Seeking help for a mental health problem
A guide to taking the first steps, making empowered decisions and getting the right support for you.
When should I seek help?
Seeking help is often the first step towards getting and staying well, but it can be hard to know how to start or where to turn to. It's common to feel unsure, and to wonder whether you should try to handle things on your own. But it's always ok to ask for help – even if you're not sure you are experiencing a specific mental health problem.
You might want to seek help if you're:
- worrying more than usual
- finding it hard to enjoy your life
- having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with, which have an impact on your day-to-day life
- interested to find more support or treatment.
Under 18? We have resources for you on how to get help and support
Who can I turn to?
There are lots of options for support out there, although you might find some are more suitable for you, or more easily available. There's no wrong order to try things in – different things work for different people at different times.
Your doctor (GP)
For many of us, our local GP practice is the first place we go when we're unwell (known as primary care). Your doctor is there to help you with your mental health as well as your physical health.
- make a diagnosis
- offer you support and treatments (such as talking therapies and medication)
- refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist
- recommend local support options.
To find out more see our pages on:
The first time I went to my GP about my depression, I was completely terrified. I had suffered in silence for 6 months, and was so ashamed that I couldn't 'fix' it myself.
A trained therapist
Trained therapists and counsellors provide a range of different therapies through the NHS, for which your doctor could refer you (known as secondary care). In some cases you might be able to contact them directly.
To find out more see our page on finding a therapist.
Friends, family, carers and neighbours
Sometimes it can help to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. They could:
- help you to find information
- discuss your options with you
- come with you to appointments
- help out with everyday tasks
- give encouragement and support.
To find out more see our page on talking to friends and family.
Charity and third sector organisations
There are many national and local charities which offer various support services, such as:
- helplines and listening services
- information and signposting
- other services such as peer support, talking therapies, advocacy, crisis care, employment and housing support.
To find out more see our page on third sector services.
Peer support brings together people with similar experiences. Your peers can:
- support you and listen to how you're feeling
- offer empathy and understanding
- share experiences, information, suggestions for self-care and support options.
To find out more see our pages on peer support.
Higher education institutions usually have a student wellbeing centre where enrolled students can go for support.
To find out more see our pages on student mental health.
Community support services
If your mental health problems are severe or longer lasting, your doctor can put you in touch with specialist mental health services.
These might include community mental health teams (CMHTs), social care services, residential care services, and crisis resolution and home treatment teams (CRHTs or 'crisis teams').
To find out more see our pages on:
Some workplaces offer free access to support services such as talking therapies. This is called an Employee Assistance Programme.
To find out more see our pages on workplace mental health.
What if I'm finding it difficult to seek help?
Seeking help isn't always easy, especially when you're not feeling well. It can take time and may not be straightforward. But it's important to remember that you're not alone, and that you deserve support. If you're finding it difficult to access these services, or you've already tried these options and aren't sure where to turn next, see our page on facing and overcoming barriers.
And remember that a lot of what you do to look after yourself will be during your day-to-day life – not just healthcare appointments – so it's always worth thinking about what helps you feel better in general. (See our pages on self-care and improving and maintaining your wellbeing for ideas.)
This information was published in December 2017.
This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published.
References and bibliography available on request.
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