Dorset Search and Rescue sees rise in mental health incidents

A charity that helps find missing people in Dorset, including Purbeck, has seen an increase in call outs to deal with mental health issues.

Dorset Search and Rescue (Dorsar), part of the national Lowland Rescue service, is a voluntary organisation that assists the police. In 2021 it saw a 38 percent increase in situations where people were classed as suicidal, compared to the year before.


To meet the challenge of increasingly demanding situations, Dorsar put 12 of its team through specialist training to become Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) practitioners.

Dorset Search and Rescue

The volunteers can be called out across all terrains to hunt for missing persons

“Increasing number of traumatic situations”

Charlotte Paull, unit leader, said:

“There is an increasing number of traumatic situations we are coming across, so it’s important to look after our members.

“TRiM is a trauma-focused peer support system designed to help people who have experienced a traumatic event.

“This training will be crucial in helping our members should they have a traumatic experience while volunteering with Dorset Search and Rescue.”

Dorset Search and Rescue

The volunteers can be out night and day in often difficult conditions

“Significant shortfall”

Dorsar has not received government support and has been entirely dependent on fundraising. But Covid meant fewer opportunities to raise money and a switch to grant application instead.

Charlotte explained:

“We were worried we would be left with a significant shortfall. But a lot of work went into applying for grants, which was hard work for the team, but it has worked out well.”

Dorset Search and Rescue

The charity can provide large numbers of volunteers to assist the police at short notice

“Police aren’t able to do”

In terms of call outs last year the most were to incidents where the person involved was deemed to be suicidal, 18 last year 2021, compared with 13 the previous year 2020.

Charlotte said:

“We can provide 30 to 40 members at one shout which the police aren’t able to do.”

Dorset Search and Rescue

The mobile incident management and control office

Multi-agency rescue

In all, Dorset Search and Rescue volunteers were put on standby or called out 49 times in 2021, looking for high risk people with a range of vulnerabilities.

The other call outs were ‘despondent’ 11; medical 7; autistic 5; dementia 2; other 6.

One high profile rescue in Purbeck in May 2021 was a successful multi-agency search for a missing woman from Wareham.

Dorset Search and Rescue

A multi-agency team succeeded in finding a missing woman at Wareham

Supports a range of events

The woman was found in a reed bed where she had been overnight. The Dorsar team worked alongside Dorset Police, South Western Ambulance, coastguard teams from Kimmeridge and Swanage, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance and RNLI Poole.

The group regularly gets involved with other activities like sporting or community events.

Dorset Search and Rescue

On duty at a sporting event

“Hope to attend more events”

Charlotte added:

“We hope to attend more events such as county shows and marshalling now that restrictions are easing. This is really important for fundraising and making sure we can remain an operational service.”

This year there are plans to recruit another 16 members to become operational ‘search technicians’.

Dorset Search and Rescue

Volunteers are a frequent sight at community events across the county

“Nothing better”

Charlotte said:

“It’s about using your spare time to help others in the community. We can come together and do some good.

“There’s nothing better than finding a missing child or elderly member of the community in distress and getting them home.”

Dorset Search and Rescue

Dorsar intends to take on 16 more search volunteers this year

Further information

For more on Dorset Search and Rescue Service visit their website.

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