How to get help Befriending The Benefits of Befriending The benefits of befriending Having an eating disorder can feel like a very lonely place. You may be surrounded by caring, empathetic people yet somehow still feel alone or like you don’t want to burden anyone. You might also need some friendly advice at an unconventional time when your usual network of support is unavailable. Befriending at First Steps was there for me when I was unsure where to turn, bringing huge benefits that I struggled to find elsewhere. It provides support to service users by offering an online communication channel for them to talk things through with someone who understands – often someone who has been affected by an eating disorder themselves. I was paired with a lovely, knowledgeable volunteer who was also training to be a therapist at the time, so had great skills in supporting people with mental health difficulties. She emailed me twice a week to both see how I was and listen to all that I shared with her. Sometimes it’s difficult to express how we’re feeling verbally, or accurately put the words together when feeling on the spot in face-to-face conversations. I found it much easier with befriending - I had the luxury of time to write what I was experiencing and really think about what I was saying. I often find myself being given really valuable advice verbally that I can never remember when it’s most needed so it was also great to have a response that I could keep and refer to safely in my inbox! I don’t know about you, but I often find it easier to confide in people I don’t know. If you can speak to someone who has no emotional investment in your situation, you can often get the most unbiased, honest advice from them – another big bonus with befriending. Tough conversations can be even harder when we broach them with our loved ones as conflicts can stem from differences in opinion very easily. That’s why having a befriender with no involvement in our situation is so valuable. Being able to email them whenever I wanted was a life saver. I wouldn’t receive more than two responses a week but knowing I could send emails whenever I needed to offload was a huge help. Support services may operate between the hours of nine and five, but our eating disorders certainly don’t so it really settled my busy mind to sit and email my thoughts to someone who would review it and offer words of guidance. The privacy that befriending allows is a great help. Even if you’re able to verbalise your thoughts and feelings in phone conversations there’s always the danger that someone somewhere might be listening in. Whether I’m at work or home, I’m always conscious of what I’m saying and who else is around, so befriending allowed me the security of knowing I could communicate in private. A hugely beneficial service With so many benefits, befriending is a highly valuable service that continues to help so many. It offered me a space to share my innermost thoughts in a safe environment, complimenting the other support I was receiving. It was a huge relief to me that I was able to get the help and advice I needed at a time when uncertainty surrounded me and I will always feel grateful for it. What a truly wonderful scheme! For more information on befriending at First Steps please see here.