De Frene Summer Festival 2016

Welcome to another blog post from Acaringmind blogger Matthew Mckenzie. On Saturday 20th of August, I took a trip over to Sydenham Gardens who were hosting their De Frene Summer Festival from 1 till 5 pm.


Taken from their site “Sydenham Garden is a unique wellbeing centre utilising its gardens, nature reserve and activity rooms to help people in their recovery from mental and physical ill-health in Lewisham.”. I have visited Sydenham Garden festivals a few times and am a firm believer of events that bring the community together. I feel we should celebrate all the hard work Sydenham Gardens do.

Those who wish to watch the video of the event, feel free to watch below.

However what actually took place at the De Frene Summer Festival? There were quite a lot of activities on offer from face painting for the children, BBQ, listening to music from bands, stalls selling Chutney and Jam, plus well being sessions and spacious gardens, plus a whole lot more.

As I entered the festival I spoke to a few people on why they came to the event. Most stated that it was for a fun day out and also to spend time meeting people and admiring the gardens. I spoke to one of the organizers Jim about the project and how I would try and do a quick write up of the day, I also visited a few stalls one of them was selling Jam which was made from the fruits the project has grown.


I then moved on to the Hive Talk area where I bought some honey and then named a bee off the the honey taste stick. The Hive Keeper talked to me about the bee hive and what they do at the Sydenham Garden Project.

After spending a while looking at the gardens and flowers, I moved onto the children’s activity area and watched as one of the stall holders taught them how they would make Jam and other food items. I spoke to the stall holder about how they made the Jam and what items they used, each stall holder was very friendly and had time for my questions. After eating at the BBQ I then headed back to the main area of the festival to listen to some music.

Next I noticed a stall advertising mindfulness courses. This is where I looked up on what was on offer regarding mindfulness and mental health. The mindfulness course organiser told me about the courses and when they would start.

It was not long until I took more time to marvel at more gardens and took time to take a few pictures and a quick video before I entered a large glass house where they were selling cakes, plants and holding more arts and crafts where children were busy creating drawings.

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After spending more time examining the plants that were for sale, I moved onto the Sydenham Garderns membership and friends stall. I was told all about the garden project, why it existed and what it means to be a member, I took a bit of time to read their latest newsletter and then check out their activity map on what else would be taken place for the rest of the day.

I enjoyed my time at the Sydenham Garden De Frene Summer Festival. I can only hope they hold more festival and events as soon as possible.  Check  out more on what Sydenham Gardern does off their site which is

A celebration of Peer Support


Welcome to another blog post from mental health carer Matthew Mckenzie. On this blog I want to raise awareness of peer support. As you know Carers struggle to provide support and care for those suffering mental health distress.  We also can have psychiatrists, care coordinators and therapists who may feel distant from those going through a difficult time.

I have been a carer for many years and have had access to support groups, medication provided to the person I care for, access to referrals, assessment forms and also care coordinators. All these services offered a good deal of support although at times things were lacking in support, until one day someone mentioned peer support. When I saw peer support in action I felt such a service made a lot of difference. However let me explain a bit about what peer support is.

Basically if someone is suffering mental health problems, if they wish, they can be offered a peer supporter to help them cope. A peer supporter is someone who has experienced close to or similar mental health problems and can at least have some understanding of where the sufferer is coming from.  Some peer supporters are trained, while others are experienced in their roles.

There is also different types of peer support ranging from

Community groups
self-help groups
And more…

Carers like myself can access befriending networks if one is in place.

When It comes to peer support, the service user or mental health survivor can get support on some of the following

Reduction in Stigma

Many of those going through a mental health crisis tend to avoid seeking help or even talking about how mental ill health affects them, this can be counter productive, especially if their health begins to fail and they refuse to seek help. This might be down to stigma as they can feel no one understands them, they can also feel shame, isolation and confusion and would at least like someone to explain what on earth is going on.

A peer supporter may have also gone through this difficult journey in the past, but somehow they managed to use tools in order to survive such an experience, to make things more helpful, a peer supporter might have also undergone training in order to provide support and with such support they can listen to the patient/service user and provide insight into reducing stigma.


As a carer I have never suffered chronic mental health problems, but I do go through situations where my mental health may go under severe strain. Those going through a tough time may again feel that no one understands them, they may feel that they are suffering alone and wish to be part of something. With peer support there can be strength of identity that states no one is alone and that we are part of something. This is not something that can happen right away, but I can see why peer support can offer solidarity.

Hope for the future

As a carer I struggle to sometimes find hope in myself, let alone finding hope for my loved one. This is when peer support can be of benefit for those who feel they are losing so much. It is like the world if falling apart in front of them and yet all we want is for them to recover, all carers want is for the person to get better. How can this happen if our loved ones feel that no one can relate to them?


Again, peer supporters may have gone through the very same thing and can offer insight to those struggling on that very same journey. If someone has survived that crisis, then it shows that there can be hope for the future.

Being there as a friend

Not all peer support is there to offer advice, opinions or show the way. Sometimes all thats needed is for someone to listen, I am not saying carers do a bad job or cannot support their loved ones in this way, but with peer support there at least is another option.

We can have peer supporter who will be there to listen so at least the sufferer is able to express themselves, without judgement, without criticism, without being told that they do not understand mental health. Peer support can be there as companionship and can aide in recovery, not to break someone down further.

Building Trust

Peer support can offer one of the most important aspects of mental health, sometimes consultants and psychiatrists can assume, sometimes carers are not patient to help their loved ones, sometimes we can feel that people will report us if we tell them what is bothering us. Service users can feel like they are being judged and this again is where peer support can step in and offer that trust. With trust, there is a way forward where recovery is possible.

A celebration and an education

As a carer I am so much in favour of peer support, without it I feel I am having to play all sort of roles. Sometimes the more support a person can get when they are in crisis, the more there is a chance of recovery. I can even state that I could do with befriending and peer support myself, carers need that network and they also need that hope, solidarity and understanding.

Peer support has been around for some years, as the NHS is going through challenging times, we can only reckon peer support will have to be taken seriously as an option for those who struggle to access mental health services. Financial pressures, lack of staff, lack of those who want to make a difference, yet peer supporters have been working hard to make a difference.

It is time we celebrate their achievements. So when I heard of an event that will celebrate peer support, I thought I had to raise it in this blog post. On Thursday 13th October 2016, Peerfest 2016 will take place at Rich Mix 35-47 Bethnal Green Road.  Here is one of the videos from Minds’ Peerfest 2013.

Peerfest is an annual celebration of Peer support practice across England and Wales. The event is an opportunity to network, share ideas, take part in workshops and debate current issues in peer support.


You can check out more about Peerfest 2016 from their site which is

Hope you can make it. Thank you for reading my blog

Volunteering as a carer

coverWelcome to another blog post from mental health carer in South London Matthew Mckenzie. Now as you can guess from my blogsite, I keep myself fairly busy, even though I am carrying out support and care for a loved one. Throughout my years of experience as a mental health carer, I know there are many things I can share in order to help others. Most of the time I give my views at meetings, focus groups or committees. So if there is a way I can help, I will certainly give it a try.

So why do I do this? Arent carers going through financial problems as it is already? Plus with all the social welfare cuts and the benefit cuts that affect carers loved ones. Why should carers give up their time? Well part of the answer is unfortunately carers cannot fully depend on the state to support them and will have to look to the community. I feel it is so important carers give up some of their time to help others; be it other carers, service users or even community groups.

So this is why I have decided to blog about volunteering. As a volunteer I feel not only am I lending my skills but also gaining experience no matter what the task. There can be a sense of achievement that you get out of volunteering because you are devoting your time to something you care about. It does not have to be about money.

There are times of course that we must feel valued and money or incentives can show to others how much you are worth to them. Still, there are a number of problems when you expect to get paid from many different sources. Many community groups are desperately lacking resources and skill-sets, if they could pay I am sure many would, so it is obvious that giving up some of your time can really help make a difference.

Volunteering does not have to be carried out all the time, nor does it have to be exhaustive, we can all do our bit and take it one step at a time. I know many carers can put in their time to give their views at workshops, focus groups, committees and steering groups. It seems like a lot to ask, especially if you are caring in crisis, no one has the right to ask any more of you, but deep down I know it will make such a difference to so many out there requesting help and support.

I am fortunate enough to be working as well, plus some voluntary work is paid, but there will be times when I take on a task because I know being there will make some difference. Volunteering can also give life even more meaning than focusing on material things. Why should it be the poor helping the poor? I also have seen the well-off put in a lot of time to community projects, this is because they are giving something back to society.

I have made a video all about volunteering, which I hope you enjoy.

As a carer, I can only hope those who have gone through the same situation as myself can manage to try and put in some time to step up and give it a go. We can feel part of the community and make a difference. No task is too small where we can’t provide some assistance, volunteering is also a great way to make new friends as you socialise and network with others. Let us carers branch out with our common interest to make a difference for others looking for volunteers. As carers we can develop a stronger sense of purpose as we all work together to form a caring community, a caring society.

It makes no use complaining and asking for change, there must come a time when we need make ourselves present and help others.

So where should carers try and volunteer?

Help out at a local Carers center.
Take part in surveys and focus groups.
Help in carrying out service assessments.
Give views and attend meetings.
Feedback ideas.
Telling their story as a Carer
Help set up events.
Attend training courses to gather useful skills to help out.
Become a representative.

20150915_105152 20150915_145715_1 Matthew Mckenzie

This is only just a short list and there are many more places carers can help out. I hope I have inspired you to make a change, but before I end this blog always review what you are volunteering for and never feel pressured to do something you do not want to do, after all we all need to look after ourselves.


Carer involvement

Thanks for popping along to read another of my carer blog posts. Aren’t we lucky today, just this morning I had released a blog post about sociology and now I am blogging again regarding carer involvement.

As of this morning I am a carer governor of my local trust, that trust being NHS South London and Maudsley, I am also a carer representative at that trust and fairly active in the communities as I set on many forums and groups. Why do I do all this you may wonder? Well read on and I hope to get the message across.

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Historic contributions to Sociology



Welcome to another blog post from carer Matthew Mckenzie. As you might have already know by now, my blog site is basically about mental health carers and how they can cope in regards to supporting those suffering mental health issues. However there will be times when I will divert away from carer topics and move onto educational topics related to mental health.


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Being a governor of NHS South London and Maudsley

Matthew Mckenzie

Welcome to another blog post by carer Matthew Mckenzie. For this blog post I want to express my views on involvement as a governor. As you might already know by now, I govern a large NHS mental health trust, that being SLaM or South London & Maudsley.

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Mental Health Activism

20141107_143004_2Welcome to another blog post from Matthew Mckenzie a carer over in South London. On this blog I want to talk about activism. When you think of mental health problems or those who might be vulnerable due to capacity issues then human rights is not far behind. The way how society treats those suffering mental health issues can speak volumes. Mental health affects us all, that being caregivers or carers, mental health survivors and society at large.


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