A community project aimed at boosting the wellbeing of thousands of people in and around Maryport and freeing up GP resources is set to launch next month.

And it's all thanks to the generous support of local people and businesses.

The Hug a Mug listening and signposting service is due to open its doors on Tuesday, October 10 to mark World Mental Health Day.

Based on Maryport Health Services' premises, it will be manned by volunteers and open to all the surgery's 13,700 patients to pop in for a cuppa and a confidential chat, with signposting available to other support services.

The scheme is led by Ewanrigg Local Trust and project managed by its volunteers co-ordinator Ann-Marie Steel.

She said: "There's a huge need. We know that mental health is one of the biggest concerns in the area.

"We know from talking to the GPs that patients are attending and taking up medical appointments for non-medical queries. The GPs haven't got the skills or the time to be able to offer the listening service and signpost them.

"The feedback for the project has been unbelievable. Everybody is so looking forward to it getting going. Businesses have been so supportive. It's very exciting.

"It will be a very friendly environment where people can come and have a hot drink, chat to the volunteers and get help to find the signposting tools they need to help them address any problems they're experiencing."

The service can help with everything from applying for benefits and tackling housing issues to accessing support for unpaid carers, bereavement services.

Volunteers can help people access online services and make phone calls to other agencies.

Liz Greggains, assistant practice manager at Maryport Health Services, said: "We hope it's going to have a really good impact. At the moment there isn't anything like it to send people to.

"It will be good for people knowing that if they've got a problem they know who to get in touch with.

"There's a lot of help out there but people don't know what exists or how to access it. It's putting everything in one place."

Plans for the project were revealed earlier this year and businesses have rallied round to donate money, goods and staff time to prepare the project's rooms.

Some firms have agreed to allow staff time away from their day jobs to help man for the service, while other volunteers have come forward from the community.

They will be joined by health and social care students from Lakes College at Lillyhall, who will spend time working there as part of their studies.

Free training in communication skills and mental health awareness is being provided to all volunteers.

The project has cost around £5,500 to set up, which has all been donated in money or kind.

The service has around 15 volunteers at the moment, as well as the students, and there will be at least two people working at any time.

The service will open Monday to Friday to 9.30am to 11.30am.