Lots of people worry about their mental health or that of someone around them, but it seems that, often, they don’t know how to get help.
Generally, the usual route is to go to your GP in the first instance. Some GPs have a special interest in mental health, but all should be able to ask you questions about how you’ve been feeling and what you think is wrong. They can then refer you to someone more appropriate, if you both agree that’s the best thing. Some GP surgeries have in-house mental health professionals – counsellors, therapists or psychologists – and a lot of people see one or other of those. This is usually quite convenient – you see them at the surgery, which means you don’t have to go somewhere unfamiliar, such as a clinic in a hospital, which some people can find intimidating. Some services also offer telephone therapy which makes life easier if you have commitments such as work or dependents.
Your GP might refer you to another team. Who this is will depend on what the problem is. It might be a Community Mental Health Team, which is typically made up of doctors, nurses, social workers and psychologists (see ‘What’s a clinical psychologist?’). It might be to an Early Intervention team if you are reporting unusual experiences such as hearing voices. It might be to a substance use service or a trauma service. It really just depends on who is best-placed to help. Usually, once the referral has been made you will have an assessment and a plan will be made. Sometimes, this will involve another referral (to a specialist service, for example, or for family therapy). This can be frustrating, but it’s not intended to be. It’s intended to make sure you are getting the most appropriate help. The most important step is the first one: going to your GP. It can be frightening, but we do our best to make sure that you are seen and that you get the help you need as soon as possible. Unfortunately, if we don’t know that you’re going through a tough time, we can’t give you that help. Talking about mental health problems isn’t easy, but struggling on with them without support is rarely easier.