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Mental health

Many of us experience stress, worry, low mood and lack of sleep at some point during our lives. For most people this is short-lived, but for other people it can be a longer term problem. There is plenty of support available in Dorset to support you with your mental health.

Public Health Dorset commissions a number of mental health services including support for people with drug and alcohol dependencies, mental health first aid training for employers and staff and Kooth – an independent online support system for children aged 11-18.

There are also lots of tools you can use and services you can access to support you with your mental health. Find out more about some of these services below.

Every Mind Matters

Having good mental health helps us relax more, achieve more and enjoy our lives more. There are simple things we can all do to look after our mental health and wellbeing. Visit the Every Mind Matters digital hub to get started with a free action plan, expert advice and practical tips for looking after your mental health.

Steps to Wellbeing

Steps to Wellbeing is a free, confidential service available to people aged 18+. It's run by experienced professionals who will help you take the first step towards improving your mental health. They offer a range treatments for people experiencing problems with low mood, depression, anxiety, stress or other common mental health problems.

Support is available over the telephone, face-to-face, in groups or via the internet. Steps to Wellbeing is a self-referral service which means you can contact them directly to access their services. They also accept referrals from GPs and other healthcare professionals. For more information, visit the Steps to Wellbeing website.


Kooth is a free, confidential online service that helps young people aged 11 – 18 (up to their 19th birthday) who want to talk about their mental health and emotional wellbeing. To access the service, visit the Kooth website.

The service has been commissioned by Public Health Dorset in partnership with Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Dorset Healthcare, Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

Young people can access Kooth on any mobile, desktop or tablet device. Once an account is set up, they can access a whole range of services such as unlimited free counselling sessions with trained professionals, moderated forums, self-help materials and a mood journal where they can record their thoughts and feelings. Young people are encouraged to identify their own goals and monitor progress with their counsellor, charting movement as progress is achieved.

Dorset Mind

Dorset Mind has supported people in Dorset for more than 70 years and provides 13 recovery and resilience support groups. It educates people about the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health and supports them to identify and develop new coping skills. The charity also runs a one-to-one befriending programme, designed to help people regain confidence and social skills.

Anyone adult in Dorset can access support groups and services across the county through Dorset Mind. The groups can be attended immediately, there are no waiting-times - and best of all you can self-refer. During the coronavirus outbreak, Dorset Mind have moved all of their support online.

Details of how to get support in Dorset for mental health problems can be found here.

If you're aged 11-25, access support from Dorset Minds ‘Mind Your Head’ service.

Dorset HealthCare - Access Mental Health

The current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation is particularly difficult for people who are experiencing mental ill health and emotional distress. The situation is unprecedented and Dorset Healthcare have had to make changes to how they run Access Mental Health services.

To ensure the safety of staff and the public The Retreat in Bournemouth and Dorchester will not be running drop-in services at this time and Community Front Rooms have been closed. Alternative arrangements are being put in place.

If you require urgent mental health support, please call the 24/7 Connection phone line (0300 123 5440) in the first instance and you will be signposted to the right service for the support you need.

Designed in partnership with local people, Access Mental Health offers a range of services which provide support at times and places when people need it the most. You don’t need to be referred by your GP or other health professional, you can just reach out for help when you need it. Mental health professionals and peer support workers will be on hand to help you avoid a crisis and help you find the path to recovery.

  • Connection – a 24/7 helpline open to all ages. Dorset residents or people visiting Dorset can call direct on 0300 123 5440 or access via NHS 111. Open as usual during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The Retreat – Currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Community Front Rooms – Currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Dorset HealthCare can also help people in the Armed Forces Community access health and social care services across Dorset (including Bournemouth and Poole). 

The Armed Forces Community Health and Wellbeing Team (AFCT) can help to assess your needs and, if appropriate, liaise with local organisations to ensure you receive support with issues such as health, welfare, housing and employment. 

The Armed Forces Community includes: 

  • active army, navy and air force personnel 

  • veterans 

  • reservists 

  • family members 

  • bereaved family members. 

You can contact the team directly, or access the service through your GP or other health/social care professional. 

Suicide prevention and bereavement support

Suicide prevention work in Dorset is a multi-agency effort to prevent further loss of life. By working together, we are combining our expertise and resources, addressing risk factors and supporting those who have been bereaved through deaths by suicide. Our key aim is to reduce the risk of future deaths.

A death by suicide can have a big impact on family members and the wider community. We are working together to support vulnerable people, as well as those in crisis, and give them the help they need.

If you or someone you know is feeling like they can't cope there are organisations you can turn to for support:

Papyrus offers confidential advice to young people. It is a national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide.

Samaritans offer 24/7 support, before, during and after a crisis. You can call them free on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.
Samaritans offer direct to support to people and also advice, guidance and training in workplaces, and schools. They have also produced media reporting guidelines to promote and encourage sensitive reporting.

CALM - The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide. They run a free and confidential helpline and webchat – 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems.

Small Talk Saves Lives

Did you know a little small talk can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts? We’re working with the Samaritans to promote their Small Talk Saves Lives campaign. 

The campaign is all about empowering people to act to prevent suicide on the railways and other settings. Suicide is preventable and suicidal thoughts are often temporary and can be interrupted. 

We want to give as many people as possible the skills to notice if someone might be at risk and give them the confidence to approach them. A simple question or observation can be all it takes to interrupt suicidal thoughts and start the journey to recovery.  Read more about the campaign and how you can make a difference to someone.  

Bereavement support

A bereavement by suicide is different from any other kind of bereavement, bringing an intensity and range of emotions that may be unfamiliar. http://uksobs.orghelps people over 18 who have been bereaved by suicide.  

Support after suicide is a really good website with practical help for those who have been bereaved by suicide and those who are helping someone else who has been bereaved or affected by suicide. They have a number of guides which you can read online, download or order printed copies including 'Help is at hand' which has been put together by Public Health England.

More information

For a list of local services visit Dorset Mental Health Forum

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