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Project information

Community peer support - mental illness

Set up peer support groups for people severely affected by mental illness, including carers. These groups improve mental health and wellbeing, increase skills and training opportunities, and reduce social isolation. Peer support from others with similar experiences can be vital in challenging times.

It is an ongoing growth project to support more people each year

Charity information: Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness logo
  • Need


    Social isolation is a problem for those who either have lived experience of mental illness, or care for someone who does.
    Community care is still an area where resources are stretched and people can slip through the cracks – ending back in crisis care, or worse, if nothing is done to support them.
    And on the carer side, 13% of the 7 million unpaid carers across the UK care for someone with mental illness. Carers are twice as likely as the general population to develop a mental health problem.


    Our peer support groups around the country benefit both these sets of people:
    • “Coming to the group was an eye-opener, I thought I was the only one having to deal with this and it’s been great to know I’m not alone.”
    • “Thanks to the group we’ve learnt such a lot and have confidence in ourselves and in the future.”
    Our support groups tailor their activities to the specific needs of their group – some examples are art, gardening, reading, group discussions, and physical activities like running.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Set up a support group where there is need, embed it in the community using key local relationships


    » We provide resources, regional support officer, training in subjects like Safeguarding, Group Facilitation, and Navigating the Mental Health System
    » Our groups are self-sufficient after the first year but we continue to support them with governance, funding advice and materials.

    What success will look like

    Assess locations, recruit volunteer coordinators, then train and support them to set up new peer support groups. Begin sustainability planning for year 2.

  • Impact


    Group members will feel less isolated and be less likely to need crisis care or other NHS and local authority support.

    We measure the difference our groups make by surveying group coordinators annually on attendance, activities, and local insights; by monitoring training numbers; and by collecting direct feedback from group members, eg:

    “After months of getting nowhere, the help from this group has brought about a complete sea-change.”


    One risk is that we find a suitable group coordinator but that they do not stay, or cannot sustain the group. We’ve dealt with this by putting in place a robust process for advising and recruiting coordinators from the outset, training them once in place, and providing resources, a support group toolkit, terms of reference, a setup grant, regional staff and regular checks and support.


    Our e-newsletter is every 5 weeks. By post/email our supporter magazine (including specific updates on this project) is twice a year. They’d additionally receive a follow-up mailing, updating them on this project and progress with the wider support group network, once a year.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £5,985

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £1,885 Staff Regional staff salaries, travel, meetings
      £1,200 Premises Rent of meeting premises
      £810 Materials eg flyers, posters and printed copies of factsheets
      £240 Volunteer expenses eg DBS checks
      £520 Training Training and associated and books and journals
      £1,030 Overheads Central overheads (such as IT, Finance and HR)
      £300 Contingency 5% contingency
  • Background


    The location of this new support group is not set – we do have locations in mind but our strategy is to:
    1. use our recent research to target new locations where we identify a gap in community support;
    2. focus on audiences with the greatest need, for example by making our support groups more attractive to people from BME communities where there are many people severely affected by mental illness who do not currently access support in their local community


    People with lived experience of mental illness, or who care for someone who does.
    If we can support people in their local community as they leave inpatient care or supported housing, they are more likely to do well long term. Carers experience high levels of social isolation, exasperated by prejudice and misconceptions surrounding mental illness making them more likely to attempt to cope with their situation alone. 75% of carers say it is hard to maintain relationships and social networks.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    We have run peer support groups for over 40 years. All our work is governed by people who have lived experience of mental illness and covers every county in England, giving us local insight and helping us spread innovations nationally.
    We will use our network to establish groups and support members to grow their reach. Our network includes the provision of 200 mental health services across England; national charity members, volunteers and campaigners; and the national campaign Time to Change.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Eileen Murphy

    She leads our strategy to improve participation, peer support and our network of support groups nationally, and we couldn’t do this without her.