for better mental health

Accessing treatment and support during coronavirus

This page explains how coronavirus 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. 

This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Many of us are concerned about how the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is affecting our mental health. This may include feeling worried about accessing mental health treatment and support during the pandemic.

You may also feel confused about what types of treatment and support are available, or guilty about asking for help when lots of others need it. Or you may feel unsure about where to start with seeking help.

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

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

This page is for anyone who wants treatment and support for their mental health during coronavirus.

It 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.

Some GPs may offer face-to-face appointments during coronavirus. If you would prefer this to a telephone or online appointment, you can speak to your GP practice to see if this is possible.

But if you can't get a face-to-face appointment with your GP, there are other ways that you can contact them 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. This may feel even harder if you have your appointment over the phone rather than face-to-face. 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.
  • Find a place in your house where you feel comfortable to speak.
  • If you’ve talked to your family or friends about how you feel, practise what you might say to your GP with them.
  • 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

There are online directories you can search to find a therapist suitable for you, such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) therapist directory.

See our coronavirus useful contacts page for other directories of therapists and counsellors. Our page on how to find a therapist also has tips which may help.

Face-to-face talking therapy and counselling sessions are unlikely to be possible during coronavirus. Some therapists may offer sessions by phone or online instead.

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 in your home where you won’t be disturbed. If you’re worried about being heard by people you live with, you could try using headphones for the session.

You might also find it useful to turn off any digital notifications such as email 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, such as listening to your favourite piece of music, before going back to your usual routine.

You may want to let someone you trust know that you’re having the session, so that 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 has been affected during coronavirus. For example, you 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 (the disease caused by the coronavirus)
  • whether your medication will affect how your body reacts if you become ill from Covid-19.

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.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a page about accessing mental health medication during the coronavirus outbreak, which answers many of the questions you may have about your medication.

This information may also help:

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 or shielding from coronavirus.

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 doctor's 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.

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

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

There are a few things you may need to do to continue receiving the support you had before coronavirus:

  • 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.

See our page on coronavirus and social care rights for information about how your legal rights to social care may be affected by coronavirus.

See our page on coronavirus and social care rights for information about how your legal rights to social care may be affected by coronavirus.

Carers UK has detailed information about what to do if you provide care to someone else.

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.

See our page about changes to your social care rights during coronavirus for more information.

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 coronavirus. To find out more about these options and others, see our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem.

During coronavirus, face-to-face peer support may no longer be available, either as one-on-one sessions or in groups. You may find this difficult if you used to attend these sessions to support your mental health and share with others. But there are other ways you can find peer support during coronavirus.

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 also provides links to organisations who can help with specific experiences of mental health. Or see our page on helplines and listening services for lots of other options.

Local Minds provide local mental health support across England and Wales. Their face-to-face services aren’t possible during coronavirus, but they still offer telephone helplines and online services.

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

Women smiling

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 11 June 2020. 

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