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Our recent Befriender Get Together: Mental Wellbeing

At Restore, we host get togethers not only for our refugee and asylum seeking service users, but also for our volunteer befrienders. We encourage our befrienders to come together and reflect on how they can support their befriendees better, and how Restore can support them and the relationships they make.

For our most recent Befriender Get Together, we were joined by Sandra Fabowale from Carrs Lane Counselling Service and Kimberly Sham Ku from Coventry Refugee Wellbeing Service to learn more about mental wellbeing.

We thought it would be helpful for our befrienders to hear more about available mental health support and how befriending can support mental wellbeing, since they would be supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society. A survey by Refugee Council England found that refugees and asylum seekers are five times more likely to have mental health needs than the wider UK population.

Sandra shared some excellent insights into mental health. She shared some great tips on how to  ensure the safety of everyone such as, asking what would make people feel more comfortable, remaining patient, not singling people out or making them share what they don’t want to.

We also learnt some new techniques to help ground ourselves and befriendees for when conversations get a bit tough. If things are getting heavy, we can take a deep breath or use the 54321 technique.

When supporting others in a more difficult situation than us, we can often neglect our own needs. If this happens, remember it is important to take time out, know when to say ‘no’ and most importantly, when to ask for help from Restore.

Kimberly from the Refugee Wellbeing Service taught us about cultural stigmas that come with discussing mental wellbeing. There are some factors that increase mental health problems for people who seeking asylum, such as loss, lack of employment, racism and xenophobia in their new country and intergenerational trauma.

Kimberly also brought to our attention the dangers of approaching topics of mental health through a Western lens. As most of our befriendees are from the Global South, they have different views on mental health. Sometimes, there can be a cultural stigma about mental health, so this is something volunteer befrienders have to be aware of, especially if people don’t feel want to be open about this.

We are glad that our befrienders found this discussion useful and we deeply appreciate having the presence of Sandra and Kimberly to give us and our volunteer befrienders some guidance on how to support befriendees who may have experienced some trauma as a result of their journeys to the UK. Mental wellbeing is something we should all keep in the forefront of our minds in our befriending relationships.

If you know a refugee or asylum seeker who is suffering from poor mental health, please take a look at the following resources:

Freedom From Torture –

City of Sanctuary Mental Health Resource Pack –

Refugee Council’s Therapeutic Wellbeing Resources –

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