Access Mental Health provides 24/7 help for people struggling to cope

10th October 2019

A new range of services is now available across Dorset to provide a rapid response to people in a mental health crisis.

To mark World Mental Health Day (10 October), Dorset HealthCare is leading a fresh approach to support people who are struggling to cope, heading towards a breakdown or even feeling suicidal.

Based on feedback from local people, Access Mental Health allows people to define their own crisis and seek help without waiting for a referral from their GP.

Dorset is now one of the few areas in the country where you can access round-the-clock help and advice over the phone and face-to-face support in the evenings. Services include:

Connection – a 24/7 telephone helpline (0300 1235440), which can provide direct help or signpost you to a range of other services

The Retreat – a drop-in support service in Bournemouth and Dorchester, open 4.30pm-midnight every day. Run in partnership with the Dorset Mental Health Forum, it provides a safe space where you can talk through your problems with mental health workers or peer specialists

Community Front Rooms – drop-in support services in Bridport and Shaftesbury (with a further one in Wareham coming soon), open 3.15-10.45pm, Thursday-Sunday. They are run by local charities The Burrough Harmony Centre (Bridport) and Hope (Shaftesbury), contracted by Bournemouth Churches Housing Association, and are also staffed by mental health professionals and peer support workers.

The Retreat and Community Front Rooms are for people aged 18 and over, and you don’t need an appointment – just drop in when you feel you need support.

And people of any age can call Connection, at any time. If you require urgent clinical help, staff can arrange an assessment within four hours.

Access Mental Health was developed following a consultation led by NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group with services users, staff and the wider public, and is based on that feedback.

Sarah Rose, Operations Director with the Dorset Mental Health Forum, said:

“People felt they were having to convince services they were poorly, and this approach moves us away from that. If someone is experiencing mental distress, they are the expert about how they are feeling, and they need someone to listen.

“Access Mental Health allows people to access the support they need on their own terms, whenever they need it. They can talk to mental health staff and peer specialists, people with their own experience of such issues, in a safe, non-judgemental space and find the solutions which can help them on the path to recovery.”

The demand for this approach has been proven by the Bournemouth Retreat, in Hahnemann Road, the first part of Access Mental Health which opened in April last year.

In the 18 months since, it has had almost 16,000 visits – around 30 people every day.

Steve Jones, Dorset HealthCare’s Mental Health Community Services Manager, said:

“This is a really innovative approach, which has been co-designed with local people. You can still access our regular mental health services, but this provides more flexibility if you need help urgently – face-to-face support in the evenings, and someone at the end of a phone 24 hours a day.”

More information, including address details of the Retreats and Community Front Rooms, is available at

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