Why we all need good friends to navigate through crisis

In a crisis, we all need someone who understands.


Family adversity can be the seeds of improving the support available for others. Jeff Tucker’s 16-year-old son was attacked and beaten on his way home from school in 2020. His mental health plunged as a result. His family tried to get help for him, but there seemed to be no immediate help available. “It was a really horrible time and there was nowhere we could go to get support,” says Jeff.

A year or so later Jeff [pictured top left] was talking to a business partner who was going through a depression. “It dawned on me that we all need a best mate,” says Jeff. “If I could have talked to a best mate who had been through a similar thing to what I had been through they could have given me advice and we would have recovered a lot more quickly and turned things around.”

Jeff shared his thoughts with his friends Ian and Carl after they had run the London Marathon in 2022. They decided to set up a charity that would match people going through tough times up with ‘best mates’ who have been through similar situations, would understand what they were facing and would tell them what had helped them to get back on track. That was the start of Best Mates, which got charitable status last autumn. In addition to matching people up with those who are strong enough to want to give back after a difficult experience, the charity signposts to other services. “The idea is to turn something horrendous into a massive positive,” says Jeff, adding that he now jokes with his son that the charity is all down to him.

Walk and talk

The launch party for the charity saw it get off to a flying start when a donor gave them 20K pounds. Since then the charity has been growing and there is interest across the country. In addition to matching people up, signposting them to further support and, in some cases, paying for counselling, it also helps people with financial help, such as paying for food if a person has landed on tough times due to sickness or injury.

It has also set up weekly Walk and Talk sessions in Swindon in the last few weeks which offer a safe space to talk to like-minded people. Jeff talks about one man who was suffering from terrible anxiety who came along recently and has been back since. Best Mates volunteers report back if they think anyone needs particular support. Jeff hopes the sessions will provide a blueprint for rolling them out in other areas.

Initially the charity had more male supporters as it was building on all the momentum around men’s mental health, but it is open to anyone. Different types of sessions are being added similar to the walk and talk sessions, for instance, crochet, to encourage people to talk through doing.

Jeff has big hopes for the charity, but knows it will take time to build a national presence. For now, they have a Facebook page and website which people can initially contact them on. The charity is now talking to businesses to raise awareness and Jeff is taking part in a sponsored bike race to Paris on 17th June. He says: “The aim is to catch people before they become seriously depressed or suicidal.”

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