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A guide to taking the first steps, making empowered decisions and getting the right support for you.
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:
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.
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.
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."
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.
Sometimes it can help to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. They could:
To find out more see our page on talking to friends and family.
There are many national and local charities which offer various support services, such as:
To find out more see our page on third sector services.
Peer support brings together people with similar experiences. Your peers can:
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.
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.
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. 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.