Not all our members feel comfortable attending online meetings (or they do not have the technology) so we have set up a befriending service matching volunteers with members for an informal weekly phone chat and check-in.

What is a befriender?

A befriender is usually one of our trained volunteers who can give you a weekly call to see how you’re doing. They often have lived experience of mental health issues themselves and are used to running peer support groups for us at Changes Bristol. They will be happy to listen to you speak about how you’re feeling (good or bad), what challenges you’re facing and how you’re coping, and they will usually let you know how much time they have for the call at the beginning.

They are non-judgemental, and everything you say to them is confidential, unless they have significant concerns about your safety (or someone else’s) and then they will contact our team. For more information on confidentiality, please see below.

How do I get a befriender?

To be linked up with a befriender you need to be a member first. If you are not already a member, please sign up here. Once you’ve become a member you will receive a phone call from one of our team and you can let them know you’d like a befriender.

If you are already a member and haven’t yet let us know you’d like a befriender, please email us at info@changesbristol.org.uk. It helps if you let us know which group you normally attend too.

How does it work?

Our team will firstly try to pair you with someone from your existing group (if you have one) and will let you know their name so you know who to expect. We will pass your number and first name onto your befriender (they will not know your second name) and they should then call you within a week of receiving it. In this first call from them they will set up a good time for both of you to speak each week.

It doesn’t matter if you need to change when your weekly call is down the line, but initially it helps to have some routine.

What can I talk about?

You can talk about whatever is on your mind. There are no rules and no problem is too big or small for them to listen to.

It is an informal service though. Our volunteers are volunteers, they are not trained counsellors, so while many of them will have lived experience of their own mental health struggles, they are not “mental health professionals”. They are peers, and although they may be able to tell you what things have helped them in the past, but they’re not an advice line. They are also not a crisis service. If you are in crisis, this page may help you find more immediate and specialised support.

What if we run out of things to say?

That’s absolutely fine!

If one week you only want to speak for 5 minutes, that is completely fine and your befriender will not mind. We all have days when we are more able to talk than others. If you would just like to sit quietly with them at the other end of the phone and say nothing, that is also fine! It is your time to be supported. Don’t feel bad to say to them what would be best for you.

What if I can’t stop talking?

Don’t worry! Your befriender should let you know how much time they have to talk and when it gets near to that time they’ll let you know.

How confidential is the call?

Your full name is only known to Changes Bristol staff, and your befriender will only have your first name and your phone number. 

We want you to feel safe to talk about any of your thoughts and feelings with your befriender, however difficult or scary they may be. Therefore, anything you say within the call will be kept in strict confidence. There are however, some cases when your befriender may need to speak to a member of staff. These exceptions to confidentiality include:

  • If they are concerned that you may be a danger to yourself or someone else. In this circumstance your befriender would ask permission to try and find help for you (informed consent). If you did not agree, they would contact the staff team who would help to decide whether or not to get help without your consent. 
  • If they have a concern over child protection or terrorism (statute law dictates that these must be reported to the authorities)
  • If they are looking for guidance on other services that may be able to support you.
  • If they have concerns you are experiencing some kind of abuse (domestic, financial, psychological/emotional, organisational, neglect, self-neglect, discriminatory, physical, modern slavery or sexual abuse). 
  • If they feel they need some support themselves: each volunteer has a supervisor at Changes who supports them with their own wellbeing. 

How can I become a befriender?

If you’d like to be a befriender to someone else, please email service@changesbristol.org.uk and Emmie/Tara will get back to you.