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Accessing treatment and support during coronavirus

This page explains how the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is affecting mental health treatment and support, with tips for accessing the support you need. This includes information on GP appointments, talking therapies and counselling, and psychiatric medication. 

Remember: it’s always ok to ask for help for your mental health.

The NHS still wants you to do this during the pandemic. You are not wasting anyone’s time, whether you are continuing treatment or seeking help for the first time. 

This page has information about how these treatment and support options may be affected by coronavirus:

You may also find these pages helpful: 

If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, it's a mental health emergency.

Get emergency advice

Talking to your doctor (GP)

Your doctor (GP) is there to help with your mental health, as well as your physical health. Talking to them is often the first step towards finding treatment and support that may help.

Your GP can also help if you are already using treatment and support and you want to discuss it or try something different.

Finding a GP

If you don’t have a GP, the NHS's detailed guide on registering with a GP may help. If you live in England, you can use the NHS online 'service search' tool to find GP surgeries near you. If you live in Wales, you can find your nearest surgery on the NHS 111 Wales local services search.

Most GPs should offer face-to-face appointments during the pandemic. If you prefer this to a telephone or online appointment, you can request this from your GP surgery.

But many of us may still struggle to get a face-to-face appointment with our GP, or may not wish to attend the GP surgery in person. There are other ways that you can get help from your GP. The NHS has information on accessing NHS services online or over the phone.

Try not to worry that your problem is too small or unimportant, or that other people’s illnesses are more important. Everyone deserves help, and your GP is there to support you.

It can feel difficult to talk to your GP about your mental health. For some people, talking on the phone might feel easier than speaking face-to-face, while for others it may feel harder over the phone. Appointments can also be quite short, so if you’re feeling nervous you might forget to say things you think are important.

It might help to prepare in advance for your appointment, to make sure you get the most out of your conversation with your GP. These are some suggestions for how to prepare:

  • Write down what you want to say in advance.
  • If you’re feeling nervous, let your doctor know at the start of your conversation.
  • Try to find a place in your house where you feel comfortable to speak. If you don't have privacy in your house, consider other spaces you could speak privately. For example, this could be in your car if you have one, or a local park if there is one nearby.
  • If you feel comfortable talking to family or friends about how you feel, practise what you might say to your GP with them. You could also speak to a helpline to try this. 
  • Bring any information you’ve found that helps to explain how you’re feeling.
  • Think about what you want from your appointment, such as access to therapy.
  • If you have a few things to talk about, you can ask for a longer appointment. You'll need to request this when you book the appointment.

See our page on talking to your GP for more tips on getting the most out of this conversation.

Talking therapies and counselling

Talking therapies and counselling are treatments which involve talking to a trained professional about your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Finding a therapist

Our page on how to find a therapist explains the different ways you can find a therapist or counsellor. You can do this through the NHS by speaking to your GP. Or you can find one by searching an online directory, such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) therapist directory.

Our page of coronavirus useful contacts has details of other therapist and counsellor directories.

Many therapists now offer a mixture of face-to-face, phone and online therapy sessions. You should only be offered face-to-face therapy if your therapist has assessed that it is safe to do so.

Speak to the service that is providing your therapy or counselling and they will be able to explain what they can offer.

You may feel concerned about having therapy over the phone or online instead of face-to-face. You may worry that it will be harder to have an open and honest conversation.

These are some tips to help make your sessions feel more comfortable:

Before the session, try to talk to your therapist about:

  • whether you can choose between a phone or video call, and which one you would prefer
  • the confidentiality of your sessions. It's the responsibility of the therapist to ensure that any digital platform they use is secure
  • what number you'll be called from if you're having your session by phone
  • who will re-start the call if you lose connection. This can be common, but usually only lasts for a short amount of time
  • any other worries you have about the session. Remember that your therapist may be getting used to working in this new way as well.

If you're unsure about how to use video calling technology, ask a friend, family member or someone else you trust to help set this up. Age UK has a guide to using video calls, which may also help.

If you can, try to find a place where you won't be disturbed. If you’re worried about being heard by people around you, you could try using headphones for the session.

You might also find it useful to turn off any digital notifications, such as emails or text messages, to avoid getting distracted.

For example, you could hold a comforting object or take a moment to focus on your breathing.

Your session may bring up difficult emotions. To help manage this you could try a relaxing activity before going back to your usual routine. For example, this could be listening to your favourite piece of music.

You may want to let someone you trust know that you're having the session, so they can check in with you afterwards.

It can take time to build trust and feel comfortable with a therapist. This could feel even more difficult when you're not seeing them face-to-face.

Try to be kind to yourself if it takes time to get used to having therapy in this way. And remember that you may be able to have face-to-face sessions again in the future. 

If you're not sure whether therapy or counselling is right for you, see our information on what to do if your therapy isn’t helping.

“Moving from face-to-face to phone therapy was a big shift, and something I was initially nervous about. What’s helped me is making sure I'm calm, relaxed, and free of distractions before my call.”

Psychiatric medication

If you take psychiatric medication for your mental health, you may be worried about how this is affected during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, you may be concerned about:

  • how to access your medication, including what to do if you run out
  • leaving your home to collect your medication
  • attending appointments about your medication, such as blood tests or appointments to review your mental health
  • whether taking medication increases your risk of becoming ill from Covid-19, or affects how your body might react if you catch the disease. You can speak to your doctor or another healthcare professional involved in your care if you are concerned about this. 

Stopping medication suddenly can be very dangerous and you may experience withdrawal effects.

If you decide you want to stop taking your medication, you should avoid stopping suddenly and discuss it with someone you trust. Ideally, this will be your doctor.

See our page on coming off psychiatric medication for more information.

These tips may help if you have concerns about accessing medication during the pandemic:

If you have regular appointments related to your medication, it's important to keep attending these unless you are told otherwise. For example, this could be to have depot injections to take your medication, or to have blood tests to check that your dose is correct.

You can speak to your doctor if you're worried about attending these appointments, or if you need to stay in your home because you are self-isolating.

Ordering repeat prescriptions

You might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone. Or you may be able to do this online using an app or website, if your GP surgery offers this.

You could download the free NHS App and search for your surgery, although some surgeries aren't on the app yet. The NHS Health at Home website also has information about accessing NHS services from home, including ordering repeat prescriptions.

Paying for prescriptions

The NHS has information about paying for prescriptions. This includes information about whether you are entitled to free prescriptions, or help with paying for your prescriptions.

You can ask your pharmacy about getting your medication delivered, or someone else collecting it for you. This will usually be possible, although if it's a controlled drug the pharmacy might ask for proof of identity. Make sure anyone collecting your medication knows if they have to pay for it.

The NHS has more information about getting prescriptions for someone else and checking if you have to pay for prescriptions.

It's important to be careful about buying medication online. You should only buy from registered pharmacies. You can check if a pharmacy is registered on the General Pharmaceutical Council website.

See our page on buying medication online for more information. You can also contact NHS 111 in England or NHS 111 Wales if you're worried about accessing medication.

Care services

Some face-to-face care services have changed during the coronavirus pandemic, to help stop coronavirus from spreading.

These are a few things you may need to do to continue receiving or providing support:

  • You should let your local authority and care provider know if you have to self-isolate.
  • Make it clear that any support is still needed. Tell them that alternative arrangements are required if any of the usual support can't continue. This may include things like carers visiting, day centre sessions, or friends and family coming over to help.
  • Your local authority should have policies for this situation and should tell you how they can meet your needs.
  • If you receive direct payments, these should continue during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • You may need to plan for any times or circumstances when you can't use your payments in the normal way. For example, if your usual personal assistant has coronavirus symptoms and can't visit you. 
  • If you can't use your direct payments in the usual way, or if you have new care needs, you should let your local authority know. They should have policies for this situation and should tell you how they can meet your needs.

Carers UK has lots of information on providing care to someone else during coronavirus.

This includes guidance on:

  • providing care for someone who is staying at home
  • what to do if you start to have symptoms of coronavirus
  • making a plan for your caring responsibilities during this time, for example in case you become ill.

If you provide care to someone you don't live with and you need to self-isolate, you should contact your local authority.

Peer support, helplines and local Minds

These are some of the other options available for supporting your mental health, and how they are affected during the coronavirus pandemic. To find out more about these options and others, see our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem.

During the coronavirus pandemic, some face-to-face peer support may not be available. This could be either one-on-one sessions or peer support groups.

You may find this difficult if face-to-face sessions are helpful for your mental health. But there are other ways you can find peer support during the pandemic.

Joining an online peer support group could give you the chance to share your experiences with people who can listen and understand. Mind runs an online peer support community where you can share your experiences and hear from others.

If you're going online more than usual or seeking peer support on the internet, it's important to look after your online wellbeing. See our pages about online mental health for more information.

“I always think talking with people in the same position as you, always helps you feel you are not alone and that in itself helps you feel much better…”

If you need to talk to someone right now, there are many helplines and listening services you can call. These helplines have trained staff who are ready to listen. They won't judge you and could help you make sense of what you're feeling.

Mind's Infoline provides an information and signposting service via phone, email, text and webchat. If you'd prefer not to speak over the phone, Shout offers a text support service which you could try.

Our coronavirus useful contacts page provides links to many organisations who can help. Or see our page on helplines and listening services for lots of other options.

Many local Minds provide face-to-face support and services for mental health across England and Wales.

You may find that some face-to-face services aren't available during the coronavirus pandemic. Or they may feel different to how they used to be. Many local Minds will also have have telephone helplines and online services available, if you can't access face-to-face support.

See our list of local Minds or call our Infoline to find a local Mind near you, and information about what services they provide.

A friendly voice in the pandemic

“I’ve been the person who is in trouble and needs support, and the now I can be the person giving support.”

This information was last updated on 8 September 2021.

References and bibliography available on request.

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