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Project information

Peer Support Groups for Mental Wellbeing

Changes Bristol, a peer led mental health charity provides free, open access support groups giving people suffering from mental distress a place to talk and take steps toward improving their lives and mental wellbeing. Ran by people with lived experience, the groups are safe and non-judgmental.


Charity information: Changes Bristol Ltd

Changes Bristol Ltd logo
  • Need


    1 in 4 people will suffer from some form of mental distress at some point in their lives. Many more will be indirectly affected as their friends and loved ones suffer.

    Bristol has a higher proportion of people with mental ill health than the national average, with higher rates of suicide and self harm, and this is increased in more disadvantaged areas.

    Poor mental health can lead to poor physical health, lowers life expectancy, affects relationships and can debilitate daily life.


    Changes Bristol provides a support network which anyone can access, with as few barriers as possible. People can self-refer, there are no waiting lists and people can access support for as long as they feel necessary. The peer support groups enable people to learn from others with lived experience, alleviate mental distress, reduce social isolation, increase self-esteem and empower themselves to make the most of their lives. We provide an empathetic, confidential space to improve mental health.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Promote the recovery and mental wellbeing of those in mental distress in Bristol and nearby


    » Providing free weekly support groups offering a quick access to support that other services cannot provide.
    » Creating a place to learn from others with lived experience in a structured way, and offering a Steps to Recovery approach to improve wellbeing.

    What success will look like

    Through monitoring positive changes and SMART goals achieved. Surveys will show an improvements in members' mental health, self-esteem, support networks and resilience.

    Aim 2

    Remove as many barriers as possible to accessing support for mental health issues.


    » Our services are free to access, with no referral required from a health professional (eg. GP) and people can access them for as long as they need.

    What success will look like

    Success will be providing atleast 12 groups every single week of the year and over 550 people in Bristol using our support groups over the year.

  • Impact


    The support groups will help people to become less reliant on doctors, a less risk of hospitalization, less suicidal and improve their ability to manage relationships. The groups also help people to stay in work or make positive steps towards employment.

    These measures are monitored through monitoring forms completed by facilitators, questionnaires and surveys completed by participants and individual testimonials.


    There is a risk that facilitators will not turn up to run the groups each week. We have dealt with this by providing substantial volunteer training and 1-2-1 supervisions to ensure facilitators are supported to carry out their role.
    There is a risk that people who need the support may not find out about the groups. We have dealt with this risk by creating publicity in the areas of the groups, plus using online campaigns to raise awareness of the services we are providing.


    Donors will receive a monthly e-newsletter updating them about the service and ongoing activities to support those in mental distress. Donors will also be invited to our annual AGM to hear about our progress.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £14,150

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £1,150 Volunteer Training Training 40+ volunteers to facilitate the support groups.
      £10,000 Room Hire Venue room hire to run 12 groups for 2 hours every single week of the year.
      £3,000 Publicity/ Vol Recruitment Leaflets, posters and advertising to publicise the groups in the areas and to recruit volunteers.
  • Background


    Most of the 12 support groups are located in Bristol's most deprived areas, including where the charity is based in Lawrence Hill - which is in the 10% most deprived areas in England. Bristol has higher rates of mental ill health, suicide and self harm than the national average. Mental health is the largest cause of ESA benefit claims in Bristol (54%), this is the 6th highest rate in England. Womens' suicide rate in Bristol is the 2nd highest in England and incidence of self


    These peer support groups are for people suffering mental distress in some way, whether with an officially diagnosed mental health problem or self-identified. This could include anxiety, depression, bi-polar, post-traumatic stress disorder, or symptoms like worry, hearing voices..the list goes on.

    They are often struggling to get work or stay in work and are socially isolated or struggling with relationships. Many are trying to access statutory service but are finding it hard to do so.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    When Changes Bristol first started providing support groups, the idea of peer support was a new concept in Bristol. We now have 15 years experience with in-depth knowledge and a proven track record. We have more people coming to us every year and are opening new groups for different parts of the population.

    We are a grass roots organisation developed by people with lived experience of mental health with a unique insight into how learning from others can improve recovery outcomes

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Chloe Bodard

    Chloe has been a member of the Horfield support group since 2014. She has now completed her facilitator training to run the groups and help others.

    Jason Washbourne

    Jason joined as a member in 2009 when his mental health dipped, after gaining confidence at groups he volunteered and now is the Project Manager.

    Aya Zebrowska

    Aya is the Service Manager and provides excellent training and support for over 40 volunteers which are relied upon to facilitate the support groups

    Dan Kent

    Dan, a 27 yr old social worker, started attending Changes Bristol support groups in 2013, 2 years on he joined the board of Trustees and is now Chair


will pay to train a volunteer to facilitate weekly support groups with patience and understanding.

“This organisation changed my life. I have a safe space to share my woes (and my ups too!). I have friends now who mean the world to me. It's so good to be accepted for who I am without any pressure. I'm honestly not sure I would be here now if it wasn't for Changes Bristol.”

Chloe Bodard - Horfield Support Group member since 2014 and now volunteering for the charity as a facilitator