SUPPORT in Mind's Frances Simpson, Ashley Campbell and Mo Connelly all spoke at a Mental Health and Social Support Seminar, held at the Crichton Institute in Dumfries on Thursday, 14 April.

Chief executive Frances was one of the main speakers at the event - co-hosted by The Open University in Scotland (one of the academic partners on the Crichton Campus) and the Crichton Institute - and emphasised the point that everything Support in Mind Scotland does as an organisation is directed by the people we support.

She explained that we also promote peer support, peer volunteering and peer working and introduced Ashley and Mo to the sold-out audience in the Rutherford McCowan building (main picture). The pair spoke passionately about how sharing experiences and skills with others has helped them and other people to achieve their own recovery.

For us, being completely person centred is critical to the value of social support

After the seminar, Frances said: "The important issues highlighted were that social support is often seen as intuitive and so not seen as achieving outcomes that funders value but in fact services like ours can change peoples lives.

"Important to us is the way we involve and engage with people so that everything we do is directed by the people we support. For us, being completely person centred is critical to the value of social support.

"We also talked about the specific projects we are running around Peer Working and Equally Fit, and we ended with a plea to other voluntary organisations in the audience to get in touch and talk to us about how we could work together to support people more effectively in these cash-strapped times."

Social support is the everyday assistance offered by family, friends, neighbours and colleagues, as well as the help offered by many charities and support services. It plays a vital role in maintaining mental health and wellbeing. 

Lack of social support is associated with feelings of loneliness and isolation, which have been linked with poorer physical health, reduced life expectancy and a wide range of mental health problems including anxiety and depression. 

The event was chaired by Roger Davis, Head of Social Work (Scotland) at The Open University, and joining Frances as a speaker on the night was Dr Jonathan Leach, a lecturer in mental health at The Open University and leader of the Mental Health strand of the OU’s BSc Degree in Health and Social Care.