Seeking help for a mental health problem

A guide to taking the first steps, making empowered decisions and getting the right support for you.

"I feel, as a patient, I am the expert on me. So I know more than anyone else what is going on in my head, and I know what I need."

Do your own research

Although your doctor should give you the information you need to make informed decisions, you can also do your own research. This might help you find other options that you can suggest or ask about. For example, you can:

  • Look for information that is trustworthy and reliable, such on the NHS UK website or information from organisations mentioned on our useful contacts page.
  • Speak to other people with similar experiences and ask what they found helpful. You may want to do this through an online forum, such as Elefriends or HealthTalk, or by finding a peer support group (See our information on finding peer support or ring the Mind Infoline which can help you work out what’s available in your area).
  • Search online for blogs or videos from people who’ve had similar experiences. If you’d like some help doing this safely, see our pages on staying safe online.

"In the past six years I have had counselling, a brief attempt at CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy] and routine meetings with mental health doctors, but the thing I have found most helpful is open online forums full of people like me."

Understand the guidelines and policies

Most aspects of healthcare are covered by clinical guidelines and policies, which outline:

  • which treatments are most likely to work for you
  • how your healthcare professionals should interact with you in general
  • the quality of service they should provide.

Examples of these documents include:

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines, which outline evidence-based treatment options for different conditions. (Find out more on the NICE website.)
  • Confidentiality and data protection policies, which outline your rights regarding any personal information your doctor holds about you, and what they must do to keep it private.
  • Codes of practice for people who are members of professional bodies, for example doctors, nurses and accredited counsellors.
  • Complaints procedures.

These should be accessible and easy to find using a web search, but you can also ask your doctor or healthcare provider to show them to you.

Find an advocate

An advocate is an independent person who is there to represent your opinion and help make your voice heard. This can be extremely helpful if you are finding it hard to let healthcare professionals know what you want, or you're facing barriers to getting support.

An advocate can:

  • come with you to appointments
  • help you ask questions and assert your wishes
  • support you if you want to make a complaint or appeal any decisions.

A friend, family member or carer might be willing to act as your advocate informally. Or you could consider professional advocacy services. (See our pages on advocacy for more information, including how to find an advocate.)

"My parents and sister were my speakers for me. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them and their strength and fighting attitude to get me help."

This information was published in December 2017. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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