SUN (Service User Network) is an easy to access community-based service for adults experiencing difficulties with complex emotions often associated with personality disorder. These emotions can affect how a person feels, copes with life and manages relationships.
SUN offers peer support groups for adults to share experiences and provide one another with help and advice. A person does not need a diagnosis to attend. Groups are facilitated by a clinician and a peer support worker with lived experience of mental health issues.
Who is SUN for?
SUN is for people who:
- have been diagnosed with personality disorder or
- would describe themselves as having complex emotional needs but have not received a diagnosis of personality disorder
We recognise that people may have multiple diagnosis, and which would not be a barrier to attending SUN.
Issues a person may be experience
consistent feelings of emptiness and/or a lack of or uncertain sense of self,
- difficulty in connecting with their own emotions,
- setting themselves unrealistically high standards
- difficulty with intense,
- overwhelming or fluctuating emotions, or difficulty recognising or expressing emotions
- feeling of behaviour being out of control and difficulty in setting and working towards goals
How they relate to other people
difficulty in coping with or resolving conflicts
difficulty connecting or empathising with others,
- difficulty finding a balance between own needs and needs of others
- Current or previous use of alcohol or drugs to cope with difficulties
Know someone who might benefit from attending a SUN group? Send them our leaflet.
What happens at a SUN group?
Structure of group sessions
Attending a SUN facilitated support group helps people to get the support they need and gives them the opportunity to share their experience to help others. Each group meeting follows the same three stage format with breaks in between each stage:
- Check In (45 minutes): People can talk about how they are feeling and what they would like to get out of the group.
- Support Forum (50 minutes): A discussion about topics or themes raised at the Check In so people can share experiences and provide one another with advice. This is where new members complete a Resource and Support Plan (RASP) with the help of the group.
- Check Out (30 minutes): People can talk about how they are feeling at the end of the group and what advice they have received that they will be taking away with them.
- Breaks: In between each section there will be a break where facilitators will leave the group and members are welcome to stay or also leave to take a break.
- Minutes: At the end of each of the three sections, members and facilitators will complete minutes together to summarise themes and note anything of importance.
What is a RASP?
A Resource and Support Plan (RASP) helps the group to understand the needs of each SUN member and how to support them, which is why new members are encouraged to complete this within their first couple of groups.
Regular members will support the new member to do this by encouraging them to share as much or as little as they are comfortable with. It clarifies the steps you take to cope with stress and any challenges in life so that SUN knows how best to help you in times of crisis. It also aims to support your general wellbeing and help you to plan ahead if you know you are going to be facing a difficult situation. Because SUN groups are about encouraging mutual support, the RASP also asks you to think about your role in supporting others and what may make this easier or harder at times.
Facilitators will type up the RASP and email it to the member after the group.
If a member has not attended a group in more than six months, they will be encouraged to review their RASP with the group.
The following quotes are from SUN members, sharing about their own experiences of completing a RASP:
- “Initially I was quite apprehensive and didn’t really understand exactly what I needed to share, but it was the members that helped me get going and complete the form”
- “The RASP helped me overcome the fear of sharing my experiences in the group as everyone understood and identified with the experiences I shared in my RASP”
- “Once I had completed the RASP, I felt lifted and able to participate in the group going forwards. It was my first step in connecting with other members of the group. It was such a relief to realise other people have similar experiences and troubles. It was really validating”
You can download a copy of the Resource and Support Plan.
The role of clinicians and peer support workers at SUN groups
A clinician (Social Worker/Occupational Therapist/Mental Health Nurse) and a Lived Experience Practitioner will act as the facilitators for each group. They will introduce each session and provide support in following the group structure. They will also participate in the discussions where this is helpful and where this is needed. Facilitators are there to help contain the group, however there is a shared responsibility and members are encouraged to support each other to stick to the group agreement. The agreement was written by members and outlines how the group can work together and be supportive of each other throughout the session.
In SUN, facilitators do not have any one-to-one contact with members. SUN provides facilitated peer support groups as well as opportunities for members to be involved in the running of the service.
Everyone attending the group is asked to respect each other's confidentiality. Please see FAQs for further information.
How to join SUN
Become a SUN member
To attend SUN groups and to become a SUN member, you will need to be registered with a GP in Surrey or North East Hampshire and be over 18 years old. Please note that if you change to a GP out of this area, your SUN membership will be closed, however if you register with a GP in Surrey or North East Hampshire in the future, you will be able to register with SUN again.
Please note SUN is self-referral only. If you do not get a response from us within 2 working days, please email us at email@example.com or call 01372 216700 so we can support you to complete the referral via phone.
To complete the membership process, you will also need to fill in a Resource and Support Plan (RASP) at your first two SUN groups. Once completed, you will be an active SUN member and your membership will not be time limited. If you register and do not attend a group or do not complete a RASP within 6 months, your registration will be closed and you will need to complete the membership form again.
Make an enquiry
If you have any questions about SUN that you would like answered before deciding whether or not to become a member, please complete the online enquiry form and our SUN admin team will get back to you. Alternatively, you can also contact us by emailing SUN admin at: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling: 01372 216700.
How to attend SUN
Once you have completed an online form for joining a SUN group, we will contact you to book you into a group. After you have attended your first group, the booking process is different depending on whether you want to attend face-to-face or virtually.
For face-to-face, you only need to book in for your first group and then you can drop into any face-to-face group at any venue. You can also drop into a face-to-face venue if you have previously attended virtually.
To attend virtually, you need to contact SUN admin (details below) to book in for each group (we limit numbers on MS Teams to ensure everyone is visible on screen). We will send you an invite on the day of the group. Every time you book into a virtual group, you will receive a separate link, so please remember to use the right link for each meeting. You can attend a mixture of face-to-face and virtual groups if you wish.
Members are encouraged to let us know if they are unable to attend, as online SUN groups are very popular and only have limited space, so their space can go to someone on the waiting list.
Please see the group timetable for all group information.
Please contact SUN on email@example.com for latest group timetable.
How can SUN members get involved outside the support groups?
We encourage involvement and active participation within SUN considering that it is integral to the SUN ethos by offering the following opportunities.
- Monthly community meetings
- We facilitate community meetings every month on a Thursday between 10am-11am. This is an opportunity for members to have a say on various aspects of the service and also contribute to reviewing them.
- The meeting dates are advertised within group notices and the agenda with the meeting link gets sent a week in advance, so members can contribute to it. Members are welcome to chair and minute these meetings if interested.
- Currently these meetings are virtual and we hope to offer them both face-to-face and online in the future.
- Focus groups
- Following on the community meeting every month, we facilitate a focus group from 11.15am to 12pm to review an aspect of the service. For example – the SUN webpage was reviewed in one of the focus groups to add members’ views.
- Newsletter focus group – Members are welcome to contribute to a co-produced SUN newsletter by sharing anything that interests them – stories, poems, art work, recipes, photographs, advertising other groups etc.
- SUN Socials
- We facilitate a SUN Social every few months. We have facilitated coffee meetings, games and art sessions so far.
- Co-facilitating virtual events
- SUN members are invited to co-facilitate the monthly virtual event and the face-to-face preparation presentation to share their experiences of being a SUN member. This helps new members to alleviate their anxieties around joining SUN and attending the groups.
- We also invite members to help facilitate outreach presentations to other services and organisations.
If you would like to get involved in any of these activities or learn more then please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently asked questions
Find out more information in our Confidentiality FAQs document.
Below is feedback from people who have used our service:
"SUN provides one of the only spaces I feel able to speak about some of the most difficult experiences in my life"
"Support from other people who understand what you are going through is second to none"
"I have felt valued as a member since my first group which is a long lost and very important feeling for me"
"SUN has fundamentally allowed me to understand more about who I want to be and why."
Join a virtual meeting to find out more about SUN
We hold a virtual meeting on the first Thursday of every month, from 11.30-12.30pm. At these meetings, we will go into more detail about how SUN works and you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the service.
To book onto a meeting, please email: email@example.com
Watch our recorded virtual event.
The SUN ethos
SUN is based on best practice principles for running therapeutic communities like our peer support group:
- Attachment - Healthy attachment is a developmental requirement for all human beings and should be seen as a basic human right.
- Containment - A safe and supportive environment is required for an individual to develop, to grow, or to change.
- Respect - People need to feel respected and valued by others to be healthy. Everybody is unique and nobody should be defined or described by their problems alone.
- Communications - All behaviour has meaning and represents communication which deserves understanding.
- Interdependence - Personal well-being arises from one’s ability to develop relationships which recognise mutual need.
- Relationships - Understanding how you relate to others and how others relate to you leads to better intimate, family, social and working relationships.
- Participation - Ability to influence one’s environment and relationships is necessary for personal well-being. Being involved in decision-making is required for shared participation, responsibility, and ownership.
- Process - There is not always a right answer and it is often useful for individuals, groups and larger organisations to reflect rather than act immediately.
- Balance - Positive and negative experiences are necessary for healthy development of individuals, groups and the community.
- Responsibility - Each individual has responsibility to the group, and the group in turn has collective responsibility to all individuals in it.
This is how we apply the principles
SUN empowers members to recognise and understand their own and others’ emotions and actions using verbal communication. Through this process of reflecting rather than reacting immediately, SUN group members can arrive at balanced decisions together. Members respect each other by adhering to a group agreement in order to avoid unsupportive behaviour. Working towards interdependence helps SUN members to create healthy attachments and relationships in a contained and safe environment. SUN facilitators and members support each other to maintain boundaries and stay grounded by sticking to the group structure with clear timings.
The SUN model is co-produced, and groups are co-delivered by facilitators with lived experience and clinicians. SUN encourages members to actively participate in the groups, as the facilitators do not bring an agenda but encourage members to agree collaboratively how the space will be used, which helps members to take more responsibility for their own and others’ wellbeing and care. SUN also encourages members to participate in business aspects of the model, such as joining us for presentations to share their SUN experience with prospective members and external professionals; or joining focus groups and business meetings to contribute ideas for service development and be actively involved in the integration of new ideas into the service.
About Personality Disorder
Some may only have mild difficulties and seek support at times of stress, others may have more severe difficulties which impact their wellbeing, relationships and every day lives. It is important to say that even though a person's difficulties may be long standing, there is much that can be done to help.
You can find out more about personality disorder here:
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Our health professionals only collect the personal data required to ensure a person receives the support they need. For more information about how data is held, please go to our information sharing page.
"Talking about my problems makes me feel like I have now put them in a box. I have never attended a group like SUN before."
"This group is really helping me, because otherwise I wouldn't be talking to anybody about anything. It always helps me to hear how people cope and their strategies."
"There's no other place like SUN. Only place I've ever felt 100% accepted."