from appointments. I had no idea what they did. When things got quite tough for me I wondered whether there was anything the Charity could do for me. Part of my “Condition” means I often struggle in social situations, so the first two times I walked into the building at Belmont, I didn’t stay. I got myself into quite a state while waiting for variuos stages of my treatment. It seems common practice to hand helpline numbers to patients when they left an appointment. The next step was waiting to get a letter confirming the next appointment, and then you just had to wait for 6 or more weeks to been seen again.

There seemed to be nothing but more chances to get even more Depressed, between suicide and my next appointment. I had been in these situations many times and it was during such time that I did attempt Suicide, self- harmed, lost my job and had some really horrible experiences. I had not suffered anything like this before I went under treatment. It was the treatment itself that made me more anxious and depressed than I have ever been in my life. The isolation was extreme. At the beginning of this year, in a really bad emotional state, I spoke to my sister on the phone, in tears. She begged me to get out of my flat, a place that had become cross between a shelter-from-the-outside world, and a prison. I had another look a Sutton Mental Health Foundations website. This time I saw something about Intentional Peer Support Training. I knew I would feel more comfortable walking into SMHF headquarters if I went with a purpose to concentrate on. I took the big step and went up to Belmont. By coincidence the IPS training course was starting within weeks. My initial encounter was just to establish contact with “real live people”again, but now there was more.

On the course I met other people like me. There was no judgement. We were Peers already. The things we said to each other made so much more sense than things I had heard from professionals in the NHS. Over the 10 week training my own experience of the support was life-changing. I plan to find a path in this field where I can get as much out of it as the people I engage with. It is my mission to reach other people who are in the same situation and fill the gap between appointments at first, to show them that they too have potential to fit into the world. It has been quite an emotional revelation discovering that I am not alone and that I have some worth again. I could be back in a situation where I felt hopeless, worthless and useless, and drive my car of a cliff again. Instead I am moving forward, and I do not say this lightly; I owe my life to Sutton Mental Health Foundation. That is the truth!”