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 The Side by Side project has today launched in Hampshire as part of a nationwide pilot scheme exploring the benefits of peer support for people with mental health problems. Peer Support includes befriending, mentoring and support groups or forums for people struggling with their mental health.

Solent Mind will be training volunteers to reach hundreds of people struggling with mental health issues in Southampton and the New Forest. Whether it be meeting for a much needed chat, providing practical help or sharing tips for how to stay well; volunteers will be there for people in communities when they’re at their lowest. The Side by Side project will also be working with local community groups and organisations to train and advise them about supporting people with mental health issues.

The Side by Side programme was set up by Mind in partnership with Bipolar UK and Depression Alliance, after they were awarded £3.2 million by the Big Lottery Fund. The programme aims to increase access to peer support across England, find evidence of its effectiveness and encourage local services to offer peer support. To do this, Side by Side has funded 37 grant projects in nine areas of England including Southampton.

Sue Forber project lead at Solent Mind, said: “We are delighted to have been selected to be part of the Side by Side programme. Our project will reach hundreds of people with mental health issues in Southampton and the New Forest, providing them with vital support, help and advice when they need it most.’

Karen Mellanby, Director of Networks and Communities at Mind, said: ”One in four people will experience a mental health problem every year, yet often we have little choice about what treatment we receive. This can lead to many of us feeling isolated and not in control of our lives. Peer support allows people to use their experiences to help others and to get support from others who have experienced mental health problems.

“Side by Side is gathering evidence of good practice and the benefits of peer support across a range of projects. We hope that the project will improve access to peer support so that many more people can benefit from it.”

Anyone interested in finding out more should contact Clare Grant on 02382 027831 or by email at CGrant@solentmind.org.uk

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