This section will focus on why safety and trust matter to women, and how to embed them into your group. Building safety and trust will ensure that all women, regardless of their identity or background, can feel included in the peer support space. Being accessible to all women is fundamental to foster inclusion.
This will help to ensure that your women’s peer support group can flourish, nurture women, and contribute to improving the mental health of women.
How peer support values differ for women
Researchers at McPin, the mental health research charity, identified six values underpinning effective peer support. These were outlined in the original Side by Side peer support programme, as highlighted in the illustration below:
The key evaluation of the Women Side by Side programme found that:
Safety (emotional and physical) was shown to be very important for women’s peer support. The role of men was discussed, with most preferring women-only group membership, female facilitation, and locations that promoted safety of women.
Trust was identified as a new foundational value. This reflects the fact that women are more likely to experience trauma than men, which affects their mental health, help-seeking, and ability to trust. Many of our peer support groups included women who had experienced domestic abuse and sexual violence (past or current) and so it was important to take that into account at all times.