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When we are struggling with our mental health and find ourselves in a place of desperation, we are told to “reach out and ask for help“. But what if you don’t know where to turn? There are a number of mental health services available here in the UK. Not all will be suitable for you, but please know there is help out there. 

In the following post I discuss different options that are available if you are struggling with your mental health. Please don’t suffer alone. 

I have previously written about the coping strategies I have developed which help me survive the days when my depression takes hold. Maybe some of these tips could help you too. Please read 10 Tips To Get You Through Bad Mental Health Days to find out more. 

Mental health resources in the UK

I am very aware that a lot of my friends and followers are struggling with their mental health at the moment. It’s a tough time of year for many people, especially those already living with chronic illness and mental ill-health. My hope is that the information detailed in this post will empower you to take the first step to finding the support you need, and deserve. 

1. Crisis Services

Firstly, if you are in crisis now and need immediate help, many of the options in this post may not be suitable for you.

If you don’t feel you can keep yourself safe right now, seek immediate help:

  • Go to any Accident & Emergency (A&E) department
  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance to take you to A&E
  • Ask someone else to call 999 for you or take you to A&E

If you need urgent support but don’t want to go to A&E, you could:

  • Call Samaritans on freephone 116 123 – they’re always open and are there to listen
  • Contact your GP surgery and ask for an emergency appointment
  • Contact NHS 111 (England) or NHS Direct 0845 46 47 (Wales)
  • Contact your local crisis team (CRHT), if you’re under their care

2. Speak to your GP

GP services are the first port of call for all issues relating to our health. Please speak to your GP about how you are feeling if this is an option for you. They will assess your circumstances and offer appropriate advice or treatment. They can also refer you to a psychological therapy service or a specialist mental health service for further advice or treatment.

Unfortunately the reality is, NHS mental health services in the UK are severely underfunded, meaning even if you qualify for help the waiting times are very long. Therefore you may want to look at alternative avenues for treatment.

Click here for an NHS guide on how to access mental health services

3. Refer yourself for NHS talking therapy

In England and Wales an NHS self-referral system is in place. Unfortunately this isn’t available everywhere in the UK and the wait times are often quite long, but it may be an option for you.

Depending on your problem and where you live in the UK, you may be able to access:

  • Consultation and advice
  • Courses, workshops and groups
  • Guided self-help
  • Individual counselling and psychological therapy

Click here to find out more.

Image by Tiny Buddha

4. Reach out to friends, family and carers

If you feel able to, speaking to family and friends about how you are feeling can help. Sometimes just talking to someone you trust about how you are feeling is enough to know you are not alone. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but our loved ones do not like to see us struggling, and they can often provide much needed support. 

5. Look at private counselling services

If you are in the position to be able to afford private counselling, this is often a good choice. You are in control and can choose a therapist that is right for you, and often counselling can begin immediately, without long wait times.

If you decide to explore private therapy, it’s a good idea to look for a therapist using the online search function of a reliable website which only lists therapists who are registered with a professional body. Please don’t be afraid to ask questions including what training and qualifications they have.

Or you could search The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACAT) directory for a qualified therapist near you.

The charity MIND has an informative article about how to find a therapist. Alternatively, you could ask for recommendations from family or friends, or from online forums like Facebook support groups.

6. Contact the charity MIND

If you are on benefits or have a low income, the charity MIND may be a good option. They offer subsidised counselling for those with low incomes. Check to see if there is a MIND in your area

Call MIND on Infoline: 0300 123 3393 or Text: 86463 to find out more, or visit their website.

7. Online counselling offers another option

In more recent years online counselling has become popular. These services offer a convenient option for many. You don’t have to leave your home, and therapists are available at times to suit you. Online counselling offers a greater degree of control, and can be a cheaper option than in-person private counselling services.

Please research your options before making a choice; not all providers are qualified to the same standards. So ask what training, qualifications and experience each therapist has, and look for reviews and recommendations.

Click here for more information. 

8. Find a local charity or support group

It’s not surprising that people who live with chronic physical illnesses are more likely to struggle with their mental health. The constant pain and fatigue, and lack of help available from the NHS often leaves us exhausted and frustrated. Therefore finding a local charity or support group for people with your specific illness, connecting with others who understand, and discovering you are not alone, can make a big difference to our mental health and feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

Do an internet search for your specific illness and area to find local organisations. If you live with ME/CFS like myself, ME Association has a directory of regional groups in the UK.

9. Seek out other mental health charities

There are many national and local charities which offer various support services. The NHS website has a comprehensive list of Mental health charities in the UK. Click here to find out more.

10. Join Facebook support groups

Facebook support groups offer another avenue for support – I personally belong to a few. They don’t have to be mental health groups and you don’t need to open up about your struggles – Sometimes just talking to others, and being a part of a community is enough to remind us we are not alone.

Please don’t hesitate to Contact Samaritans – Call free on: 116 123 

If you need immediate help or feel you are in danger of harming yourself, please reach out to a charity like Samaritans. They offer a no-judgement voice. You can speak to someone 24/7. 

You are not alone – you deserve support

Seeking help isn’t always easy, especially when you’re living with chronic ill-health. 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. 

Please don’t struggle on your own. Reach out and ask for help if you feel able. Sometimes just the act of speaking to someone, and knowing we are not alone, is enough to help us through the day. And sometimes it’s frustration from the lack of help with our physical health conditions that leads to desperation and depression. Therefore finding others with the same chronic illnesses to talk to, or accessing local charities that support people with your health issues, can make a big difference to our mental health and feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

Take care x

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