Malcolm Turner has lived experience of Type 2 Diabetes and describes himself as a ‘helper, carer, facilitator and friend’ to those in his local community. With a particular interest in reducing loneliness and isolation, Malcolm blogs about his experiences of peer support.
My father suffered with disseminated sclerosis, my younger brother with schizophrenia and I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes ten years ago.
Having been offered a mixture of sound advice, misinformation and untruths regarding causes and treatments, particularly of Type 2 Diabetes, I came to the decision that I wanted to offer support and help to other people to manage and understand the treatment of their conditions in the best way for them.
I live in a rural area of Somerset and so I'm motivated to try to reach the people living in my community who may be isolated or lonely.
I believe that peer support can reduce loneliness and help people to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing, through sharing interests with others in their community.
My peer support journey began when I became involved with my local surgery patient group. I then became involved in a wide range of activities to provide contact, help and support to improve the health and wellbeing of people in my community. No one week is typical but here’s a flavour of some of the peer support I’m involved with.
As a qualified Health Walk Leader I’m establishing a regular programme of short health walks, starting from our surgery, to encourage the less fit and mobile to enjoy some easy exercise and have the opportunity to chat and make friends.
Several individuals have told me how they feel physically much fitter, and for some, more mobile. Additionally another member of the group has told me how this social opportunity has given him a lift and offered him something to look forward to.
I have also recently become involved with my local ‘Men’s Sheds’ initiative. This offers opportunities for isolated and vulnerable men to meet, undertake activities and enjoy the company of others. Women are not excluded but men can be less willing to admit to feeling lonely.
I believe that Men’s Sheds gives valuable opportunities for men to come together to do something physical while also supporting their emotional wellbeing. For instance, one of our members, in his 70’s, has said that this contact has offered him the opportunity to share his model railway hobby with others in the group and he is taking great joy in sharing this experience.
The biggest challenge we are facing is reaching isolated people so that they can take advantage of local peer support. We would like to be supporting many more people and would like GP practices to be more proactively linking people in with these opportunities.
I’m working with the local vicar, village agent, other partners, national charities and anybody who is interested in helping to obtain a register of volunteers to spend some time with individuals experiencing loneliness and isolation.
I believe actions are essential, I don’t just want to talk.