It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May), so Healthwatch Dorset is highlighting some of the challenges local people face when accessing mental health services and also raising awareness of the crucial role played by community support in helping people manage their mental health.

Improving young people’s mental health services

Healthwatch Dorset recently gathered the views of young people to inform the ongoing development of young people’s mental health services in Dorset.  They visited youth groups and local organisations across Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, to talk to young people who don’t always have a strong voice, including those excluded from school, young offenders, care leavers, young asylum seekers and young people who are experiencing homelessness.

Common issues raised included: long waiting times to access mental health services, not enough sessions, a lack of crisis support, the preference for continuity of care through the same support worker, and the young people they spoke to did not feel comfortable in clinical environments.  Read the report summary: Your Mind, Your Say: Young people’s views of mental health services in Dorset.

Healthwatch’s Dorset work will influence the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) ‘Your Mind, Your Say’ project, launched in February 2020, to capture the views of young people and their families, who use mental health services.  The full CCG report will be published soon, and Healthwatch Dorset will be launching their own Young Listeners project to further develop their work in this area.

Louise Bate, Healthwatch Dorset Manager, explained how they are working to improve mental health services and support for local people: “Last year, 17% of all enquiries to Healthwatch Dorset were about mental health services and this continues to be a common area of concern and complaint.  There is a huge demand for services and, with coronavirus and social isolation widely reported to be impacting on people’s mental health, demand for support looks set to grow, particularly for young people.  We are making sure that Dorset’s mental health services listen and respond to public feedback.  We are also raising awareness of mental health support in the community, which plays such a vital role in helping people not only survive, but also to thrive.”

Sharing stories to shape mental health support

Healthwatch Dorset is asking local people to share their experiences and views of managing mental health, to help raise awareness of the challenges people face and to influence positive change in Dorset’s mental health services.  To get in touch with Healthwatch Dorset call: 0300 111 0102, email: enquiries@healthwatchdorset.co.uk or visit: healthwatchdorset.co.uk/contact-us/.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, Healthwatch Dorset Engagement Officer, Lucy Cribb, has shared her highs and lows of `shielding` during the coronavirus – highlighting some of ways she has managed to keep well (read her blog here).  Healthwatch volunteer Catriona, who has a professional background in health and well-being, has shared her thoughts on how to tell if you’re feeling anxious or depressed, along with some coping techniques (read more here).

Valuing community support

Healthwatch Dorset works closely with voluntary and community groups across the county and regularly guides local people to groups providing advice and support with mental health.  Local information and mental health support groups can be found on the Healthwatch Dorset website: healthwatchdorset.co.uk/project/mhaw-resources/.