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Category: Blog

BlogNews

New rural campaign launches

New Within Reach mental health campaign is launched to support people in rural Dorset

Almost a quarter of Dorset’s population live in rural areas and, for those who are struggling or facing mental health difficulties, that can sometimes feel isolating. Research indicates that suicide rates nationally are higher in rural communities, so Dorset’s Suicide Prevention Group has launched a new campaign to remind people that wherever you are, and whatever you’re facing, support is always within reach.

Simply talking to someone about what you’re going through can make a huge difference. And however difficult it might seem, there is always someone to turn to.

Trevor Cligg is a farmer in West Dorset who has faced mental health difficulties: “A lot of people out there are struggling. Some withdraw and others, like myself, hide in plain sight. But talking about it is the biggest thing you can do to help – to whoever, be it your family, your friends, counsellors, doctors. Just talk about it.”

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends or family, you can speak to your GP or contact any of these free support services, which are on-hand to help 24/7:

  • Dorset’s NHS mental health helpline Connection – call 0800 652 0190

  • Samaritans – call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org and someone will get back to you within 24 hours

  • Text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258 for confidential support via text message

Sophia Callaghan, Public Health Consultant at Public Health Dorset, is the co-chair of Dorset’s Suicide Prevention Group: “Dorset has some wonderful rural communities but if you’re having a tough time, it might feel like help is far away,” she explains. “Our Suicide Prevention Group works in partnership to help those in crisis and signpost to the support that is available across our county – because wherever you are, you’re never alone.”

“Help is always available, whether it’s through a friend or family member, your doctor, or simply a listening ear on a helpline. You can also contact Dorset’s brilliant social prescribers through your GP surgery to access activities and support in your area. You might be surprised at what’s happening nearby – there are wellbeing activities, friendly groups and drop-in services across Dorset.

Suzanne Green, Programme Lead for Mental Health at NHS Dorset, urged people to look out for others too: “It can be tough for people to admit they’re struggling. If you’re worried about someone, don’t be afraid to ask how they are. And remember, we often say we’re fine when we’re not, so ask again if you’re worried. Even if they don’t want to open up then and there, they’ll still know you’re there for them.

“The Samaritans have some great advice on how to spot when someone is struggling, how to support others and how to listen at www.samaritans.org”.

Find out more about the Within Reach campaign, as well as support and wellbeing activities in some of Dorset’s rural communities, at www.lightonmh.uk/withinreach

As part of the campaign, Dorset’s Suicide Prevention Group is offering free mental health awareness training in Broadwindsor and Gillingham. If you are interested in the training, please email phdcomms@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

Find out more about the Light On Within Reach campaign and support available in rural Dorset.

BlogNews

How to start talking about mental health

We all appreciate the value of talking openly and honestly about mental health. It can reduce mental health stigma for everyone and make it easier for our loved ones to open up when they are struggling.

But the important question is: How do we start the conversation? How do we discuss mental health in the most effective and sensitive way?

While different approaches may suit different people, here are some general tips for starting a mental health conversation:

  • Choose your moment
    The first time you want to start talking, it can feel daunting – and scary to tackle. But, it’s important to take the leap and get people to talk open and honestly about how they feel. After talking about mental health a few times it will become second nature and help reduce the stigma around it. Over time, it will be easier for someone to open up to you, especially if they know you’ll listen without judgement and be supportive.
  • Location and Time
    Before talking to someone about your own mental health or theirs, make sure it is at a good time and place. This means a time where you’re not in a rush, and somewhere you have privacy. It may be best to talk during one of your usual activities. Do you and your mate meet every Sunday to play football? Do you meet your sister for coffee regularly? Begin there. Talking in a familiar territory can help the conversation feel more natural, even if it is not something you usually discuss.
  • Ask twice
    If you’re concerned about someone’s mental health, or are just checking-in generally, it is important to ask how they’re doing twice. When someone asks us how we are, it is a natural habit for most of us to reply on autopilot, with a cheery, “I’m ok, you?” As this is our default reaction, it is important to ask again, so the person being asked knows you really want to know how they are doing, and you’re not enquiring out of polite interest.
  • Really listen
    Be aware of your body language. Keep your arms and legs uncrossed and face them. Maintain a healthy amount of eye contact and really listen to the words they say. Don’t interrupt or interject as soon as there is a pause in speech. Once they have shared, paraphrase what they have said back to them to make sure you have understood. If they correct you, readjust your summary until they agree.
  • There is no “right” thing to say
    Many people worry about saying the wrong thing when someone tells them they are struggling. Remember, the main thing is that you are there to listen. Validate their feelings; don’t try to minimise their struggles, tell them you know how they feel, or give unsolicited advice. Instead, tell them you can’t imagine how difficult their situation must be, and you’re proud of them for facing it so bravely. Tell them you are there for them if they want to vent. Tell them you care about them.
  • Know when to seek additional support
    Whilst talking is invaluable, there is only so much we can do as a friend or loved one. Importantly, you’re not there to feel responsible for someone else’s problems. If they are experiencing mental health concerns that interfere with their daily functioning, encourage them to see their GP or reach out to a mental health service or charity, such as us. If you’re not sure if they need professional support, it’s always better to be safe. Follow this link to find out more about our 1-2-1 and group support available for adults and young people in Dorset.
  • Remember to safeguard
    If you’re not sure your loved one can keep themselves safe, you must treat it as an emergency and take appropriate action immediately, such as take them to A&E or phone for an ambulance. You could also call your local crisis team if you have their number.
  • Keep yourself safe
    It can be difficult to listen to people’s trauma without taking some of it on ourselves. Look after yourself, practise self-care and talk to someone if you also need support for what you’ve seen or heard.

Crisis information

Emergency:

If someone’s life is at risk or you do not feel like you can keep someone else safe, please call 999 or take them to your nearest A&E. Don’t leave them, keep them safe.

A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical one. You are not wasting anyone’s time.

Urgent Support:

If someone you know is struggling to cope and they are approaching a crisis point, they can access 24/7 local help and advice over the phone. There is also face-to-face support available in the evenings:

  • Connection 
    Dorset’s 24/7 mental health helpline (0800 652 0190 or NHS 111) can provide direct help or signpost them to a range of other services. If someone requires urgent clinical help, staff can arrange an assessment within four hours.
  • The Retreat 
    A drop-in support service in Bournemouth and Dorchester, open 30pm-midnight every day. It provides a safe space where people can talk through their problems with mental health workers or peer specialists. See here for more information.The Retreat also offers virtual drop-ins for people from anywhere in Dorset. The service is available from 4:30pm – 11:30pm 7 days a week. Click here to access support during opening hours.
  • Community Front Rooms 
    A support service for face-to-face drop-ins, open Thursday-Sunday from 3.15pm to 10.45pm. Community Front Rooms are available in Wareham, Weymouth, Bridport and Shaftesbury.

Listening services:

Make sure your loved ones or friends note the FREE numbers below. They can use them to talk to a trained volunteer about anything that is troubling them, no matter how difficult:

Our Support

Visit our help and support pages for resources, signposting, and information about our individual and group mental health services.

Guest blogger:

Huge thanks to our blog writer, Nick Rowe – with valuable input from our Adult Services too. Nick is the Project Manager for the Dorset Community Mental Health Alliance that brings voluntary, statutory and business members together to create a mentally healthy Dorset.

BlogNews

Mental Health First Aid and ALGEE

Enrolling on training courses to gain knowledge and new skills is something I have always enjoyed. After all, ‘learning’ is one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing and taking part in ongoing learning opportunities throughout our lives can really help to improve self-esteem and make us feel good.

When the chance came to take part in a Mental Health First Aid Course (MHFA) through Dorset Mind, I didn’t think twice about putting my name down. I had heard very good things about the training. I wanted to be able to learn essential skills that may help somebody who is in a crisis, and maybe even help to save a life. Sometimes we might go on a course and never be in a situation whereby we need to use the skills acquired. But those skills are always there, banked within us so we can be prepared and ready to take appropriate action.

Just in case

Earlier this year, I experienced one of those ‘just in case’ situations, but this particular situation was a crisis moment for an individual. I was in a circumstance where I needed to remain calm and put what I learnt on the MHFA course into practice. This was real life and is why we offer these courses.

It was on an early morning in mid summer that I decided to get up and out on my bike before starting the working day. This is something I do on a regular basis, but not something I had planned to do that day… although I am so glad I did.

I hadn’t been out long before I noticed an individual sitting on the floor and seeming a little upset. I could have cycled past and not thought much of it, but I didn’t. Something wasn’t right, I had a sense that this person may not be ok and I had to stop. That was the right thing to do. This person was in distress and appeared to be a moment of crisis. I sat down at a distance and began a conversation, making sure to respect their space and to show I was there to listen and help. All the time I was there, my priority was to ensure the individual was safe. I was thinking back to my training, going over what I learnt and trying to be as calm as possible.

As the time went on, the individual talked more and more and the best thing I could do was to listen. Just listen to them, acknowledge how they were feeling and when appropriate, I gave signposting information that might be helpful. I waited there until they made the first move to show they were ready to come away from the situation and we parted ways in a much more positive and forward thinking manner. I was confident I’d helped diverted a crisis.

The ALGEE method

Upon reflection and thinking back to this situation, the ALGEE action plan we were taught in the MHFA course had been put into practice:

  • Assess – the situation was assessed for any signs of suicide or harm
  • Listen – listening played a huge part in this situation
  • Give – information and reassurance to the individual
  • Encourage – where to find appropriate professional help
  • Encourage – support strategies and other methods of self-help

I am so thankful that I was in the right place at the right time on this particular day.

And I will be eternally grateful for the skills and knowledge I learnt on the Mental Health First Aid Course. Going through the training and applying what was learnt helped me to stay calm and know what to do in this situation.

I would recommend anyone to do this course if you have the opportunity; it can enhance your life and make a real difference to somebody else; you never know when you might need to put the skills and learning into practice.

Help and Support

If you are in crisis, ring 999 or the Samaritans free on 116 123. Visit our help and support pages for resources, signposting, and information about our individual and group mental health services.

Our guest blogger:

Huge thanks to our blogger, who prefers to remain anonymous. They received MHFA Training from our Training Team – details of which you can find here.

Find out more about Dorset Mind’s work click here

BlogNews

Fathers’ mental health matters too

Fathers are often not considered when it comes to post-natal support. Paternal mental health has not been researched as extensively as maternal mental health, and fathers are rarely provided enough support to manage the effects of parenthood on mental health.  

However, it’s proven that fathers’ mental health difficulties can cause negative effects on the father, the mother, and the children they raise. When men are provided with ample support, they are better equipped to support mothers with their mental health and be the best parent they can be for their child.  

For these reasons and more, International Fathers’ Mental Health Day (IFMHD takes place the day after Fathers’ Day. It was established to raise awareness about these issues and provide resources and information to support father’s mental health. This year, it falls on 21st June. 

Dr Andy Mayers, Principal Academic at Bournemouth University and our Patron, is one of the leading advocates for IFMHD and conducts research into perinatal mental health. As Dr Mayers highlights, supporting father’s mental health is “not about support for fathers instead of mothers; it’s as well as. If we help fathers, we help mothers. If we help them both, we also help their children.” (1)  

How many fathers are affected?

Research conducted in 2010, suggests that approximately 10% of fathers experience depression after their child is born or during the pregnancy. This concerning rate may increase if the mother is also experiencing mental health difficulties; fathers with depressed partners have a 24-50% chance of also becoming unwell. Importantly, postnatal depression in men often goes undiagnosed. 

What can contribute to paternal mental health difficulties?

Many factors can make a father more vulnerable to perinatal mental health difficulties. First time fathers and fathers younger than 25 are more likely to experience post-natal depression. Additionally, if the father has a history of mental health, financial, or substance issues, they may be at greater risk.  

Signs of paternal mental health difficulties

While it is normal to experience some emotional changes after becoming a parent, it is important to look out for signs that a father needs mental health support. These may include pervasive, distressing emotional changes, such as feelings of guilt, irritability, anger, sadness, stress, fear, confusion, and difficulties bonding with their baby. 

Additionally, they may experience cognitive effects such as pessimism, indecisiveness and difficulties concentrating. Behavioural changes such as isolating themselves, withdrawing from work and hobbies, arguing more, and increased alcohol, nicotine, or drug consumption may also indicate a mental health issue. Finally, a struggling father may experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, appetite change, weight change, insomnia, and stomach issues.  

Effects of paternal post-natal depression

Research suggests that post-natal depression in fathers can be detrimental to the wellbeing of both mother and baby. They may over-discipline and spend less quality time with their child if they are struggling with their mental health. This has been associated with developmental delay in the child, as well as behavioural and mental health issues. 

Where to find help:

It is important to get the right help as soon as possible if you are struggling with your mental health. Speak to your GP about your symptoms and they may be able to offer you treatments such as medication or talking therapies. Additionally, there is a wealth of online support and resources available. Visit Mind’s website to browse a range of online support or visit Dr Mayers’ website

If you experience a mental health crisis, don’t delay reaching out for support. Call 999 or The Samaritans FREE on 116 123. 

Our guest blogger:

Huge thanks to our Ambassador and Assistant psychologist Lucy for her timely blog. Lucy has also contributed a lovely film about how nature makes her feel which you can find on our Instagram feed.

BlogNewsStories

Bipolar and me

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog mentions bipolar disorder and may be upsetting in nature. If you need to talk to someone after reading this article, please call the Samaritans FREE on 116 123, 24/7.

What is Bipolar?

Bipolar is a serious mental Health illness that affects your mood. It causes a person to experience manic or depressive episodes as well as some psychotic symptoms during these episodes. 

Bipolar is one of the UK’s most common long term conditions, with almost as many people living with Bipolar as cancer. It is estimated that 1.3 million people in the UK live with Bipolar, that’s 1 in 50 people. It’s also worth noting that 56% of people with Bipolar in the UK are undiagnosed, indicating it’s prevalence.  

World Bipolar Day takes place on 30th March every year. To mark it this year, we’ve a special blog from one of our own staff, Dan.

Dan’s experience…

I have Bipolar Affective Disorder and have struggled with it for 20 years.

I used to work full-time in a busy office and figured that I was happy enough with my life.

Since 2017, I had a number of stressful events in my life which triggered various manic and depressive episodes.

I’ve had problems with my mood since my early twenties, but I was not diagnosed until much later in life. 

Following one major depressive episode at the age of 26, I was prescribed antidepressants by a psychiatrist and entered a major manic episode. Unfortunately, despite my symptoms, this wasn’t picked up. Being untreated for bipolar, the episodes continued, cycling between mania and depression for many years. 

I think the main reason that I was not diagnosed was that I held down a successful, sometimes stressful job throughout and managed a relatively stable life from anyone looking in.  

Mania

As I got older, my manic and depressive episodes began to last longer and became more severe. I was still prescribed antidepressants but not diagnosed. 

My friends, colleagues and I began to suspect that my mood swings may be an indication of bipolar, but unfortunately a number of mental health professionals were dismissive of my views. 

During another major depressive episode, one particular psychiatrist listened to my history. He tentatively diagnosed me with bipolar affective disorder, type II. It was difficult as he had not seen me during a manic episode. This time, I was prescribed a mood stabiliser along with an antidepressant, which helped for a time. 

Various major life events precipitated a manic episode, always followed by many months of depression, and I just about managed. Still, the manic episodes in particular began to worsen over time. 

During my most severe manic episode, at the age of 39, I experienced many symptoms. My spending was out of control. I would talk to anybody and made many new friends. People couldn’t keep up with my speech – I would flit from one subject to another constantly. I conceived a number of business ideas which at the time were unrealistic. I would be so busy running around doing different things, I would have up to thirty calendar entries in my phone that I wanted to achieve that day. Clearly, I never did. I barely slept – one or two hours a night and long periods without any sleep – but I somehow remained functional.

Sectioned

I was finally sectioned under the Mental Health Act. 

Being detained in an acute psychiatric unit was the best experience in my life when it came to my mental health. I received medical intervention in the form of an antipsychotic and two mood stabilisers. All of the staff were brilliant and easy to talk to. The structured day helped an awful lot and I found it much easier to sleep. After some weeks the mania subsided and the racing thoughts in my head began to ease. 

Following my release, I still entered a depression but it became easier to manage with the right medication and regular visits to my psychiatrist. 

In the early part of 2021 I decided I wanted to try something new. Having an interest in mental health, I joined Dorset Mind as a volunteer for The GAP Project in Dorchester. Just being outside, connecting with nature and helping others has had an enormously beneficial impact on my mental wellbeing.

In September 2021, an opportunity arose to work for Dorset Mind as a Coordinator for the new GAP Project in Weymouth and I am very proud of the work we have done so far.

I can honestly say that since joining Dorset Mind I am enjoying the most stable, peaceful and happy period for most of my adult life.

This is a far cry from the office environment I once worked in and I would highly recommend the GAP Project for anyone who is struggling with their mental health for whatever reason and who wishes to improve their mental wellbeing. 

Our Guest Blogger

Huge thanks to Dan Bradshaw for sharing his incredible personal journey. and how working with The GAP Project and connecting with nature has helped him on his recovery journey. 

Help and Support

The GAP Project is Dorset Mind’s ecotherapy project, of which Dan is working on. Find out more about the benefits of Ecotherapy and how you can get involved here.

Bipolar UK is a national charity that specialises in supporting people with bipolar.

BlogNews

The importance of Independent Custody Visitors

As I write, I am honoured to have been nominated for an MBE by Her Majesty, for services to Mental Health Awareness and Support.

This Honour cannot be accepted, or spoken about, without thinking of Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) and my team at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Dorset.

As I said in my blog this week to the Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) – they have all stepped up to the plate, and more- protecting people’s rights and dignities, in incredibly difficult circumstances. I thank them all and the team at the Organisation I Chair, the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) Ashley, Sherry and Stacey.

In relation to my role as Police and Crime CC As the PCC for Dorset, leading nationally for Custody and Mental Health issues, I travelled a seven-year journey to improve outcomes for people detained by the police who were experiencing a mental health crisis for their own safety.

Many of you will know my two sayings – “If you break your arm, you should go to A&E, if you break your mind, you should go to mental health professionals“.

And my other saying – “People in mental health crisis deserve the right treatment at the right time, in the right place“. That place was never going to be a police cell.

Sadly, back in 2012/13, over 9,000 people in England and Wales ended up in custody suites, being visited by volunteers, instead of being in a health setting.

There were numerous reasons for this, and between us all, we changed things for the better. We worked together to tighten the Mental Health Act so that police cells are no longer deemed as an intuitive place of safety for people experiencing a mental health crisis.  This year, less than 200 people were taken to police stations for being in crisis, a massive drop that reflects a positive step-change in how the police treat those with poor mental health.

Throughout this journey our ICVs, lobbied me for change and encouraged me to take the matter to the Government. I must single out the Rt Hon Theresa May, as Home Secretary, for her enormous energy in this space, and I must thank all my PCC colleagues, who signed a letter to the Government in 2013 saying: “enough is enough”.

Locally and nationally, things have improved in other ways, with new Retreats, Community Hubs, and a 24 hr Crisis Line in Dorset, and nationally, a standard health approach to people now entering custody, where detainees are assessed for their physical and mental health on arrival.

There is much to be proud of, and I am humbled by this recognition, but I am also humbled by all of you, constantly out there, checking, questioning, and examining policing as they undertake essential custody work, as well as being a listening ear for detainees.

Let’s celebrate together, we journeyed together, and let’s hope this year sees a better, safer place for all of us.

Thanks for all that you do!

BlogNews

Reasons to be hopeful

The overwhelming emotion I felt as I reflected on the National Suicide Prevention Alliance’s (NSPA) conference in January was one of hope. 

Nobody working within suicide prevention believes enough is being done to save lives, but it was clear from speakers and delegates attending that the commitment to make a difference is as strong as ever. 

And, as we all grapple with the ongoing mental fatigue brought about by the pandemic, we should take heart from both the data and the incredible work going on across the nation. 

Looking at the latest data from the Office of National Statistics and Real-Time Surveillance (RTS), which tracks the number of suspected and attempted suicides, the numbers are flat. Thankfully, the pandemic has not led to a rise in deaths by suicide, according to official data. 

However, we must put a big health warning on the numbers. It is too early to measure the real impact of this terrible virus. We may yet face the perfect storm as government support is withdrawn, the cost-of-living soars and people’s mental health is severely tested. 

One of the reasons I feel hope is there is not even a hint of complacency from anyone involved in suicide prevention, either in the voluntary or statutory sectors. 

As project lead for the Dorset Community Mental Health Alliance, I witness every day the desire to help people live happier lives. For some, it is a lifelong struggle but never has there been more awareness of people’s needs or more tools to help them find a way through. 

We know many people face prejudice and services that do not always meet their needs – whether they’re from LBGT+ or ethnic minority communities, feel isolated, are neurodiverse, live with socioeconomic deprivation on the margins of society or face a combination of factors. 

And while it is vital, we’re never complacent about gaps in services, there has never been a time when both mental health professionals, and their 3rd sector colleagues have been more aware of the need to do better. 

So, what can we do in practical terms to make a difference? 

With the support of our Public Health colleagues, we have been able to offer 15 voluntary organisations, which felt they needed better skills, free suicide prevention training. In March we will roll out more courses. 

We also want to help members develop suicide prevention strategies for their organisations.  

In 2022, we will be working with Ann Luce, Associate Professor in Journalism and Communication at Bournemouth University, who lost her partner Richard to suicide 16 years ago. She has dedicated the intervening years to a tireless pursuit of answers and solutions. 

Ann helped Dorset’s three universities produce a life-saving SP strategy, which not only recognises the unique set of challenges that young people face leaving home for the first time, but also gives staff and students clear guidance and support if a young person takes their own life on campus. 

We will support Dorset’s Multi-Agency Suicide Prevention Network colleagues as they look to identify emerging trends from the RTS data, while recognising it is the tip of the iceberg because it only records incidents reported to Dorset Police and British Transport Police. 

We will play our part in the NHS reforms with representation on both the Mental Health Integrated Strategic Programme Board and the Delivery Board, which will determine the county’s provision of mental health services. 

Many of our members are part of the Mental Health Integrated Community Care (MHICC) Project, which recognises that primary and community mental health services need large scale transformation to meet everyone’s needs. 

One death from suicide is one too many and so encouraged by the amazing work of the NSPA we must all reaffirm our commitment to create a society where nobody feels taking their own life is their only option. 

The alliance isn’t a crisis service 

If you or someone else is at serious risk of death or injury, call 999 and ask for the police and/or an ambulance 

For 24/7 emotional support, speak to The Samaritans FREE on 116 123 or visit, samaritans.org  

Connection is a 24/7 FREE helpline for Dorset residents or visitors of all ages. Call 0800 652 0190 or NHS 111 and select mental health, or visit, dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/access-mental-health  

 

For more about NSPA, visit nspa.org.uk/  

For more about Dorset Mind, visit dorsetmind.uk/  

For more about the MHICC, visit dorsetccg.nhs.uk/cmh/   

To join the DCMHA, visit dcmha.uk/join/