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Category: Stories

Suicide First Aid training v2 (1)

Frontline workers across Dorset trained in Suicide First Aid ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day

More than 200 people working in frontline services across the county have been trained in Suicide First Aid ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, with many more trained in Mental Health First Aid.

Dorset’s suicide prevention programme aims to reduce deaths by suicide across the Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council areas by delivering life-saving interventions and raising awareness of where people in a crisis can get support.

A key part of the programme is training staff to help them build skills and confidence to have conversations with vulnerable people who might be thinking about suicide. The training was commissioned by Public Health Dorset and delivered by the National Centre of Suicide Prevention Education and Training.

Providing suicide first aid involves gathering the skills and knowledge to competently and safely intervene when a person is at risk. Just like medical first aid, those who are trained assess the wider situation, using key skills and acting quickly and safely.

Those who have been trained include a wide range of roles across councils, the NHS, the fire service, universities and charities. In total, 225 colleagues have been trained to provide a Suicide First Aid Intervention.

People who attended the training have said it has given them the confidence to recognise and respond to signs that someone may be experiencing thoughts of suicide.

Mandy Nicholson from Locus Counselling said “I have found since doing the training and as of a direct result, I have used it frequently in direct work with clients, who were literally on the point of feeling like ‘this is it’.”

She added “It has enabled me to not be afraid to really go there and I found that when people started to talk I was able to follow the steps I learnt in the training.”

A Suicide Prevention Training Network has now been set up, with Dorset Mind providing refresher training and resources and members sharing learning and support. Dorset’s suicide prevention programme has also supported health and care organisations in the county to deliver ongoing Mental Health First Aid training for staff.

Cllr Jane Somper, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care, Health and Housing, said: “We all have a role to play in raising awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. It’s not just mental health or medical professionals who work with people who might be thinking of taking their own life. Many of our frontline colleagues could be having conversations with people who are struggling for any number of reasons, so I’m pleased that this training is being rolled out in Dorset.”

Cllr David Brown, Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, said: “Any of us may need to have a conversation about suicide at some point in our lives, so it’s vital that we have the skills and confidence to do so. It’s important that we talk about suicide safely and responsibly to break down stigma, and this training ensures that people across our communities can create a safe environment for people to open up.”

Anyone aged 16 and over can take part in free online suicide awareness training with Zero Suicide Alliance. The training takes 20 minutes and gives you the skills and confidence you need to have a potentially life-saving conversation with someone you’re worried about.

Support is available for free for anyone in Dorset who needs someone to talk to:

  • Call Connection, Dorset’s dedicated helpline for mental health advice, on 0800 652 0190
  • Call Samaritans for a listening ear with no judgement on 116 123
  • Text SHOUT on 85258, any time of day or night
  • Visit Dorset Mind’s website for information on their services
  • Find more information online at Mental health services – NHS (www.nhs.uk)



ADHD and me

Thanks to Chloe McIlroy, Dorset Mind Young People Active Monitoring Practitioner for sharing such personal experiences about her way to learning about her ADHD diagnosis and what that has meant for her.

Growing up before diagnosis

Growing up, I always had a sense that I was somehow ‘different’ and not in a good way. I was the child who would get stressed and anxious about disagreements and end up crying in school. Despite this, I loved school.

Learning new things came easy to me most of the time. If a subject interested me then I could pick it up super-fast. If it didn’t (like reading books of any kind) then I would feel physically pained by having to do it, or I would just forget that my reading book existed. I think my Harry Potter reading book sat untouched in my book bag, with the bookmark around 50 pages in for the best part of a year.

As a teenager I’d get detentions for not completing homework because I’d forget to write the homework down, forget to check my planner, or just plain forget homework was a thing as soon as I’d stepped out of the school gates.

When it came to tidying my room, my parents would lose me for days at a time whilst I embarked on a massive deep clean of my entire room which involved moving furniture and completely reorganising all my worldly possessions. My bed would be covered with all the stuff I had pulled out of my wardrobe, and suddenly as if by some sort of cruel magic, I’d lose the will to carry on. Or worse: I’d get distracted by something I found hiding in my cupboard. I’d be so fixated on what I was doing that I’d forget to eat and drink.  

What ADHD looks like for me

As an adult, I look back now and can see that those (and a great many other) little ‘quirks’ about me were actually undiagnosed ADHD. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition marked by a pervasive pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity which interferes with someone’s daily life. 

I don’t blame my parents for not knowing that I was different. ADHD looks different in girls, who are more likely to display inattentive symptoms outwardly. I was hyperactive, but I wasn’t disruptive at school, so my teachers were none the wiser either. The epitome of ADHD in girls, if you will.

If I had a penny for every time, I was told that I was ‘smart’ or ‘capable’ but ‘just needed to knuckle down more’, I could probably afford to retire at 27 and live out the rest of my days in a tropical paradise. I can laugh at those sorts of statements now, knowing that they say nothing about my character.

But back then the way I was experiencing the world, being told I was exceptionally bright but struggling to keep up in many ways, caused me a great deal of anxiety. And I’m not alone. Some sources say that there is a huge overlap between anxiety and ADHD, with up to 50% of ADHDers experiencing comorbid anxiety. 

Understanding ADHD

It’s not hard to see why so many of us neurodivergents struggle to function in a world that wasn’t made for us. We may forget obligations, appointments, and important dates like birthdays. We’re often disorganised and struggle to prioritise tasks.

This isn’t because we don’t care, but because the part of our brain (called the prefrontal cortex) which deals with these higher order mental processes developed, and functions differently to that of a neurotypical person.

You can’t look through someone’s skull and see their brain (imagine, that would be horrible, in my opinion!), so it makes sense that lots of people, especially those closest to us, can become absolutely exasperated with what seems on the outside like a reluctance to pull our weight.

Loved ones may think we’re just being lazy when we forget to take the laundry out of the machine for the 6th time this week or get stuck doom scrolling on our phones.

Fun fact: apps are designed to give us dosed hits of dopamine, which for a brain with a starved reward system, is extra difficult to stop.

Cue feeling absolutely pants that you’ve just spent 3 hours watching videos of kittens and not cooked the dinner you said you’d make. So basically, this all only serves to add to the anxiety we feel. But let’s not get it mixed up. It’s not necessarily that just having ADHD means you’re more likely to be anxious, but rather, the specific issues ADHD causes us in our relationships and working life are incredibly anxiety provoking.   

So, nobody can see the way our brains are different but those developmental differences are visible on an fMRI (a fancy brain imaging technique that maps out changes in blood flow to different parts of the brain). Hence the term neuro (meaning nerves, the nervous system) divergent. There is a population of people who flat out refuse to believe ADHD is real – hello more anxiety about proving you’re not making it up. But ADHD is actually very well researched, with those fancy fMRI images to back it up [there are too many articles to reference here!].  

DISCLAIMER: Not all criteria mentioned above are considered diagnostic requirements, to be diagnosed will need further testing please speak with your GP to find out more.

Think you or your child may live with ADHD?

So what if you think you or your child might have ADHD? Well the first thing to do is look at the symptoms, but go to a trusted source. ADHD Adult UK and the NHS website are a great place to start. Next, you’ll want to think about whether you ask your GP to refer you for an assessment, or whether you want to be assessed privately. Both have their pros and cons. An NHS assessment is free, but can often come with lengthy wait times, whilst a private assessment will happen relatively quickly, but will come at a potentially eye-watering cost.  

As for experiencing anxiety, whether it’s related to ADHD or not, there are things you can do right now to begin taking back control. The best thing I ever did was to make a conscious decision to accept myself as I am, even the anxious part of me. This can be hard, and you might want to seek the support of a counsellor to do this work. In the meantime, there are a million things you could try at home to alleviate your symptoms, see the support links listed below.

Find support!

A good starting point is talking to your GP or alternatively, find support at Dorset Mind.

For young people 

For adults 

Young Minds ADHD Group Support

YoungMinds is here to help if you think your child has ADHD. Find out more information about ADHD and how to get help. ADHD Parent Support. The Symptoms of ADHD.

ADHD Adults in Dorset

The Cheeky Tipple 6 N Square, Dorchester

Family Counselling Trust (FCT)

07772 101649

Anxiety UK, (Mon-Frid 9:30 am – 5:30 pm)

Anxiety UK offers services to support those with or experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

Call 03444 775 774 OR Text 07537 416 905

Samaritans, 24/7 phoneline

Emotional support and listening service.

Call 116 123

Connection, 24/7 phoneline

For people of all ages in Dorset who are experiencing mental health issues and need support.

Call 0800 652 0190

david sutherland

Stress & Anxiety by David Sutherland, Active Monitoring Practitioner

Within my role as an Active Monitoring Team Leader, a 1-2-1 mental health support service delivered at GPs in Dorset, I enjoy talking to lots of people about stress and anxiety and finding ways to facilitate changes and improvements. Often, I will ask people to tell me about their current levels of stress and what they believe to be the cause. They will usually talk about pressures at work, at home or other factors that cause stress. Then I will ask them to tell me about how long they have felt stress, and if they know the difference between stress and anxiety.  

Often the words stress and anxiety, are used interchangeably and lots of people remain unaware that stress is different to anxiety, in that stress is a normal response to situations and events, and anxiety is stress that hangs around after the exam or deadline is over.  

Anxiety may make us fixate on possible future events and may make us project stress into the future by fixating on the worst possible outcome. An example could be getting worried every time that post arrives through your front door at home, as your anxiety is telling you that it’s a speeding fine, or an unexpected bill rather than just being the normal wads of junk mail and leaflets! Once this is over, anxiety will come and ask us to stress about how we are going to pass the next set of exams at the end of 2023, or how we are going to pay for redecorating our house in 2024. 

I would also say that anxiety is normal too and that it is part of more of our lives than we realise. Being normal does not mean that stress and anxiety are here to stay and cannot be improved.

Here are some of the things that have worked well for our Active Monitoring participants to help them to reduce stress and prevent anxiety in the longer term –

A supportive network of family and friends.

At Dorset Mind, I make a point of talking to colleagues if they need help with stress or anything else. I can also rely on lots of people that I work with if I need help. Being open to conversations about stress means that others will be more aware of what things cause you stress and how to support you in future. Sometimes people do not want to talk about it straight away, so I send a text or an email to see if they want to talk, and I do the same if I want to talk too. Try it! Start these chats with trusted colleagues, friends, and family members. Someone that you know may be waiting for a friend or colleague to reach out. When you do, it starts a ripple of chatting and support. I am sending a message to a friend right now to see how he is. Can you do the same? They will be there for you when you need them. Just knowing that you can reach out to someone in future helps to reframe stress and anxiety as being less lonesome and scary.

A positive outlook in life.

Being positive means really focussing on the good things in life and writing them down and being grateful for the good things that we have. When I am sick with a cough or cold and feeling rough, I made sure to rest. I write down a list of things that I am grateful for about my health, like the fact that my body in strong and healthy enough to fight off the cold and I will be back to normal soon. You can think about glass half full or half empty if you like, or you could say that your glass is free refill!

Build confidence in your ability to address issues caused by stress.

Speak to your manager, your family or your friends to try and find solutions. Write up a Wellness Action Plan for work or for your relationships and work on practical things to improve stress. It is not always practical or possible to leave your job if it’s stressful but try re-writing your CV or cover letter as a way of reminding yourself of your good qualities and feel less stuck in stress. One participant did this as part of his sessions with me and ended up using his new CV and cover to apply for a great new job.

Practice The Five Ways to Wellbeing: Be active, Connect, Take Notice, Give, Learn.

I often ask participants to spend 30 minutes every day writing down their five ways and another 30 minutes doing them every day; participants have reported remarkable improvements. I do ‘The Five Ways to Wellbeing’ weekly and I can vouch for their simple and effective results in reducing stress. Try it now. Write down 5 small things that you can consistently do over the next week and you will be amazed at how much it helps to reduce stress. Goals can be adaptable. For example, you could walk for 30 minutes each day as part of ‘Being Active’ or go for a walk in nature and ‘Take Notice’ of sights and sounds along your journey. Write up a list now of  five ways you could include the ways to wellbeing within your day-to-day life.

Guest Blogger

Huge thanks to David Sutherland for sharing his tips for managing stress and anxiety this Stress Awareness Month (1-30th April 2023).

Find support for stress & anxiety

Active Monitoring sessions offer support for a wide range of wellbeing issues and can be accessed through many GP Surgeries in Dorset. Find out more here. 

Find alternative talking therapies available through Dorset Mind here. 

Ellie Sturrock

Farming, family and finding support

“When we struggle we need to tell each other. This is the most important thing I’ve learnt.”

Ellie is a Dorset NHS professional and farmer. Here, she explains more about the ‘hard but beautiful’ juggling act behind life on a farm and shares how important it is to talk to others if you’re finding life difficult.

My name is Ellie Sturrock. I run a team of fabulous therapists offering treatment for common mental health problems like depression and anxiety, but I’m also a shepherd and farmer with my husband, who works full time on our farm in mid-Dorset.

I’m not from a family of farmers – in fact my paternal family were Naval, so not a blade of grass in sight! As a child, though, I read wonderful children’s stories about the countryside. As soon as I could I moved to various cottages and lived a fairly wild existence. I took up riding and bought a horse (or three) and spent more and more time outside on horses and bicycles and on farms. My husband, Nick, was a friend of a friend and we rode at his farm and my horses lived there, and I soon followed!

The farming life

Nick has been looking after the land and the animals on it all his life. It’s a hard life but beautiful too. Way before rewilding, Nick was encouraging a combination of cultivating nature as well as the sheep. We gather wildflower seeds and disperse them and plant trees in hedgerows and field borders, always minimising cutting, spraying and ploughing. This was done both for the benefit of the land but also to save money.

The work as we get older is harder. It’s so much more difficult to catch a sheep in a large field to check its feet or pull off a long bit of bramble! I’m also diabetic and when I’m going low I’m really no help at all, weak and wobbly and confused.

The farming population is aging, so we’re delighted when we go up to market and see younger couples and more women driving their sheep up. It’s hard for people to get started, though. Land is expensive and small young farmers may be running various groups of sheep, say on six separate pieces of tenanted land. With the cost of fuel, this is harder to make work with margins already being low.

Brexit has been a challenge to us, meaning less trade with our neighbours in Europe. They have been our biggest marketplace for many years. Instead, there are more trade deals with bigger countries like Australia, where food production is at a scale that makes their food cheaper than ours will ever be.

There’s no denying it – the work is physically demanding. Fence posts constantly need repositioning as horses lean over and put pressure on the wires. A few cars have crashed through our field margins too. Putting fence posts in on your own in wind and rain is HARD!

Ash dieback is affecting our trees. Some of these are alarmingly close to the barn and will need to be brought down before they come down taking out a barn roof, and it would be awful if this happened during lambing. Luckily my son is a tree surgeon, so he will help.

But you get the picture… all these things add up. It’s a juggling situation with a long list of things that need doing… ALWAYS.

Support for farmers in Dorset

Farming life can be difficult, but thankfully there are such great support systems around like the Farming Community Network (FCN). I’ve been working with Dorset rep Nick Viney, who is developing a small team of farm visitors like vets, feed merchants, vicars, neighbours, police, council workers who may be in contact with farmers and others in the rural population, and can look out for when things aren’t ‘quite right’. These ‘lookouts’ will simply ask ‘Are you ok?’ and then signpost farmers to support like from the FCN or their GP.

There is also free mental health support available locally and nationally to those who need it. Steps 2 Wellbeing, my service, offers talking therapies for free for depression and anxiety. Connection , Dorset’s NHS mental health helpline, is open 24/7, and the Samaritans are always available to anyone who needs a listening ear (see below for details on these and other organisations that can help).

There are also farm walks put on by organisations like the Dorset Wildlife Trust or the NFU, so people can chat and learn more about national incentives.

But when you’re working, often alone, how do you hear about these things going on? The rural lookouts will be able to help people access support and find out what’s happening in their area.

Finding a balance

We keep ourselves well by watching the birds flying, picking mushrooms, growing our own food. I still ride and have a horse that I’m going to use to take hay out for the sheep this winter (this is environmentally more sensitive, saves diesel and is just nicer!)

We love people coming and staying on the farm (we have a pop-up campsite with yurts and pitches for tents). Nick’s brother and sister-in-law live over the road so we see them, and my son and his girlfriend live in a caravan on the farm too, so we are very lucky to have family nearby.

Nick rides a motorbike for pleasure and meets friends to play snooker once a week. They’ve been doing this for almost twenty years now.

Simple things make a difference. We swim in the sea when we can, I swim all year. Our dogs and hens and animals are a source of so much joy and pleasure, the land too, and each other.

Don’t struggle in silence

When we struggle we need to tell each other. This is the most important thing I’ve learned. Sometimes I stop and weep and Nick says ‘Are you okay? and I say ‘No I’m tired and I’m worried about the sheep/dog/barn etc’ and he says ‘Have you eaten enough?!’ and then he says ‘Yes, it’s a tough day today, isn’t it?’
This is often enough, but I know that if it gets too much and there are more ‘bad days’ this winter, I’ll be looking to have a weekly talking spot with a therapist or friend. The best thing we can do is talk to each other. Talk to someone and if you are a farmer on your own or even in a family, it may just need to be someone else. Luckily there is so much on offer to us all.
Human beings are brilliant animals in their ability to look after each other and offer an ear or a hand. I love sheep and dogs but humans are way better at caring for others!
 Need support? These organisations can help:
 Connection 24/7 NHS mental health helpline for Dorset: 0800 652 0190
 Samaritans 24/7 helpline: 116 123 or email [email protected]
 Shout 24/7 text service: Text SHOUT to 85258
 Farming Community Network: Call 03000 111 999 or email [email protected]
Free face-to-face drop-in sessions – at The Retreat in Bournemouth and Dorchester, and Community Front Rooms at venues across Dorset – times and locations vary, visit Access Mental Health Dorset for more information: www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/access-mental-health
> Contact Nick Viney to register an interest in the farming lookouts: 01929 439121

Nature is within reach

Did you know that connecting with nature is hugely beneficial for supporting our mental health? Spending time in nature can help us be physically active, reduce our blood pressure, boost our mood, and increase our vitamin D levels – all of which have positive impacts on our mental wellbeing.

Living in Dorset we are blessed with many opportunities to get outside – from a walk, ride or cycle in the countryside; a wander along a river, coast path, or beach; a visit to a local urban park or a nature reserve; playing and exploring outdoors or spending time in a garden at home or planting a window box. Most people have access to some form of natural space, which we can engage with, either on our own, or with family and friends, and many opportunities are free.

Relax and focus

There is increasing evidence that being in nature supports our mental wellbeing by allowing us to relax and focus on the environment around us and provides spaces to be physically active. One study showed that those exercising outdoors do so for 30 minutes more than those at a gym. This may be down to the variety of experiences that being outdoors gives, such as the changing seasons and the weather. These factors may also help us to repeat the activity so that it becomes a habit because it’s always a little bit different, even if it’s in the same outdoor space.

And we don’t have to be consciously ‘exercising’ to get the benefits. Conservation volunteering gets us active and also supports or improves our mental wellbeing. A study showed a 95% improvement for attendees with low wellbeing after attending conservation volunteering activities after a period of six weeks*.

Birdsong therapy

But connection to nature doesn’t have to mean being active. Listening to birdsong or the wind through the trees on a stroll or sitting in a park or garden; or watching bees buzzing and butterflies flittering about focuses our attention and connects us to our surroundings as well as bringing us into the present moment, which is very beneficial to our wellbeing.

Not everyone may be able to easily access natural spaces or feel confident in what to do to help them connect to nature, so a fantastic online resource has been created called Picnic in the Parks. Developed by Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and partners, the website includes wildlife webcams across Dorset, videos of beautiful landscapes and audio journeys. The website also includes opportunities to connect to nature through arts activities and guides on activities to get involved with for those who can access our amazing environments. Get inspired with the Picnic in the Parks website at: www.picnicintheparks.org

While connecting to nature isn’t a fix all in terms of having good mental health, it can really help support our wellbeing. So why not do something that connects you to nature which in one way of another is within reach.

* Essex University and The Wildlife Trusts: https://bit.ly/2vNeZ6i

Jon’s story

Jon Bartlett moved to North Dorset recently and was surprised how easy it was to access the mental health support that he needed.

Whilst I was looking forward to moving back to my home county, I was also nervous. What would the care for my mental health be like? It had taken a long time to get a good treatment regime in my old county – one which, like Dorset, was heavily skewed by a large urban area at one end and rural districts elsewhere.

I registered at my new GP and found that the doctors had seen my records and booked time to speak with me and welcome me to their surgery, whilst checking what specialist support I might need for my mental health. I was anxious as I spoke to a new GP but they set me at my ease quickly (often tricky by phone) and outlined what they would do next and where I should look to find some community supports. By the end of the same day I had a call from the community mental health team and a couple of days later the social prescribing team had called to connect me up with peer support groups and various activities in the district.

As someone with a long-established diagnosis, skilled in managing it and on a stable medication, I didn’t need all the help that was offered but I was genuinely surprised how many groups/events were going on. There seemed to be something for everyone and certainly plenty of people ready and willing to help. We hear all the time about waiting lists and delays in mental health services and those things are undoubtedly still an issue but the service is full of staff who care and furthermore, there are plenty of people in the community to help you on a day to day basis.

So please, remember that support is within your reach in Dorset.

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

rural campaign

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected]

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


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


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.


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


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.