Swimming has been credited with boosting women's health and wellbeing.

One devotee from Dorchester has spoken of its transformative effects and urged others to discover the benefit of improving both physical and mental health.

Community mental health patient Iona Jehu, 24, has taken advantage of free events around west Dorset during the week which has helped her lose weight and improve her mental health.

She was supported by Dorset Healthcare's START (Support, Transition and Recovery Team), to go swimming in preparation for a challenge to raise money for a local church.

The trust’s run a  host of activities each week for local people to get moving for their mental health in Bridport and Dorchester,

She said: “After recently being diagnosed with diabetes, swimming has had a massive impact physically on me.

“It has helped me reach my goal of not being diabetic and losing weight. And mentally, it has stabilised my mood – I’m less anxious and not as paranoid.

“Thanks to START and the charity challenge, I’ve really got into swimming and enjoy it.

“I meet up with a member of the START team every week for a swim, and it gives me an incentive to go and keep it up.”

Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place from Monday, May 13 until Sunday, May 19 and Dorset HealthCare is encouraging people to get moving more and find moments for movement in their daily routines to benefit their mental health and wellbeing

START is a secondary mental health community service for adults and older people.

The team offers one-to-one sessions for people being supported by a community mental health team (CMHT), as well as group sessions open to everyone.

The team’s work focuses on connecting people with their communities, through attending groups or activities, or helping them access education, improve their fitness and find work or volunteering opportunities.

Dorset Echo: Iona Jehu with Sarah Jones, support time recovery worker for Dorset HealthCare’s START serviceIona Jehu with Sarah Jones, support time recovery worker for Dorset HealthCare’s START service (Image: Dorset Healthcare)

Sarah Jones, support time recovery worker for START, said: “Taking part in activities to improve fitness and increase movement is important physically but it’s crucial for mental health – in fact, it’s everything.

"It’s empowering, fun, brings people together and helps them find routine, plus it’s a way someone can control their body to benefit their mental health and not be defined by their diagnosis.

“Our groups are varied and include sports groups like boxing and circuit training to coffee groups and art groups, plus online social groups. People attend as often as they like. Nearly everyone who attends say they feel better for going and that they enjoy connecting with people and making friends.”

The service has a range of activities taking place during Mental Health Awareness Week to get people moving that are open to everyone to enjoy:

Monday, 13 May:

  • Weymouth – boxercise class, 10.30am-12noon
  • Dorchester – walking group, 11am
  • Lyme Regis - walking for wellbeing, 11am

Tuesday, 14 May: 

  • Dorchester – circuit group, 11.35am-12.15pm

Wednesday, 15 May:

  • Bridport – swimming, 12noon
  • Dorchester – swimming, 3pm

Thursday, 16 May:

  • Dorchester – Haylee’s Fitness Club exercise class, 12-1pm

Friday, 17 May:

  • Dorchester – circuit group, 1-2pm.

For more information on the mental health services and support provided by Dorset HealthCare, visit www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/takeastep