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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Here for You

Margery Hookings finds out more about the local mental health charity, South Somerset Mind, and its project aimed at supporting young people, farmers in Somerset and North and West Dorset and women struggling with perinatal mental health.

Approximately one in four of us will experience a mental health problem during our lives, according to the mental health charity Mind. It’s a statistic that’s bandied around a lot these days, as the stigma surrounding mental illness lifts and more and more people talk about the condition.

In England, one in six people reports experiencing a common mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, in any given week. And according to the publicity around last month’s Mental Health Awareness Week, stress is also a key factor.

Employers have a responsibility towards their workforce as the stresses of modern-day life impact on our mental health. Social media has a part to play, particularly in the lives of young people in a fickle world in which the number of Facebook ‘likes’ are interpreted as the measure of one’s popularity.

Mind says that the overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years. But worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope.

It appears that how people cope with mental illness is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing. And whilst the NHS struggles with funding, work by charities such as MIND is more important than ever.

I caught up for a chat with South Somerset Mind’s community fundraising manager, David Fields, who joined the charity after a 36-year career in the Royal Navy.

Although being aware of the good work of Mind for a number of years, I hadn’t appreciated that there are 135 local Minds, about ten of which are in the West Country. They all have to generate their own income through organisations such as Big Lottery, trusts, local councils and their own community fundraising projects—they do not receive an income from national Mind.

“We are affiliated to the national charity Mind, although we receive no specific funding from them,” David said. “Raising money for your local Mind ensures that funding is spent on local needs and projects.”

“Last year, South Somerset Mind provided support and a listening ear to more than 3,000 people. We aim to promote good mental health and wellbeing, encourage greater understanding of mental health issues and provide high standards of care.

“We provide one-to-one support, group training courses to help people better manage their lives and activities in local communities where we ease isolation and where people can meet new friends and share support.”

Each local Mind is unique, understanding the needs of its community and tailoring services to match the local requirement.

“Services include talking therapies, peer support, advocacy, crisis care, employment, housing support and training for local businesses in mental health awareness and wellbeing in the workplace.”

This year, a number of fundraising events are being held for The Hardy Appeal, which was launched in August 2017. One of these is Music for the Mind. Money raised will support young people, mothers and the farming community.

Music for the Mind is a fundraising initiative first conceived in 2008 by Bristol-based businessman Richard Lowe in memory of his brother, James, who took his own life at the age of 30, following a period of mental illness in 1998.

Richard is organising a fundraising concert at the Cedars Hall in Wells on 15 September in support of local Minds. David hopes that other Music for the Mind events might be staged in the region by people keen to support Mind’s mental health services in their own areas.

You can find fundraising packs and more information by visiting

The Hardy Appeal is a long-term project seeking to raise £296,000 to support the following projects in South Somerset and North and West Dorset:

  • Youth Matters supports 16-25-year-olds with their mental health, through a weekly drop-in session and 1-1 counselling. A new drop-in centre for young people will be opening in Bridport in June. Details will be published on the website soon.
  • Bump in the Road supports women who are struggling with their mental health both during and after pregnancy. Women with young babies or children can find it difficult to leave the home or attend groups, so a support worker coming to their home can be the lifeline needed to help them and their families. Working in partnership with health visitors, this programme would embed into doctors’ surgeries and then be rolled out across the area.
  • Farming Support—in our rural area, farmers are seven times more likely to take their own life than other professionals. One contributing factor is a lack of time to fulfil their work. Groups are therefore not an option. Increasing triggers are financial and linked with bovine TB. Tailored support workers are needed on the farm to help while the farmer goes about their work.
  • Mental Health Community Day and 1-1 Service—this grant would fund South Somerset Mind’s work for service users in Yeovil, Somerset. Their Mental Health Community Day is attended by 72 people each month and runs from 9.30am – 3.30pm every Wednesday. In addition, this group work is complemented by up to 9 private one-to-one sessions with experienced support workers throughout the week. One support worker and four volunteers run this day.

Finally, 30 June will see another big fundraising event in support of South Somerset Mind’s Hardy Appeal—the Driving Challenge at Henstridge Airfield. The event starts at 10 am and finishes at 4 pm. Participants have the opportunity to test their driving skills from a choice of different vehicles ranging from tractors, foragers, forklift trucks, coaches, lorries, off-roading in a 4×4 to driving the brand new Mini. There will also be a barbecue and refreshments. You can sign up at


  • For more information about South Somerset Mind visit or contact

You can access South Somerset Mind’s services by calling 01935 474875. The office is manned between 9 am and 5 pm Monday-Friday and you will always be able to speak to someone or leave a message outside office hours. You can also refer yourself through the form available on South Somerset Mind’s website.

  • If you’re feeling suicidal or concerned about self-harm, visit your local A&E or call 999 at any time of the day for help. And whatever you’re going through, you can call the Samaritans, free any time, from any phone on 116 123. The Samaritans are there round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


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