About Rural Mental Health Matters

Where it all started...

SOMH! Save Our Mental Health was a community campaign I set up following Dorset NHS & CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) Mental Health Consultation (1st Feb - 31st March 2017), challenging the inequality in mental health services and support in rural areas of Dorset, in particular North Dorset.

A report was written by myself and Dr Helen Tucker, Vice President of The Community Hospitals Association in response to this, read the report here. Save Our Mental Health! submitted a 1/4 of all responses (questionnaires) to the consultation, 207 out of a total of around 800. We did this by engaging with the public, in our temporary 'pop up' shop in Shaftesbury high street.

During the Save Our Mental Health! campaign, the majority of people I engaged with, told me they did not feel they can be open about their mental health and wellbeing in their community. The key responses:

  • Services need to be close to the place of need, to include mobile and outreach, particularly in the most rural areas (this recognises the significant stress of travelling for people who are suffering with mental health issues and their carers)
  • There must be parity between mental and physical health care support/services.
  • Mental ill health is an invisible illness – made more invisible by living in a rural and remote areas.

Next steps…..after the Save Our Mental Health! campaign…

The CCG responded to SOMH! with their report and as a result they agreed to move the Community Front Room, a welcome new mental health service to Shaftesbury, in the HOPE Charity premises. This service has now been running since July 2019.

The CCG and NHS have done their best with the limited funds available by providing this much needed service and it is greatly appreciated.

However, many people feel more must be done to address the inequality in rural areas.

I researched what other rural communities were doing locally as well as nationally, clearly rural mental health inequality is not just confined to North Dorset. Scotland embraced the challenges with success, in the form of mobile outreach support, serving the rural and remote areas.

This seemed an ideal solution to try and tackle the issues in North Dorset, as a starting point! In fact the majority of local people that SOMH! campaign has engaged with supported the idea of a mobile outreach service.

The name change from Save Our Mental Health! to Rural Mental Health Matters follows a consultation period with community groups (inc mental health peer support groups) and other professionals across Dorset. They felt that Save Our Mental Health! represented campaigning/activism, which was right at the time of the consultation, but could now be perceived as a negative moving forward. Without any more funding available from the NHS/CCG, Rural Mental Health Matters (RMHM) needs to help! We do this as a Social Enterprise, raising the funding to provide the very first mobile rural outreach mental health/wellbeing service, to raise awareness, breakdown the stigma and provide information/signposting.

Please see our Social Enterprise page for more information.