"It is literally life-changing. I would not imagine where I am now was even possible"

Peers in Partnership Buddy

Doing this is exactly why I wanted to get into teaching in the first place. You’re changing someone’s life. What else would you want to do?!

The primary role of the student buddy is to allow the student to feel safe in the environment and to feel confident that they can achieve their aims.

Often they just need me for that last bit. It’s helping them cross that last stretch which they can’t on their own.

The most common challenge is anxiety especially if they’ve been out of education for a long time. If someone says, “I’ll go along with you,” then they can feel safe.

To me education isn’t about getting a piece of paper, it’s about the student believing they can do something and having control over their life. It opens their eyes to other possibilities that they may not have thought of. A lot of the clients I come across are essentially stuck. They don’t see other possibilities.

Doing this is exactly why I wanted to get into teaching in the first place. You’re changing someone’s life. What else would you want to do?!

My first contact with Southdown was in housing. They helped me get onto the local housing list and now I have my own flat. They put me in touch with Community Links who got me involved with the Peers in Partnership programme. Compared to where I was two years ago, it is literally life-changing. I would not imagine where I am now was even possible.

I have rapid cycling bipolar depression and go through a complete cycle a month. It’s part of me – like I have hazel eyes! It’s going from thinking I can run two marathons a day to just feeling trapped in darkness that I can’t escape from.

There’s a huge financial impact having this condition – access to work is hard, understanding in the workplace needs to be a lot better. And just keeping stable is hard work. It affects personal relationships as well. It’s difficult to keep friendships even with those who understand it.

For people with mental health challenges, I want them to know that the world can be different, can be better than they can see right now.

For people without mental health challenges, I say, please try and understand that we have real difficulties with things that aren’t visible. We aren’t ‘them’, we’re not separate. We’re part of society. We’re not someone you can ignore. We’re your family.”

Peers in Partnership work with people affected by, and interested in, mental health to improve mental health and wellbeing services across East Sussex. We provide access to volunteer Student Buddies who can support people to complete educational courses within a Recovery College or mainstream setting. We also provide access to trained Peer Specialists who can support individuals to identify and achieve personal goals through education and/or employment.