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Personality Disorder and Complex Needs Service User Network (SUN)


The Personality Disorder and Complex Needs (PD&CN) Service User Network (SUN) is for service users living with a diagnosis of Personality Disorder, or for those whose complex emotional needs mean they would meet, or are within the threshold to meet, diagnostic criteria for Personality Disorder (i.e. they have ‘traits’). For more information about Personality Disorder, please download our information pack. This pack has been co-produced with service users with lived experience of personality disorder. All the quotes provided throughout the pack are real experiences contributed by service users.

Service Information

The Service User Network (SUN) is a community-based service which sits within the Specialist Personality Disorder and Complex Needs Team. The overarching aim of the SUN is to facilitate the delivery of peer led support, promote staying well in the community and collaboration with service users and carers. Through being part of the SUN, we empower service users to have agency in managing their diagnosis/symptoms because it is accessed on a voluntary basis and they can engage as much or as little as they would like in the network groups which they are part of.

Groups are designed to: offer a space for learning and growth, connection with peers who may be in a similar position to offer and receive peer led support, facilitate understanding of Personality Disorder and associated difficulties and create opportunities for supported engagement.

We empower service users by giving them the time and space to become more confident and enabling individuals to be at the heart of change and their progression.

We strongly encourage co-production and involvement, and advocate for the service user voice being the strongest voice in making positive change to care, services and service user experiences.

SUN groups are not clinical or therapy groups. Care co-ordination, risk management plans and 1:1 support are not part of the SUN provision.  Expressions of interest, rather than referrals, are invited to reflect this. Groups are not a substitute for clinical intervention. 

The Service User Network (SUN) currently offers 5 groups:

Support and Awareness Groups: Personality Disorder and Complex Needs Awareness and Support Group (21+) and Young Adult Complex Emotional Needs Awareness and Support Group (18 – approx.. 27)

These groups are accessed via an expression of interest form that needs to be completed by a professional. Please see expression of interest form in information leaflets.

These groups run fortnightly. The group is facilitated by the SUN team and guest speakers who deliver talks on different topics such as services available within the community, benefits and employment, emotions, advocacy, sleep hygiene, practical activities, etc. Generally the topics have been specifically requested by clients and sessions are tailored to the needs of its participants at the time. We actively encourage peer support, and empower our participants to offer their own experience and knowledge into sessions. We endeavour to provide a 4-week timetable, in advance, so that our service users can arrange to attend the sessions that will be most helpful to them.

Peer Support Group (18+) – Time limited of 12 months

The group is accessed via a self-expression of interest route by the service user completing a form. Please see expression of interest form in information leaflets.

These groups run weekly. The group is a 1 ½ hour session, facilitated by the peers that attend. Peers are invited to share how they are feeling and support each other through their lived and learned experience. This group has a time cap of 12 months. 

Personality Disorder and Complex Needs Service Development Collaborative (SDC) (18+)

Expressions of interest to the group can be made directly from a service user, or through a professional if the service user has requested this. There is no form for this group and it can be accessed via emailing the SUN inbox.  If you are interested in joining the collaborative please email , or you can ask your key worker to email in on your behalf.

Here, we offer people the opportunity to be more dynamically involved in shaping and developing services, using our lived experiences to inform positive change. There are various levels of engagement. These range from contributing our thoughts and ideas to a specific project, to participating in interview panels, co-delivering training and being Peer Support Workers. We work using a model of co-production, with service users working alongside staff, bringing together our experiences/journeys and using them in a meaningful and proactive way.

I care: Supporting Carers of Loved Ones living with Personality Disorder and Complex Emotional Needs (Adult Carers)

The group is accessed via a self-expression of interest route by the carer completing an expression of interest form. Please see expression of interest form in information leaflets.

The purpose of this peer support group is to bring together carers and loved ones of individuals living with Personality Disorder (who are over the age of 18), offering members the opportunity to make contact with others in a similar situation, help individuals to gain support and know that they are not alone. The aim is to support members in the form of conversation and sharing experiences, resource sharing and by simply listening.

The Carer Support Group is open to any carer who resides in Essex (Essex registered GP) who is caring for a loved one who has a formal diagnosis of Personality Disorder and/or have complex emotional needs that meet diagnostic criteria for a Personality Disorder, over the age of 18.

Please note that this group cannot support carers whose loved one has a differing diagnosis to Personality Disorder or Complex Emotional Needs that indicate Personality Disorder. The group is facilitated by an Expert by Experience Carer, a Peer Support Worker and the Service User Network Manager.

Referral Information

Groups are accessed by a raised expression of interest form (apart from the SDC), to ensure that the group’s function will match a service user’s presentation and individual needs. For the Awareness and Support Groups, this must be completed by a professional. For the Peer Support Group and Carer Support Group this must be completed by the individual wanting to join. For the SDC, there is no form.

We use the terminology ‘expression of interest’ because service users cannot be ‘referred on’ or ‘into’ the SUN; it is intended to compliment and be an additional support for service users who are receiving more tailored support elsewhere or who could benefit from light touch support (e.g. they are generally coping but would like to learn more about their diagnosis and skills to manage).

Please see Expression of Interest forms in ‘Information leaflets’.

For professionals raising an expression of interest, they must provide the following information. ALL fields are mandatory and must be filled out for a request to be actioned:

  • Full name
  • NHS number
  • Locality/area
  • Service user's email address
  • Service user's telephone number
  • Date of birth
  • Service currently under
  • Named involved person e.g care coordinator, assessor, support worker, GP
  • Full consent from the service user for the expression of interest

There are also a few questions we ask on the expression of interest form that must be completed.

Please email the completed expression of interest forms to

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