Side by Side: A National Evaluation of Peer Support
What is this research?
Mind, Bipolar UK and Depression Alliance have been funded by the Big Lottery to develop a programme that will raise awareness of, and deliver, mental health peer support across nine regions of England and their online peer support platform, Elefriends. The McPin Foundation, along with St. George’s, University of London and The London School of Economics, have been commissioned to evaluate the programme. We will seek to understand the principles and values that lie at the heart of peer support and develop the best way to support and expand the sector based on the evidence we gather. People with lived experience of mental health problems, and peer support, will inform all stages of the evaluation and we will be employing peer researchers to work on the programme. Their perspectives will be important to shaping and guiding the research. You can find out more about the programme here.
What is peer support and why is this research important?
Put simply, peer support can be described as the exchange of support between people who share something in common. Such relationships are founded on equality. In mental health, the ‘something in common’ is living with mental health difficulties. These reciprocal relationships offer something uniquely different to other types of mental health support and previous research has suggested they result in numerous benefits to mental and social well-being. Peer support is beginning to gain public recognition across the country, especially within public health. It is important to evidence what makes these support networks work, and work well, so peer support can continue to be funded and flourish.
What are we doing?
We will be conducting an evaluation of the peer support programme being delivered by Mind and its partners, Depression Alliance and Bipolar UK. We will use a variety of methods, including interviews, surveys, observations and consultations with people engaged in peer support.
What is the current state of the project?
The project began in April 2015 and will run until January 2017. We are currently developing tools that will enable people involved in peer support projects to evaluate their activity, and to enable people who commission mental health services to understand the value of peer support.