Seeking help for a mental health problem

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

Your stories

What is mental health and mental wellbeing?

Taryn blogs about mental health and wellbeing. What do they mean to you?

Taryn Ozorio
Posted on 24/01/2011

The importance of choice – access to talking therapies

Al blogs for us about the importance of choice and having access to the right talking therapy to suit you.

Posted on 02/12/2013

Talking made me feel less alone

Jess blogs about her experience of opening up about her mental health and the support she received as a result

Posted on 06/02/2014

How do I make sure people listen to me?

Seeking help for a mental health problem can feel complicated, and you might sometimes feel like healthcare professionals aren’t listening to how you feel. This page covers the following ideas to help you feel more in control and empowered:

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. One way to do this is to look for information that has the Information Standard quality mark, which looks like this:

Information Standard quality mark

  • 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’s Infoline who 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 – to be revised in 2020. References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information see our page on permissions and licensing.

Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z


Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> Find out more

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today