Many peer support groups can be joined by anyone, without a referral from your GP. However, most peer support services are local and not available nationwide, so it can be hard to find out what's available in your area. This page covers:
Some NHS services run peer support groups, sometimes within hospitals or organised by your community mental health team (CMHT). These will often need a referral. To find out what's available in your area, your GP may be able to suggest what kind of peer support would be suitable.
There is a huge range of peer support available online:
- Some sites such as Big White Wall only cover parts of the UK, but may be free for you to access in your area, through GP referral or through your university
- Mind runs the online support communities Elefriends and Friends in Need, which are both open to anyone over 18
- See our page on types of peer support, and on online support, for more information and suggestions.
There are also countless informal groups available, and many people find informal groups on social media extremely helpful. If there is no moderation, make sure you know how to stay safe online.
If possible, you could discuss what you're doing with a trusted friend or relative. This is particularly important if you find you want to meet people you have met online face-to-face. It's often best to take a friend with you and meet in a public place.
Mind's Peer Support Directory
Mind believes that people should have access to quality peer support wherever they live. You can search our Peer Support Directory for groups and projects in England, to find support near you:
Peer support in rural areas
If you live in a rural area, mental health services and support may be more spread out. Your nearest local Mind should be able to suggest the most convenient peer support options.
Several organisations have been specifically set up to support rural communities and may be able to help you access peer support:
- The Farming Community Network are able to provide help, sometimes including peer support, to anyone in the farming community facing difficulties.
- ACRE provides information and signposting on a range of issues for people living in rural communities.
The growth of online peer support services such as Elefriends or Friends in Need, can be particularly useful if you live in a rural area and struggle to find people who understand your experiences.
Many local Minds run peer support groups. You can contact your local Mind to see what they offer. Mind is also running some specific peer support programmes across the country, through local Minds:
- Side by Side which aims to provide and research peer support in nine areas
- Our Blue Light Programme supports emergency services staff and their families through mental health champions and peer support
- Get Set To Go encourages people to take up physical exercise that is beneficial to their mental health, or to use their experience to help someone else take up a new activity.Several local Minds that aren't part of the project also provide support for people who want to be more active.
- Two in Mind supports the mental health of pregnant women, new mothers and their families. Initially based in Wales, peer support is a major element.
- Peer Support Employment groups are running in five local Minds in West London to help people experiencing a mental health problem look for work.