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BCHA's Community Front Rooms provide lifeline for those in need of mental health support

Attend Anywhere offers virtual face to face support


Mental health affects millions of people in their lives and as the UK emerges from lockdown, the knock on effect of the pandemic to mental health remains very much in evidence.

Individuals whose psychological health has been affected by pandemic related fears, as well as employment and financial concerns, are being actively encouraged by charitable housing association BCHA to reach out and seek help through the Dorset HealthCare’s Access Mental Health initiative.

People over the age of 18 in Dorset, who are struggling to cope or who feel they are nearing a breakdown, can access the following services via free, face-to-face, virtual consultations, using the Dorset HealthCare’s Attend Anywhere secure video call service:

  • Community Front Rooms (CFRs) - provided by BCHA in Wareham and in Weymouth, working in partnership with local charities Hope, who run the Shaftesbury CFR and The Burrough Harmony Centre, who deliver the Bridport CFR. The CFRs provide a welcoming, safe space where people can virtually (at present) discuss problems and work towards possible solutions. Open 3.15pm-10.45pm, Thursday to Sunday.
  • The Retreat – anyone struggling to cope with life and who feels they are approaching a crisis point can attend virtual drop-in sessions at locations in Bournemouth and Dorchester. Open daily from 4.30pm-midnight.
  • Connection - alternatively, for customers who would prefer to speak to someone on a telephone, contact can be made through a 24/7 helpline open to all ages. Dorset residents or people visiting Dorset can call 0800 652 0190 or NHS 111 for free.

Individuals do not need to be referred by their GP or other health professional, they can just reach out for help when they feel the need.

Staffed by both mental health professionals and trained peer specialists (people with personal experience of mental health issues), CFRs and the Retreats offer an alternative to the clinical, medicalised approach many will be familiar with. Staff are there to help those in crisis find their own strengths and resources, to give advice or guidance and, crucially, to offer an empathetic ear.

Preparations are currently being put in place to resume the drop-in face-to-face services provided prior to the COVID-19 pandemic at the CFRs and the Retreats. But in the meantime, they are not yet able to welcome visitors in person, so visitors are asked to use the virtual drop-in service.

Links to all the Community Front Rooms and the Retreats can be found on the Dorset HealthCare website:

A user of the Bridport Community Front Room said:

“I don't know what I would do without the Community Front Room now; it is an oasis of calm, a beacon of hope, and no matter how you are feeling, you will be welcome here.”

Tony Burden, BCHA’s Business Manager for Mental Health Services, said:

“Covid restrictions have meant that we have been able to support Dorset HealthCare with the delivery of the Community Front Room services by utilising the Dorset HealthCare Attend Anywhere online facility. The Community Front Rooms and Retreats are situated across the county and are part of the overall Access Mental Health service for Dorset. As Covid restrictions begin to lift we look forward to announcing when we will be able to resume the normal drop in service and I am very pleased to advise that as part of that announcement we will provide location details of the new Community Front Room for Weymouth and Portland.”

Tracey Marshall, Dorset HealthCare’s Crisis and Acute Community Services Manager, said: 

“The past year has been a particularly challenging time for people’s mental health and we’ve all faced new challenges, from lockdown fatigue and fears over job security, to balancing working from home with child care responsibilities – all while trying to avoid catching or spreading the virus. Whether you are stressed, feeling anxious, struggling to cope or nearing a crisis, our Access Mental Health services are here to support you and provide the first step on the road to recovery.”

Caroline Gamble, Service Manager at The Burrough Harmony Centre, which runs the CFR in Bridport said:

“The past year has been a challenge for us all due to the pandemic and lockdown. The Bridport CFR has been there right through this period offering virtual support and look forward to returning to drop-in very soon. We recognise that coming out of lockdown can be just as challenging as being in lockdown. The CFR's are there for you and offer a safe, welcoming and confidential space when you may most need them in the evenings and weekends Thursday to Sunday 3.15-10.45pm.”

Gill Hewitt, manager of local charity Hope, which runs the Shaftesbury CFR said:

“Healing takes time and asking for help is a courageous step in choosing your own pathway to your own recovery.”

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