Dorset’s LGBT+ mental health support to be a role model for Rwanda

21st March 2023

Lessons learned from supporting Dorset and Southampton’s LGBT+ community with mental health issues are set to benefit people in Africa.

National charity LGBT+ Network for Change has praised Dorset HealthCare’s Steps2Wellbeing service for its success and sensitivity in providing help for LGBT+ patients. Steps2Wellbeing.jpg

And this learning will now be shared with a human rights organisation in Rwanda to ensure LGBT+ people there receive the support they need.

Steps2Wellbeing (S2W) is a free, NHS mental wellbeing service that offers counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, guided self-help and other psychological therapies support to adults registered with a GP in Dorset or Southampton City.

Over the last couple of years, the LGBT+ Network for Change has provided training to S2W staff – from admin officers through to frontline counsellors – to help them better engage with LGBTQI+ patients.

This ranges from how to deal with initial contact to understanding patients’ particular issues, and Alan Mercel-Sanca, Lead Officer with the Network, says the training has made a big difference.

“The mindset of LGBT+ people using the S2W service can be quite different to other people, because of experiences of prejudice, and their cases can often be very complex,” he explained.

“Since we began working together, the confidence level among the local LGBT+ community in getting the right kind of help has increased considerably – and among healthcare professionals, too.

“The Human Rights First Rwanda Association recently contacted us asking for assistance in developing support for its LGBT+ community, and we were keen to share the Dorset S2W model around mental health. It’s been a really good piece of work.”

Kelly Colbeck, Senior Service Leader (Urban Locality) for Steps2Wellbeing, said:

“Working with the LGBT+ Network for Change has given us valuable insights and helped us tailor our services to better meet the needs of LGBT+ patients.

“We are delighted that the LGBT+ Network for Change has been able to share learning from our partnership and training approach with human rights groups in Rwanda, to help ensure LGBT+ people receive the respect and support they deserve.”


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