Change Grow Live – health and social care charity

Peer mentors - providing a positive support network to people in custody

Illustration of group of people

Peer mentors - providing a positive support network to people in custody

28 June 2018

Change Grow Live peer mentors at HMP Frankland are working within the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Team (DART) to deliver support to people in prison on a range of issues relating to substance misuse.

Governors at the prison were very keen to increase awareness and knowledge of the effects of synthetic cannabinoids, including Spice, and ways to best support residents. The service has received positive feedback from both staff and residents who feel that awareness sessions led by peer mentors have been valuable to educate, whilst also supporting the safety of the prison.

Peer mentors at the service have also been supporting residents through four weeks of basic regime for using illicit substances. Support has included information on the effects of using psychoactive substances, looking at the effects of using, harm reduction advice and encouraging residents to take part in groups and social activities, including art therapy and brain teasers to help alleviate boredom. Peer mentors then report back to wing staff on each individual’s progress, which can be used during their basic reviews and may support them to progress through the regime.  

Some peer mentors recently took part in mental health awareness week by holding drop in sessions with DART in the prison libraries to discuss ways of dealing with stress in prison. They also hosted a workshop on how using illicit substances to try to ‘forget’ or ‘deal with emotions’ can have a negative effect on mental health. Peer mentors discussed the mental health side effects of illicit use with residents in the session. The workshop gained positive feedback from residents and staff present, peer mentors also reported that doing events like this supported them in their own recovery and helped them to gain confidence.

Residents engaging with peer mentors are reporting that this support is helping them to control their using. Overall, they are enjoying receiving the support and many have found a positive support network, which can be difficult in custody.

Below is a closer look at a resident receiving support from a peer mentor:

Jonathan* is 73 years old and has restricted mobility. He had already recognised his problematic drinking and expressed an interest in attending the alcohol programme. Unfortunately his mobility prevented him from being able to attend. However, Jonathan agreed to start having weekly one to one sessions to complete the programme with a peer mentor instead.

Jonathan has now completed the alcohol programme, he said: “The programme really made me realise just how much alcohol has damaged my life, I’m emotional at this realisation but happy I have done it. My mentor has helped me a lot, he has kept me motivated on days where I did not feel like doing a lot and although I did not attend the group it was nice to still complete this work with a peer”.

Jonathan has continued to engage with the service and is building his confidence, creating alcohol leaflets to support his recovery in his own time during education classes. Jonathan’s peer mentor added: “Supporting Jonathan has helped me with my confidence and has developed me in my role as a mentor. I am very grateful for the opportunity."

*name changed to protect identity.