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Safely Held Spaces’ vision is of safe, compassionate, empowering support in local communities in the UK for people experiencing extreme mental and emotional distress and altered states, often called psychosis, and for the people supporting them.

We're exploring the ways we think and talk about mental health, so we describe people experiencing distress as experiencers, and the people who support them as holders, rather than as patients and carers.

We need to talk about 'madness'


During mental health awareness campaigns, we hear a lot about the importance of talking about anxiety, depression and suicide, but not so much discussion about experiences often called psychosis or schizophrenia.


​This means as a society we are only having a conversation about some forms of mental and emotional distress, and leaving out those experiences that we’re still uncomfortable discussing.  Safely Held Spaces is working with others to expand the conversation.

Why we do what we do

In support of our vision we are:


  • Piloting and seeking to influence the development of safe spaces for people experiencing extreme mental and emotional distress and altered states, often called psychosis, and for the people who support them 

  • Partnering with Chasing The Stigma to improve access to information about existing safe spaces for experiencers and holders through the Hub of Hope, the UK’s leading mental health support database

Spaces can only be safe, compassionate and empowering when the types of support we're offered help us to make meaning of our experiences. So we are also...

  • Working collaboratively to explore and reimagine the ways we think and talk about mental health

Learn more about our activities here. 

Understanding mental and emotional distress

We all make sense of our experiences of mental and emotional distress in different ways.


For some of us it is helpful to have a name for what we are experiencing. Sometimes we may understand our experiences as an illness. For others our mental and emotional distress is an understandable response to difficult life events, relationships and circumstances, including things that happened when we were younger.


And for some of us our mental and emotional distress is seen as a necessary but painful process of growth, sometimes called a spiritual crisis.

Reimagining the conversation

Safely Held Spaces believes that the mental and emotional distress that we experience in life is best understood as a response to the things that happen to us, rather than as an illness or disorder; as a natural, though painful, part of our ongoing journey towards a fuller, deeper life.


That’s why a significant part of our work focuses on exploring the story we tell ourselves about why mental and emotional distress happens, and reimagining the kinds of support we as a society offer to both holders and experiencers.


Safely Held Spaces seeks to contribute new ideas and thinking to the types of safe spaces available in the UK. We do this by supporting organisations and initiatives, including CHARM and Soteria London, to pilot community based compassionate systems of support for people experiencing psychosis and their families and networks, through commissioning research, by developing and piloting a new approach to home based support that we are calling ‘Compassionate Crew’ in collaboration with Soteria UK Network, and by contributing to policy discussions.

We also aim to explore how we all talk about mental and emotional distress by offering training to journalists and those working in newsrooms, and by providing broadcast media and podcast training to amplify the voices of those who want to expand the conversation about how we understand and respond to mental and emotional distress. If you’re interested in our newsroom, broadcast media or podcast training programmes, click here to contact us.


Supporting holders and experiencers

Safely Held Spaces’ Five Stage Roadmap suggests a possible way of exploring the lived experience of extreme mental and emotional distress over time. The roadmap describes the various territories we might encounter along the way - from everyday life, to testing times, on the threshold and into really extreme times before we return or emerge.


Although intimately intertwined with the experiencer’s journey, we see the holder’s experience as a journey in its own right. Holders may themselves experience profound mental and emotional distress as they meet the many challenges that being in this supporting role brings. That’s why we offer online peer support groups for family members and friends.


But we don’t yet know much about what it's like for friends and family who give their support, or how their experience changes over time. That’s why we commissioned research to better understand and describe the holder’s journey, and to influence the kinds of support that are available for holders.

Get in touch

The development of the Safely Held Spaces project is a collaborative journey and we would love to hear from you. So please get in touch if you would like to….

  • Join one of our holders online peer support groups

  • Receive updates on our Holders Journey research or get involved in disseminating findings

  • Get involved in developing the ‘Compassionate Crew’ approach

  • Ask questions or share ideas on how we can expand the ways that we as a society think about, and respond to, mental and emotional distress

  • Join our mailing list

  • Just want to connect and find out more about us….

If you’re interested in finding out more about our newsroom, broadcast media or podcast training,

click here to contact us.

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