depressionOne in 10 men say they have no one they can rely on for emotional support – compared to only 1 in 20 women – according to new research. 

Research by mental health charity Mind has found that while men are most likely to rely on their partner when they need emotional support, women are more likely to turn to family or friends instead. This is reflected in the relative size in women’s support network, as they are also more likely than men to have 5 or more people they could rely on for emotional support (39% vs 29%).

Despite the fact that talking about problems, including mental health problems, is one of the best ways of dealing with them, 47% of the 2,052 people polled also admitted they feel uncomfortable opening up about emotions to people close to them. This is noticeably higher in men, where 52% are uncomfortable opening up, compared to 42% of women.

In response, Mind has teamed up with Bipolar UK and Depression Alliance to run a 2-year nationwide pilot scheme called Side by Side, which aims to help give people who are experiencing a mental health problem emotional support

The programme is exploring the benefits of peer support, which is support given and received on an equal basis by people who share something in common, for people with mental health problems. It is funded by the Big Lottery. Mind has also launched an online resource called ‘Making sense of peer support’, which includes advice on where to find local peer support groups.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “We know that sometimes life can be tough when it feels like you’ve got no one there for you who understands. This is particularly true when you experience a mental health problem, which is why we’ve set-up Side by Side to explore the power of peer support. Peer support provides a fantastic opportunity to use difficult experiences as an asset to support and be supported by other people who have experienced mental health problems. Through the nine hub areas of the Side by Side programme we hope to empower local services to offer peer support, gather evidence for its benefits and share best practice.”

One example of Side by Side's peer support in action is the 12th Man Project: Based in Suffolk the project aims to help men find it easier to talk to each other about their mental health. In football, the fans are the 12th man, the extra support that makes all the difference. The 12th man represents help when it's needed the most. The group are receiving training and support to run events across Suffolk to support other men to open up and support each other's mental health.