Dorset Mental Health Forum (A comprehensive guide)

In this guide, we will discuss what is the Dorset Mental Health Forum and the services they provide.

Dorset Mental Health Forum (DMHF)

The Dorset Mental Health Forum was established in 1992 and they employ, when possible, people who have experienced mental illness.

They are a local peer-led charity that exists to improve the lives of people affected by mental health illness, promoting wellbeing and recovery.

In addition, they believe that people who have lived and experienced mental health problems have specialized knowledge and expertise in the area.

They think that “everyone has an equal right to enjoy all of the opportunities that life can provide and that is why we promote the principle that hope, mental health, and wellbeing are essential to all”.

On October 10th of 2019, Dorset Mental HealthCare announced its new initiative, during World Mental Health Day, considered a fresh approach to the support of people who are suffering and struggling to cope, almost on the verge of a breakdown or having suicidal thoughts or behaviours. 

Local people were given the chance to provide feedback they implemented “Access Mental Health”, allowing people to seek help without having to wait for a referral to their GP, making Dorset one of the few places that are offering over the phone and face to face round-the-clock help and advice. 

According to their website, these are the services offered through “Access Mental Health”:

  • 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 4.30 pm-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.

Suicide prevention plan

They explain on their website how this is an important aspect on their agenda and how suicide is something we need to be aware of since it causes a profound impact.

It has been suggested that more than 800.000 people commit suicide each year across the world and in the UK more than 6.000 a year, which is considered alarming and a matter of public health. 

“Suicide has a profound effect on families, friends, and local communities and across Dorset, Bournemouth, and Poole an average of 70 people die by suicide and so Dorset CCG and partners are pleased to introduce the Suicide Prevention Plan”. 

Organizations and partners involved have the responsibility of developing a suicide prevention plan and naming a person that is in charge of delivery and reporting.

The overall aim of the plan is to promote mental health and wellbeing, reduce the means of suicide, identify those more vulnerable and at a higher risk and propose a post suicide intervention. 

Most common mental health illnesses 

There is a list on the DMHF website with links that will take you to more information about the most common mental health illnesses, here we mention some of them:

  • ADHD
  • Alcohol Addiction
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Anxiety
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Bipolar Affective Disorder
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Mental Health Services

Here is a list from the Mental Health Services throughout Dorset according to the Dorset Mental Health Forum website:

  • Assertive Outreach Services
  • Community Mental Health Teams (Adult)
  • Community Mental Health Teams (Older Persons)
  • Community Resource Teams
  • Crisis Response and Home Treatment
  • Early Intervention in Psychosis Service (EIPS)
  • Eating Disorders Service
  • Forensic Service
  • Inpatient Units (Adult)
  • Inpatient Units (Older Persons)
  • Intensive Psychological Therapies Service
  • Perinatal Mental Health Service
  • Primary Care Mental Health Services (Psychological Services)
  • Psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICU)
  • Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Who can they help?

  • Children
  • Young people
  • Elderly
  • People with disabilities
  • General public

Dorset Mental Health Advocacy Service Independent Mental Health Act Advocacy (IMHA) 

This advocacy service covers Dorset, Poole, and Bournemouth.

The service is free and confidential for adults and young people subject to the Mental Health Act 1983.

Additionally, according to their website an independent mental health act advocate (IMHA) is an advocate who is specially trained to work with any adult or young person detained or sectioned under the Act.

“You can also get help from an IMHA if you are a conditionally discharged restricted patient; or subject to Guardianship under the Act; or under a Supervised Community Treatment Order (STO)”.

Informal patients are also eligible if you are being considered for serious treatment, such as neurosurgery for a mental disorder or electroconvulsive therapy (under 18 years old). 

It is important to mention that the Independent Mental Health Act Advocates are separate from the NHS and social services, working for the Dorset Mental Health Forum (an independent charity).

To get in contact for the Dorset Mental Health Forum Advocacy Service you can call the phone number 01305261483 or email them at

Advocacy service (IMHA): What they can do for you

  • They can help you understand your rights and options.
  • They can help you access the services you need.
  • They can help you to get your voice heard at meetings, tribunals, case conferences, appeals, etc.
  • They can help you find expert advice and liaise with official agencies.
  • They can help you to make complaints and challenge decisions that affect you.
  • They can help you to find ways to solve specific problems in your life.
  • They can help you to develop your own skills and confidence in dealing with particular issues.

Advocacy service (IMHA): What they can’t do for you

  • They can’t provide financial support or benefits.
  • They can’t offer to counsel, befriending or long term support.
  • They can’t take on specific work that can be more appropriately provided by another agency.
  • They can’t provide treatment, medical advice or legal advice.
  • They can’t offer relationship counselling or mediation.

Peer support

These are groups (self-help) where their members are able to share their experiences and can receive and give support in a safe environment.

They explain that “the shared experience is mental illness and the aim is to help each other towards improved mental health”.

Additionally, ground rules are set and discussed among the group members as in how many times to meet, when and where, etc. always understanding and accepting each others point of view and also making it very confidential.

They explain that the groups can operate on an open drop-in basis or they can be closed groups, where the second group is usually formed by a group of individuals who have met previously during group therapy courses organized by the health service. 

These groups are believed to be a great source of support and recovery for people who are suffering or that have suffered from a mental illness.

However, as previously described, these groups depend on their group members to sustain them.

Why is peer support useful?

On their website, they explain how and why peer support could help you:

  • It is reassuring to meet others who are experiencing the same kind of feelings; to know you are not the only one
  • When everyone is in “the same boat” it is easier to feel trusted, accepted and understood; the support is relaxed and mutual
  • There is an opportunity to give as well as receive support, which can make you feel better about yourself
  • It is encouraging to hear about self-help tips that have worked for other people and to have the support of the group to try them out yourself
  • It can be easier to socialise in a supportive environment and being part of the peer network means there can be people within reach that you can contact
  • There isn’t any pressure; it is ok to participate in whatever way you are able, knowing it is very likely that others will understand any difficulties

Recovery Education Centre: Carers and Supporters

They currently have two specific courses in their Centre and both of the courses have been designed by other carers and professionals for people who are supporting someone through their personal experience, who is suffering from mental health problems.

Additionally, these courses help students to share their experiences of being carers or supporters and how their own health and wellbeing is impacted, discuss their rights as a carer and also signpost to other available support and resources.

The longer course offers to explore these areas more in-depth and in the context of Recovery.

Contact information 


Tel: 01305 257172


Dorset Mental Health Forum, 29-29A Durngate Street, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1JP

Why is this blog post about the Dorset Mental Health Forum important?

If you are struggling recently with a mental health illness or you have been for a long time already, then remember you are not alone.

There are many charities and organizations out there ready to give you their support, understanding and in some cases even teach you how to cope or overcome your mental health problem. 

Knowing their names, phone numbers and how they can help is crucial because they have been created to help people with mental health illnesses and their aim is to help improve your quality of living. 

Get to know them, give them a call and talk to someone to get some assistance and guidance from what you are experiencing and going through, there is no need to wait for a GP referral you have immediate telephonic help if you are going through a crisis, this can help prevent suicides and reduce the impact this has on a family, community and worldwide. 

Please feel free to comment in the comments section below!

References Suicide prevention plan

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