Mind logoMental health charity Mind is to pilot a new approach to delivering peer support, following the award of a £3.2 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The two-year Peer Support Programme will begin to build an evidence base for mental health peer support in England. The programme is a response to calls from people with experience of mental health problems to ensure they can access peer support across England, to look at why it works and to support its future sustainability.

Mind will deliver the programme alongside partners including Depression Alliance and Bipolar UK. It starts in early 2015 and includes the opportunity for 45 groups and organisations to apply to run a project in 1 of 9 areas in England, which are yet to be specified. More than 8,400 people with mental health problems are expected to volunteer to give and receive peer support during this project. Over the next few months Mind will also recruit 6 people with experience of giving and/or receiving peer support to join the programme advisory panel.

Paul Farmer, Mind's chief executive, said: “We’re grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for its backing of the Peer Support Programme. It presents us with an outstanding opportunity to build on our understanding of how to deliver effective peer support, so that thousands more people can benefit from interacting and supporting others who have been through similar things.

“We already know from the 16,000 people on Mind’s own online peer support community, Elefriends, the huge benefits of people with mental health problems supporting each other. Peer support can help people realise for the first time that they are not alone and it can also bring confidence to those who share their lived experiences and help others.”

Nat Sloane, chair of Big Lottery Fund England, added: “The project receiving funding […] fills a gap in what is already being done by piloting a new, coordinated approach to mental health peer support work within England. It focuses on voluntary sector provision of peer support services and has a great potential to influence long-lasting change on a national level of how mental health support is delivered to those who need it the most.”

For more information about the programme and how to get involved go to the peer support pages of Mind’s website.