Men twice as likely as women to have no one to rely on for emotional support

  • One in ten men and one in twenty women currently has no one they can rely on for emotional support.
  • Half of men admit they feel uncomfortable talking about emotions compared with two in five women.
  • Men more reliant on partner for support, while women prefer family and friends.

Research out today from the mental health charity Mind¹ has found that men are twice as likely as women to have no one they could rely on for emotional support (9% vs. 5%).

Despite the fact that talking about problems, including mental health problems, is one of the best ways of dealing with them, almost half of people (47%) also admit they feel uncomfortable opening up about emotions to people close to them. This is noticeably higher in men, over half of whom are uncomfortable opening up (52%), compared with two in five women (42%).

While men are most likely to rely on their partner when they need emotional support, women are more likely to turn to family or friends instead. This is reflected in the relative size in women’s support network, as they are also more likely than men to have five or more people they could rely on for emotional support (39% vs. 29%).

Feeling like you don’t have people you can depend on and who understand you when you need emotional support can be particularly difficult if you have a mental health problem. In response to this, Mind has teamed up with Bipolar UK and Depression Alliance to run a two-year nationwide pilot scheme called Side by Side.

Funded by Big Lottery, the programme is exploring the benefits of peer support, which is support given and received on an equal basis by people who share something in common, for people with mental health problems. Mind have also launched a new online resource called ‘Making sense of peer support’ which includes advice on where to find local peer support groups.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “We know that sometimes life can be tough when it feels like you’ve got no one there for you who understands. This is particularly true when you experience a mental health problem, which is why we’ve set-up Side by Side to explore the power of peer support. Peer support provides a fantastic opportunity to use difficult experiences as an asset to support and be supported by other people who have experienced mental health problems. Through the nine hub areas of the Side by Side programme we hope to empower local services to offer peer support, gather evidence for its benefits and share best practice.”

One such example of Side by Side’s peer support in action is the 12th Man Project: Based in Suffolk the 12th Man project aims to help men find it easier to talk to each other about their mental health. In football, the fans are the 12th man, the extra support that makes all the difference. The 12th man represents help when it’s needed the most. The group are receiving training and support to run events across Suffolk to support other men to open up and support each other’s mental health.

¹ Polling was conducted by Populus who interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,052 UK adults online between 29 and 31 January 2016.

To find out how you can get involved with peer support near you see our new online guide Making sense of peer support.