Managing mental health

This information applies to England and Wales.

Looking after your mental health is important. You can get support from:

You might need to try a few things to find the right support. Everyone manages their mental health differently.

Warning Emergency help

Call 999 or go to Accident and Emergency now if:

  • you or someone's life is at risk (for example, they have seriously hurt themselves or taken an overdose)
  • you feel you cannot keep yourself or someone else safe

A mental health emergency is as serious as a physical one. You will not be wasting anyone's time.

Recognising a change in your mental health

If you are going through life changes or a stressful time you may notice you are:

  • feeling anxious
  • feeling irritable
  • having worrying thoughts

If this affects your daily life, you might benefit from some support. For example, you might experience changes to your:

  • mood
  • sleep
  • energy levels
  • relationships with partners, friends and family
  • appetite
  • behaviour
  • pain threshold

If you recognise these changes, you can look at what support is available.

Warning Urgent mental health helplines

NHS urgent mental health helplines offer 24 hour advice and support. If you are not able to speak to your local helpline, you can also call 111 to ask for advice or request an urgent appointment from your GP.

Where to get urgent help for mental health (NHS)

Accessing NHS mental health support

The NHS and your GP can offer different types of support. This can include:

  • medication
  • diagnoses
  • therapy
  • support within the community
  • crisis support

Sometimes you can refer yourself for support. The level of mental health support can depend on your circumstances and where you live.

Support from your GP

Your GP will be able to discuss options for getting support, including through therapy or medication.

It can feel difficult to talk to your GP about your mental health, especially if you do not know them well. You might want to think about:

  • making some notes about what you’d like to say
  • printing out information which explains how you feel
  • asking for a longer appointment
  • bringing someone with you who you trust

Seeking help for a mental health problem (Mind)

NHS therapy

If you need mental health therapy, contact the NHS talking therapies service. You do not need to have a diagnosis of a mental health problem to receive support.

You can refer yourself or ask your GP about the service.

The service is available to anyone who:

  • lives in England
  • is registered with a GP
  • is aged 18 and over (some local services may offer therapy to people aged 16 and 17)

Support can include:

After completing the online form, you should receive a call within a few weeks for an initial assessment.

You will then hear what kinds of therapy are on offer and how long you may have to wait. Depending on where you live, the wait for one-to-one therapy can be several months.

Find an NHS talking therapies service (NHS)

In England, the talking therapies service is available in British Sign Language (BSL) from SignHealth.

Psychological therapies service for Deaf People

Community mental health services

If you need more help than your GP or talking therapies can offer, your GP may be able to refer you to more specialist mental health services in your community. This could include things like:

  • having a consultation to discuss options around your medication
  • support from a social worker to live more independently
  • help with employment and benefits

Social prescribing

Your GP can refer you to community schemes such as:

  • cooking and healthy eating
  • volunteering
  • sports and arts activities
  • befriending

This is called 'social prescribing'.

What is social prescribing? (Healthy London Partnership video on YouTube)

Social prescribing can vary widely, so ask your GP what's available in your area.

They may refer you to a link worker in England or a community connector in Wales who can help you think about your health and wellbeing needs.

You may need to pay for activities or sessions, but these are usually discounted.

Other ways to get mental health support

There are other ways to get mental health support. You might want a second opinion or to get more advice if the NHS cannot offer everything you need. For example, you might see an NHS therapist once a month. If you need support in between your appointments, a charity might also be able to help.

You can get a second opinion by asking to speak with a different GP or doctor. If you would like support with this or to make a complaint, contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).

What is PALS? (NHS)

Warning Benefits and mental health

If your mental health means you find it hard to work or do daily tasks, you could claim benefits. These will depend on the criteria but can include depression or anxiety.

Benefits and mental health

Support from charities and organisations can depend on where you live. The Hub of Hope is a national database for mental health support. You can search for support and services that are available to you.

Mental health organisations and charities local to me (Hub of Hope)

It might help to talk about how you are feeling. This can include talking about what is going on in your life. You do not need to be in crisis to contact a helpline. Helplines and support include:

Ring the Samaritans for free on 116 123.

They're always open. You can talk to them about anything. You do not have to wait until you feel in crisis.

Mind information line, 0300 123 3393 (open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday)

Rethink mental Illness helpline, 0808 801 0525 (open 9.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday)

The Mix supports adults under 25. They offer an online service where you can talk to an adviser about anything you're worried about. The website has lots of advice and videos to watch.

Winston's Wish offers support to children and young people up to age 25 and their parents and carers. 

The Silver Line 0800 4 70 80 90 is a free and confidential helpline for people over 55. They provide information, friendship and advice to older people. It's open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Finding a counsellor or therapist

If you want to speak with a therapist, there are several ways you can access counselling:

  • NHS therapists
  • charity and third sector therapists
  • therapists through your place of work, volunteering or education
  • private therapists

How to find a therapist (Mind)

If you are looking for a private therapist, think about what support you need:

  • short or long-term
  • the type of therapy you want
  • in person, on video or on the phone

Types of talking therapy (Mind)

When you know the type of therapy you want, you can look for a therapist in your area.

Find a counsellor near you (Counselling Directory)

British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy

You might want to think about if they:

  • specialise in what you are struggling with
  • have worked with disabled people before
  • offer a free or reduced taster session
  • make you feel comfortable
  • can offer you sessions which are accessible, online or in an accessible environment

It can take time to feel comfortable with a therapist and get to know each other. If you are unsure if the therapist is right for you, you can change.

Private sector mental health support (Mind)

Finding a life coach

You can pay a professional life coach to support you in various aspects of your life, including:

  • career
  • dating and relationships
  • diet and fitness
  • family life
  • health and wellness
  • life skills

Find a coach near you (Life Coach Directory)

Supporting your own mental health

There are things you can do to manage your mental health. If you are finding things difficult, be kind to yourself. Take things at your own pace.

There are some apps to manage and record your mental health. You can download these to your phone so you can use them wherever you are.

Wellbeing apps (NHS)

You might find that being surrounded by nature can help to clear your head and feel grounded. This is sometimes known as ecotherapy. Your own garden or local park can help.

About ecotherapy programmes (Mind)

Relaxation techniques can help some people. Being able to relax your mind can help if you are feeling stressed or anxious. This can take a while to get used to, but there are lots of techniques you can try.

Relaxation and mindfulness exercises (Mind)

Breathing exercises for stress (NHS)

Looking after yourself

It’s important to look after yourself, especially when you’re struggling with your mental health. You can ask others for support. Try to take small steps, such as:

  • doing something you enjoy
  • eating a healthy meal
  • sleeping when you can
  • doing some light exercise

If you are finding any of these things difficult, you might find online advice helps:

Exercising from home

Food and mood (Mind)

Every Mind Matters (NHS)

Mindfulness self-help techniques

Some people find mindfulness helps improve mental wellbeing. It aims to help you take notice of your thoughts and feelings, and what is happening around you, without judgement.

What is mindfulness? (Mind)

Mindfulness (NHS)

Supporting your child's mental health

Supporting a child can be hard. Here are some resources that may help.

Getting help for your child (Young Minds)

Parents’ A-Z mental health guide (Young Minds)

Your GP can offer mental health support for your child. The NHS has a children and young people’s mental health service (CYPMHS). This can also be referred to as CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services).

Children and young people's mental health services (NHS)

Psychological First Aid: Supporting Children and Young People (free online training from Public Health England)

Post-lockdown mental health

Coronavirus has had a big impact on mental health. The restrictions have now been removed. This might feel daunting. It's OK to take things at your own pace. For example, you might continue to wear a mask until you feel comfortable.

How to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19 (NHS)

If you need support, there is online advice about coronavirus and mental health.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 18/06/2024

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