Thanks to everyone who took part in our Shoulder to Shoulder project in London

As Shoulder to Shoulder London comes to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of the mentors and mentees who participated.

Shoulder to Shoulder is a mentoring project for ex-service men and women recovering from mental health problems. The project aims to reduce social isolation and increase the potential for recovery through one to one mentoring.Our trained volunteer mentors offer practical and social support, sometimes just spending time together, doing activities and having a chat; other times encouraging mentees to think about the goals they would like to achieve and then helping them to work towards them. It’s completely led by the ex-service man or woman, which makes it not only empowering but tailor made to that individual, meaning that the outcomes achieved are meaningful for them.

To everyone who gave up their time to come to inductions, to training and to mentoring meetings; to all of you who gave your support, encouragement  and ideas to someone who needed a listening ear and a bit of guidance; to those who gave something new a try and faced challenges head-on… thank you! We really appreciate all the hard work and commitment that you have put in over the course of the project. We’ve had some fantastic outcomes so before I go I would like to share a few of them with you.

To date:

  • 160 mentees have been referred to Shoulder to Shoulder
  • 113 mentors have been inducted and trained
  • 76 matches have been made

We collected feedback from everyone who was willing and used it to assess the outcomes of mentoring. The resulting evaluation showed that mentoring can be a powerful tool in bringing about real lasting change for ex-service men and women with mental health problems.

In the course of their mentoring relationships, mentees’ social isolation decreased, and their overall wellbeing, including self-esteem, improved. It was found that mentees were starting to take responsibility for their mental health.

In addition to taking part in the mentoring project and attending meetings with their mentors, many mentees were exploring self-help approaches to their mental health, as well as engaging with some of the choices they were being offered in terms of different counselling services, choice of psychiatrist, levels of medication, and opportunities to take part in e.g. residential programmes and holidays.

Their ability to think optimistically about the future, both in setting goals, and in taking small steps towards their goals, improved over the course of the project. Living skills improved, particularly in relation to public transport, budgeting and exercise, and some had undertaken further training and started job hunting.

One of the best things about working on a project like this is that when a relationship comes to an end, you get to hear about all the great things that the mentor and mentee have achieved together. It can be challenging, of course, but when both parties put in the effort and genuinely get on, it can be really transformative. Here are a few quotes from people who participated in the project:

I realised that it’s just a case of getting out and doing things. [My mentor] has given me the incentive to do things and not give up.

I was in a really bad way before – I didn’t know what was going on with me but once the ball got rolling it was a breath of fresh air. I could easily talk to [my mentor] – she was honest, never judgemental and we got on really well. I felt really comfortable around her. She was the best person for me.

I had about 10 goals before, most of which were unrealistic but I now have come up with 5 realistic and achievable ones with [my mentor]’s help. She had lots of good ideas.

I just wanted to say I think you've run a really professional, welcoming and supportive programme fantastically well. You've given me great support and guidance when needed, so thanks!

My mentee and I have got on really well, and we plan to stay in touch afterwards. I hope I’ve brought something to the relationship, that my mentee has gained trust and confidence, realised that he’s not alone and that it is possible to move forward. From my point of view, it feels like a vital and life-changing project and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.  I’ll certainly be doing it again.

I had the pleasure of meeting a very decent and pleasant person who, for reasons out of his control, needed a bit of personal support, a listening ear, someone to confide in. To be able to help someone simply by having regular, monthly chats for a few hours was an easy win for me. I also thought that the training had been excellent, and that it was a good cause for me to invest a little time in.

And, finally, a piece of advice from one of our mentors for anyone who has just started mentoring someone with a mental health problem: “be patient, don’t expect too much, be consistently supportive and work with the person to help them deliver what they want – it’s all about them, not simply about delivering goals for the sake of it.”

So thanks again to everyone who took part. It’s been an interesting, rewarding and challenging three years, and we couldn’t have done it without you!

If you are interested in being a mentor or mentee we are still running Shoulder to Shoulder in Birmingham – please get in touch with Jane Davison at janed@timebank.org.uk, tel: 0121 236 2531