Local NHS services are urging people in Dorset to place wellbeing and good mental health at the top of the list this winter.

Winter depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is known to affect people, including those who may not have previously experienced a mental health issue.

Dr Karen Kirkham, Assistant Clinical Chair at NHS Dorset CCG, commented: “As a practising doctor, during winter I tend to see an increase in people presenting with symptoms related to Seasonal Affective Disorder, such as low mood and general lethargy.

“Be reassured that there are some small self-care measures you can take. Try to enjoy as much natural daylight as you can, eat a balanced diet, destress with exercise and meditation and if you can, follow a regular sleep pattern. Going to bed and getting up at similar times can be beneficial.

“If you experience more complex mental health issues that you feel you cannot manage, tell someone how you’re feeling. Try to maximise your personal support networks and visit your GP for advice and guidance.”

Dorset offers various mental health services. There are safe spaces in the county called Retreats, operating in Bournemouth and Dorchester. They are open 7 days a week, with mental health professionals and peer support workers who have lived experience of mental ill-health on-hand.

Since the Retreat in Bournemouth opened in April 2018, thousands of people have benefited from the mental health support available. The Retreat tends to see up to 40 people using its services each day, in order to get support in maintaining mental wellbeing and to prevent mental health crises.

“Tracey Marshall, Crisis and Acute Community Services Manager commented: “Lots of people need extra support during the winter and the festive season tends to bring a lot of social and financial pressures and expectations.”

“If you’re struggling to cope or just need someone understanding to speak to, the Retreats might be able to help you through some of the difficulties you’re facing. Just show up, there’s no need for an appointment.”

“Alternatively, call the Connection phone line for 24/7 mental health support and advice on 0300 123 5440.”

For young people who do not wish to speak to someone face-to-face, there is also www.kooth.com where you can access online support from professional counsellors.”