Changes Bristol has been operating as an organisation since the early 2000s and as a registered charity since 2007. We started as a single support group for people helping each other through the  difficulties of depression and anxiety and we now have 10 weekly groups across Bristol with a wide range of people attending, and we are about to open some more very soon.

We aim to reduce barriers to accessing help so that anyone can get support quickly and conveniently. All our groups are free to attend, there’s no assessment or referral needed and the groups are held in community venues across the city. All we ask is for people to be able to communicate and behave respectfully in a group and to follow our simple ground rules for a positive meeting.

All our meetings are facilitated by friendly, trained volunteers, most of whom have had their own mental health challenges, either directly or with a family member or close friend. Many of our volunteers started off as group members themselves and decided they wanted to “give something back”. They and the other group members understand that a first meeting can be daunting and they really will make you welcome. They will also help to keep the meeting on track and make sure everyone who wants to has a chance to talk about what’s important to them at the time.

We place a lot of value on the experience of our members. They know best what works for them and they are best placed to offer emotional support and pertinent advice to the other members.

We also enjoy the social side of Changes. Lots of our members come to us feeling isolated and lonely. Changes is a great place to make friends, knowing that they have insight, understanding and acceptance of your own particular challenges. It’s very liberating to find people who “get it” and a connecting experience while sharing or at the tea urn can soon turn into a regular meet up outside the group as your social confidence returns.

Our volunteers are an essential part of the team. They run our meetings, they are  wise Trustees, they are office helpers, statisticians, social media heroes, bloggers, advisors,newsletterers, crafters and all round willing- to- do- anythingers. Volunteers, we salute you! If you’d like to join our team please email volunteering@changesbristol.org.uk We train usually twice a year but we can take people on at any time if we have vacancies.

Most of all though, we are about doing it together. We are all the same. The staff can still go to the meetings and share their difficulties with the other members. Members can become facilitators or trustees. Everyone shares their information and support with each other and most importantly everyone is included. We say members rather than service users. Nobody is having treatment done to them; we are helping each other.

People with a wide range of challenges come to our meetings and all are treated with respect and their contributions are valued. Even someone who is quite unwell can have some amazing insights and support to offer although we should point out that we are not really suited for someone experiencing a mental health crisis (but once you’re on the path to recovery we’d love to help you as you get back to your usual self).

Something that’s really important to us is that people can come to us for as long as they want and as often as they want. We don’t restrict people to a few weeks of support and then move them on. Some of our members have been coming for years. Often people come  even when they are well to maintain the social contact with the other group members, to be able to offer their support to those who are still in the mire or just as a safe outlet to help maintain their mental health. Some people come for a while, feel better and drift away only to come back later if they take a dip again. The door is always open and the tea is always flowing.

Come and join us. If you want to talk it over first, need help finding the right group for you or you have any questions please phone us on 0117 941 1123 or email info@changesbristol.org.uk  Details of the times and places of all our meetings are on our website