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How to Get Mental Health Help

How to Get Mental Health Help

If you have a problem with your physical health, chances are you’ll know how to deal with it. Perhaps you need to see a pharmacist or your GP. If it’s an emergency you can call 999 or go to your nearest A&E. But if you have a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety, would you know where to get the help you need?

Perhaps not. According to the Mental Health Foundation, just 36 per cent of people with a common mental health problem are currently receiving treatment (i). Naturally you could assume that some people with a mental health problem refuse treatment while others are misdiagnosed. But many may not be receiving treatment because they don’t know how or where to get support.

Here in the UK, the most common mental health problems are mixed anxiety and depression, with up to 10 per cent of people in England experiencing depression in their lifetime and one adult in six having a common mental disorder (ii).

Seeking help is often the first step towards getting and staying well. But according to the mental health charity Mind, it can be hard to know how to start or where to turn to (iii). Mind also says that it’s common to feel unsure about getting help and to wonder whether or not you should try to handle things by yourself.

However, even if you’re not sure you’re experiencing a specific problem, it’s always a good idea to ask for help.

For instance, you may want to get some help if you’re worrying more than usual or you’re finding it hard to enjoy life. Perhaps you’re having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with, and these thoughts and feelings are having a negative impact on your daily routine.

Thankfully there are several sources of support available to you if you know where to find them.

How your GP can help

For most of us, seeing our GP is the best way to start getting help. This is the way to access the help and support provided by the NHS, including advice on lifestyle changes that may be useful, talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT – see below), medication and other specialist mental health services such as your community mental health team. Your GP will assess you and advise you about the most appropriate treatment or service. And in most cases, if you’re based in England you can choose which mental health service provider you want to use.

When you first see your GP about a mental health problem, it may help to write down what you want to say beforehand and take your notes with you. Tell your GP if you’re feeling nervous about talking about how you’re feeling, and if you need support consider taking a close friend or family member with you.

Referring yourself

Some mental health services in England are available without a GP’s referral. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies (IAPT) service.

These services offer therapies such as CBT for common mental health problems, including stress, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and phobias. However, you need to be registered with a GP to access IAPT services.

To find an IAPT service in your area, visit the NHS website.

You can also refer yourself to a mental health service if you have a problem with drug or alcohol dependency – again, you can find local services via

Paying for therapy

If you see a therapist who has been provided through the NHS, you shouldn’t usually have to pay anything. The problem with choosing an NHS therapist is that you may have to spend time on a waiting list before you can see them.

So depending on whether or not you can afford it, you may want to consider seeing a private therapist. The cost of seeing a private therapist can vary quite a lot, so it’s a good idea to check how much someone charges before you commit yourself. It’s also a good idea to make sure your therapist is registered with a professional body, such as:

Meanwhile, if you’re a student you may be able to access free counselling through your college or university. Some employers also offer Employee Assistance Programmes that may include free therapy sessions.

Mental health charities

Charities and other community organisations also offer help, advice and support for mental health problems via their websites and telephone helplines. Some also offer free or low-cost talking therapies. The following are a few well-known examples:


Many people think this charity only helps people who are struggling with suicidal feelings. But the Samaritans’ helpline is available for anyone who has something that’s troubling them, whoever they are, however they’re feeling or whatever has happened.

Call free of charge at any time, any day on 116 123 (calls to this number do not appear on your phone bill) or visit to find out more.

Anxiety UK   

Anxiety UK has a helpline (03444 775 774) for those who need support with a diagnosed anxiety condition. If you become a member you can also get access to the charity’s reduced-cost therapy services, provided by experienced therapists.

Discover more about how Anxiety UK could help you by visiting


You can get information about types of mental health problems, treatments, self-help and where to get help in your local area by visiting the charity’s website ( or by calling its support helpline on 0300 123 3393.


Also run by Mind, is a supportive online community where you can ‘chat’ with others who may know how you’re feeling and can offer help and advice. You can also access Elefriends via an app, available at the App Store and via Google Play.


Sane offers specialist emotional support and information to anyone affected by mental health problems, including family, friends and carers. Find out more at The charity also has an online support forum that’s available 24 hours a day at

Rethink Mental Illness   

Rethink Mental Illness provides practical advice and information about issues such as different types of therapy and medication, benefits, debt and money issues, and your legal rights according to the Mental Health Act. You can get lots of information from its website, or call its advice service on 0300 5000 927.

Turning Point

Turning Point works with people who need a range of support, including help with their mental health such as crisis support and advice for people who have a friend or a family member with a mental health issue. Find out more at

Mental Health Matters

MHM provides mental health support services including helplines, talking therapies, crisis support, employment support and supported housing and safe havens. Helplines are available to those who are registered with a GP in certain areas – for more information, visit

Cruse Bereavement Care

If someone close to you has died you may be able to get free counselling from Cruse Bereavement Care. Help is available to children, young people and adults via the charity’s team of trained bereavement volunteers. Visit for details or call the helpline on 0808 808 1677.


The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) offers a free and confidential helpline and webchat for anyone who’s down or has hit a wall for any reason (initially it was just aimed at young men aged 15 - 35). The Calm helpline is open from 5pm to midnight every day of the year – call 0800 58 58 58. You can also learn more about how the charity could help you by visiting

Young Minds

With an increasing number of children and young people needing help with their mental health, Young Minds works with young people and their families. It runs a parents helpline that offers free advice and support to adults who are worried about a child or young person – call 0808 802 5544. Its website also has lots of information that may help parents, children and young people who want to find out more about their mental health: visit

What is cognitive behavioural therapy?

Currently one of the most widely-used treatments for a range of mental wellbeing problems – and one that is usually available on the NHS – is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

This is a type of talking therapy that – as its name suggests – combines cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy. In simple terms, it focuses on how you think (your cognitive processes) and how that affects the way you behave and deal with emotional difficulties.

If you're affected by negative patterns of thinking or behaviour, CBT can help to change the way you feel and break those patterns – which can make you feel and act more positively. It can help you become more aware that the way you feel about something – an event, for instance – is the trigger that causes emotional problems, not the event itself.

CBT is used to treat many mental wellbeing issues. And because it works more quickly than some other types of counselling or psychotherapy, it is often the preferred type of therapy.

According to the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, CBT can help with the following (iv):

  • Anxiety

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Depression

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Schizophrenia

The BABCP suggests CBT may be helpful in treating many other conditions too, such as chronic fatigue, chronic pain, sleep difficulties and anger management.

The mental health charity Mind also claims CBT can be an effective therapy for panic attacks, borderline personality disorder, eating problems, phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis (v). According to the charity people are often offered CBT for drug or alcohol problems and sexual and relationship problems too, plus it may also help you find new ways to cope with some general physical health problems.

How does it work?

CBT sessions are usually held weekly, with each session lasting around 50 minutes or an hour. During each session you'll work with your therapist to identify what your issues are, what your goals are and create a structured plan for achieving them. Your therapist may also suggest tasks – or homework – that you can do between sessions.

Sessions usually involve just two people – you and your therapist. But group sessions are often effective too, as are self-learning CBT programmes, which are completed online or by using interactive CD-ROMs. Some people also find self-help books that teach CBT techniques very useful.

How can you access CBT?

CBT is available on the NHS in England as an IAPT service, with some therapists operating out of general practices and others working as part of community mental health teams. You don’t have to see your GP first, just visit the NHS website to find an IAPT service in your area.

If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you cannot refer yourself for CBT – however you can access treatment through your GP, who can refer you to a local service.

Meanwhile if you can afford to pay for private sessions, one way to find a CBT therapist is through the BABCP (visit

Natural ways to support your mental wellbeing

If you’re experiencing issues with your mental wellbeing, it’s a good idea to make sure you stay as physically healthy as possible. Taking a good-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement can help make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs, especially if you’re not eating as healthily as you should. There’s even some evidence that taking a multivitamin may help you cope with stressful situations more effectively (vi).

Taking certain nutritional supplements may also help you to cope with isolation-related difficulties, such as anxiety, stress, low mood, depression and poor sleep.


With a history of traditional use for the temporary relief of sleep problems and mild anxiety, valerian may be an option you’re not sleeping well. Indeed, studies suggest it may help if you’re not getting much good-quality sleep (vii).

St John’s wort   

St John’s wort is a popular herbal remedy used for the relief of slightly low mood and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only. There’s evidence it may be more effective than a placebo at treating mild to moderate depression (viii), with studies suggesting it’s as effective as some popular prescription antidepressants (ix).

If you’re taking any other medicines be aware that St John’s wort may interact with some other medicines. One of the medicines St John’s Wort is thought to affect is the contraceptive pill, so always consult your GP before taking it.

Fish oils

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are found in oily fish, have been studied extensively in relation to many different health problems. And one of the areas they may help with is relieving the symptoms of depression.

One study involving older women suffering from depression showed that, after taking high doses of EPA and DHA for eight weeks, their symptoms had improved significantly compared to other women who received a placebo (x). Other studies have investigated the benefits of EPA in treating depression, with some suggesting it may be helpful (xi).


This traditional Ayurvedic herb is often used to help with tiredness, fatigue and stress. One small-scale study suggests ashwagandha may reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol (xii), while another found 88 per cent of trial participants felt less anxious after taking it (xiii).

Researchers believe ashwagandha may help relieve stress because of the way it moderates interaction between the hypothalamus – a small region in the brain – and the pituitary and adrenal glands (the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) (xiv). The HPA axis is thought to play a key role in the body’s response to stress.


The amino acid 5-HTP – or 5-Hydroxytryptophan – is often used as a remedy for depression and low mood. It’s a natural compound that’s converted in the brain to serotonin (some conventional antidepressant medicines also work by boosting your serotonin levels). Indeed, some studies suggest it may be as effective as conventional antidepressants (xv). There’s also some evidence that 5-HTP may help with anxiety disorders (xvi).

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola is a herb used traditionally throughout Europe for stress relief. Its roots contain many active ingredients, including rosavin and salidroside. There is some evidence it may help reduce anxiety and stress more effectively than a placebo (xvii), with one study finding it effective in people with burnout symptoms (xviii). Another study concludes that rhodiola may treat stress symptoms comprehensively as well as prevent chronic stress and stress-related complications (xix).

If you want to try rhodiola, look for a supplement that guarantees a potent 3% level of rosavins.


Found almost exclusively in green, black, oolong and pekoe tea, theanine is a non-protein amino acid that’s thought to help your brain produce calming alpha waves. Studies suggest taking a theanine supplement may help you feel more relaxed without making you drowsy (xx), and that it may make you feel calmer by reducing your heart rate when you’re faced with something that stresses you out (xxi). 

Dealing with a mental wellbeing problem can be difficult, but there is help available, so you don’t have to cope with it alone. This guide aims to show you how to get the help you need, so you can start feeling better and more like your old self again.

For more advice on managing your emotions, visit the mental health section of our health library.


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Disclaimer: The information presented by Nature's Best is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.

Our Author - Christine Morgan


Christine Morgan has been a freelance health and wellbeing journalist for almost 20 years, having written for numerous publications including the Daily Mirror, S Magazine, Top Sante, Healthy, Woman & Home, Zest, Allergy, Healthy Times and Pregnancy & Birth; she has also edited several titles such as Women’ Health, Shine’s Real Health & Beauty and All About Health.

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