Our mission is to provide support for people undergoing challenging drug-related psychological experiences, particularly in relation to psychedelic substances; and to provide education to reduce the harm associated with the use of such substances.
Our vision is a world where people understand and respect mental health and consciousness; where individuals can easily access the support they require to navigate challenging drug-related psychological experiences; and where such experiences can be viewed as opportunities for growth.
Mutual aid – We believe in a world centred around mutual aid, whereby individuals share responsibility to look out for, and take care of each other, to the best of their ability and means. In our view, the well-being of each individual is integral to the well-being of the whole.
Integrity – We are open and honest. We strive to be aware of how our own belief systems, values, needs, and limitations affect our work.
Inclusivity, equality and tolerance – We demonstrate unconditional positive regard and offer relentless kindness irrespective of a person’s characteristics, background or beliefs. We turn no one away, and do our best to give what we can. We practice openness and respect towards people whose beliefs are in apparent contradiction to our own.
Safe space and consent – We create a safe space where closeness and touch are considered very carefully; our volunteers understand the importance of consent, especially when working with vulnerable people.
Growth and improvement – We are committed to improving and growing, both as an organisation and as individuals. We regularly reflect upon and review our practices, procedures and training. We are continually looking for ways to improve our service and actively seek the views of our stakeholders in order to do so.
Passionate and professional – Our team are passionate about and committed to what we do. We conduct ourselves in a way that is professional, and avoid unnecessary risks.
Non-judgmental, neutral and pragmatic – We offer non-judgemental services to everyone. We do not encourage the use of drugs or other risky behaviours, but we do recognise that some people will choose to use drugs and may experience problems as a result.
What We Do
PsyCare UK provides a peaceful, friendly sanctuary in the midst of the sometimes hectic festival environment. We are always open to provide information and support to anyone that needs it. From crisis intervention for people who may be in profoundly disturbed mental states, to support for the lonely with a hot cuppa and a chat, PsyCare UK aims to consistently support the wellbeing of all festival goers.
Although most drug use at festivals is intended for enjoyment, some drug experiences can cause a person to be physically and mentally vulnerable; to experience feelings of fear, paranoia, delusion, discomfort and even psychosis; creating the potential for people to be a danger to themselves and others.
Difficult experiences arising from psychedelic drug use may require specialist intervention due to the mental crises and altered states of consciousness they can induce. People on a strong psychedelic “trip” can become volatile and feel a wide range of intense and heightened emotions, potentially lasting several hours. In these cases, conventional medical services may struggle to find an appropriate treatment and once in the care of medics and/or taken off the festival site, patrons might not be allowed to return to the event. If the police or security are involved, the situation may escalate and the individual may be arrested or sectioned. Being taken to hospital or handled by security or police whilst undergoing an intense and frightening psychedelic experience can be incredibly traumatic and increase the risk of long-term emotional and psychological harm. We work closely with medical personnel to address the needs of those in distress, while aiming to prevent sedation, hospitalisation or detention. Our work over the years has demonstrated that these individuals often only require the type of engaged, empathic care we provide, to move from a place of crisis to a calm, positive perspective.
We believe that the principle of ‘set and setting’ is key for psychedelic support. This approach recognises the impact that the user’s mindset and their physical and social environment has on their drug experience. We provide a multidisciplinary approach, meaning that each volunteer will offer what they feel is appropriate for the individual they are supporting. This could be anything from massage or holding someone’s hand, to simply providing a listening ear and a calm presence. PsyCare UK works on the principles of peer education; being comprised largely of individuals who themselves enjoy festivals, we aim to be approachable and familiar, and to project a sense of calm, compassion and competence. We are akin to sitters rather than guides, but our understanding of the experiences our service users may undergo often makes all the difference to the outcome. All our volunteers undergo basic training in ethical and caring work standards and follow the principles and guidelines set out in The Manual of Psychedelic Support.
After a successful, challenging, and rewarding time as a volunteer with KosmiCare at the Boom Festival in 2008, Karin Silenzi de Stagni recognised the need for similar services at festivals in the United Kingdom. With support from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Karin formed Kosmicare UK, using the framework for psychedelic emergency services that MAPS had developed with Diogo Ruivo, chief organiser of Boom Festival.
The organisation started as a call to action on social media, which was quickly answered by a small but determined group of people. Over the years the team grew steadily as like-minded individuals were attracted to the cause.
The early years were challenging. The team quickly came to understand the demands that would face the organisation: the harsh climate – often wet and cold even in the summer months, the logistics of attending a number of different festivals across the nation, finding dedicated volunteers and the lack of funding. In addition, many small events had a limited budget, where welfare was sometimes a luxury rather than a necessity. Despite this, the team remained optimistic and made every effort to attend as many festivals as possible.
We have been a member of the Nightlife Empowerment & Wellbeing Network (NEW Net) since 2014. NEW Net is a European network of community-based NGOs acting in the fields of health promotion and nightlife. Being a member of NEW Net enables us to share knowledge and best-practice with similar peer based organisations across Europe and to participate in multi-disciplinary conferences. 2016 saw us register as a charity; this was a major milestone which enhanced our professionalism and opened up new opportunities and potential sources of funding.
In 2017 we underwent rebranding and, after a brief stint as KosmicAid, the name PsyCare UK was chosen. The name clearly establishes our focus on care, welfare, and psychological harm reduction, while recognising the foundations and regional coverage of the organisation. We hope to increase the number of harm reduction charities and community groups utilising the PsyCare name, and build a global alliance of organisations with a similar ethos and way of working, the way Karin had always envisioned.
The core team has a decade of experience providing care services at numerous festivals across the UK including Boomtown Fair, Glade, Secret Garden Party, MoDem and Noisily Festival. Over the years we have forged productive relationships with other respected organisations on the festival scene such as Hardcore Medical and The Loop. We are proud to have participated in the writing of The Manual of Psychedelic Support which was published in 2015 and have been presenting at Breaking Convention, the biennial multidisciplinary conference on psychedelic consciousness, since 2013. PsyCare UK also enjoys the ongoing support of a diverse group of professionals whose guidance is invaluable and to whom we are very grateful.