Evening Sanctuary three months on …

Three months on from the opening of the Evening Sanctuary and plans are moving forward to look at how new crisis support initiatives in Lambeth can further meet the needs of Lambeth residents.

A redesign session this month (September) will look at how a new 24-hour phone line and A&E peer support service will link with the Evening Sanctuary and Solidarity in a Crisis’ successful out of hours peer support project.

The Evening Sanctuary, based at the Living Well Partnership, Brixton, opened its doors in May (Wednesday and Thursday nights 6pm-2am). Those presenting at A&E  at Kings and Guys& St Thomas’ hospitals can be referred by the hospitals’  Psychiatric Liaison teams. People attending  can be picked up or make their own way to the Effra Road Sanctuary and go home by taxi if they wish. The Sanctuary is staffed by two senior support workers and member volunteers (Mosaic) and peer supporters from Solidarity in a Crisis out of hours peer support project.

The thinking behind the sanctuary came out of the Lambeth Living Well Collaborative’s  crisis house work and is a good example of co-design coming to fruition involving service users, peer supporters, carers, the voluntary sector and statutory services.

The focus is the empathetic qualities of peer support.

“The thing that struck me the most was the ease in which the peer supporter worked with the sanctuary visitor and how responsive the visitor was to the environment,” says  Mosaic’s Sam Walker, Senior Support Worker of her first referral at the Sanctuary.

“The difference between the visitor from walking in to leaving was startling; on walking in she couldn’t look anyone in the eye or even raise her eyes from the ground and spoke in a whisper. Within 2 hours she was making herself a cup of tea, approaching other people in conversation and by the time she decided leave (4hours later and 4 hours before closing) she was standing tall, talking with more confidence and had a plan to continue her recovery.

“I later heard that she’d been in the Information hub the next day and gained  support to refer herself to the Living Well Network Hub (Lambeth’s new front door to mental health services) and had requested to join Mosaic clubhouse,” adds Sam who by day  is Mosaic’s Hospitality and Horticulture Co-ordinator.

“Its really shows the impact of taking the time in a place of peace and safety, to listen to someone and for them to be heard and feel valued.”

Sam’s views are echoed  by Solidarity in a Crisis peer supporter Garry Ellison who was present on another occasion when a visitor was ‘feeling suicidal  and had lost all hope’.

“Peer supporters use this space to engage people in conversation, share our stories (where relevant), offer information and generally invite clients to use the time and space in whatever way they’d like,” says Garry who has been with Solidarity in a Crisis since it started. “This  particular young lady chose to tell us about her current struggles and over tea and biscuits we spoke about a whole array of shared experiences.

“This was a very useful experience for me as I began to see the potential of this idea after seeing the young lady ‘open up’ in conversation and start to feel more relaxed. She said she felt much more resolve and was glad not to have been sent home from A & E; as usually happens when people present there. A & E can become so busy and staff so stretched that unfortunately anything deemed not a dire emergency can be treated with less attentiveness and people with mental health issues who struggle are often sent home and told to go to their GP.”

Peer support in A&E

Vicky Glen-Day, Clinical Service lead for Lambeth Crisis Services who has been involved in the Sanctuary and the innovative Street Triage pilot and is working alongside Certitude on the new initiatives says:  “Even when you know something is right it takes time and energy to get it going, so any small success or impact should be celebrated and shared. Having experienced the environment and staff who are working in the Sanctuary and in Peer Support has convinced me this is where I would want to go and the kind of person I would want to talk to and that to me is the best PR of any service.”

Vicky has been working with Certitude which runs Solidarity in a Crisis (the service has expanded into Southwark and Lewisham), which is now shaping a service that incorporates peer supporters in A&E during the day. Peer supporters will also be part of the 24-hour support phone line being launched by SLaM (South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust).

Waiting in the wings A&E  Peer Supporter Sandra Tomlinson who has been sitting on the interview panel with Vicky to recruit support line staff says that having a peer supporter on the interview panel “is the foundation to building a partnership between the SLaM  and Certitude teams. However, the most important reason for me is that I am able to ensure that there is a balance and therefore whoever is hired is person-centred. Peer Support and supporting someone in crisis is about the individual and their needs and not all medical focus.”

Says Nicholas Campbell-Watts, Certitude’s Director of Mental Health: “Our ambition in the Lambeth Living Well Collaborative has been to bring the expertise, knowledge and voice of people who use mental health services and carers right into the heart of how we provide support and services.  The growth, development and integration of the various peer support initiatives in Lambeth is something be should all be proud of and continue to invest in.”

Like all those involved in this venture Brent Withers is optimistic but aware it is crucial to create a joined up service. Brent, Mental Health Commissioning Manager (Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group Integrated Commissioning Team) says this month’s redesign session will bring together key stakeholders to “work through how the new crisis support initiatives in Lambeth (crisis line, evening sanctuary and A&E peer support service) can work in partnership to better meet the needs of Lambeth residents during times of escalating mental distress.” The aim of the session, he adds is to “develop a shared understanding of the three initiatives and how they interface with the wider mental health system, with the aim of being able to communicate this simply to the wider community in Lambeth.”

Read more from Solidarity in a Crisis peer supporter Garry here

Read more from the journal of peer supporter Sandra here

Read what Mosaic Clubhouse member Matt thinks about the Sanctuary here

Karen Hooper





One thought on “Evening Sanctuary three months on …

  1. This looks a very encouraging initiative. It’s sad it took so long. Even psychotic symptoms could be managed in many cases, as not being alone can be a first defence, and feeling understood a second one. Encouragement to maybe seek medication could be appropriate, or at least support to make that decision. Please don’t confuse all psychotic disturbances with the self-medicating, drug induced type which can often be extremely violent. Addicts belong with the substance abuse professionals for appropriate treatment. Many of us have learned to cope with and often overcome auditory and visual hallucinations, but for someone who is in the early stages, for the first time, or in a strange, new situation, it can be terrifying. It would be sad if fear of someone with psychotic symptoms without violence present was to get them turned away, or rejected, rather than listened to, or simply allowed to be among other real, living human beings. Please don’t let your fears ignore their terror. Just because someone is calmer amongst others doesn’t mean they are not being terrorised when alone. You probably already have a huge resource of people who can share their experiences. Keep going. This looks a really good initiative.

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