How to access help and support for your mental health

There’s great advice out there already about how to nurture your mental health at home and look after yourself if you feel low during the summer. But, if you sometimes struggle with your mental health, there are different approaches you can take to see if you can change how you feel. Our quick guide explains how.

Seeking help for your mental health: what to do if you’re struggling

You probably already know many of the NHS’s self-care suggestions for people looking to address mild depression, anxiety or low mood. Many of them are cheap or free, and many also seem to be common sense, but all are based on evidence.


The NHS recommends staying active and eating well as ways to manage depression in adults. There is a huge evidence basis for exercising and studies show it helps release endorphins (neurochemicals that improve mood), creates a distraction from negative thoughts, and is a good way to socialise.

Talk to others

Whether it’s friends or family, volunteers on a phone line, or a group or online forum, sharing how you feel can reduce the isolation and stress that mental health problems bring. There is a strong evidence base that social connection reduces symptoms of mental ill health.

Cut back on bad habits

Although smoking, alcohol and drugs provide a temporary lift, there is no evidence that any of them have a medium- or long-term benefit to your mental health.

Try mindfulness

There is a growing body of evidence that mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress anxiety and depression in some.

But, unlike exercise and socialising, mindfulness may not be good for everyone and may make some people feel worse. If you try it and it doesn’t work, you can skip it.

When to involve your GP

If your mental health is poor for several weeks, it’s a good idea to see your GP, particularly if you already have a mental health diagnosis. While it’s a good idea to wait and see at first if your mood changes, don’t leave it so long that how you feel stops you seeking help.

You may feel unsure about what the GP will say, or have questions after the appointment. Mind’s info line (0300 123 3393, Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm) can provide you with advice about your diagnosis and treatment, local services, advocacy and benefits. Rethink’s info line (0808 801 0525, Monday-Friday 9.30am-4pm) can also offer advice about mental illness.

Treatment options

NHS Therapy

Your GP may be able to prescribe a course of therapy if they feel it would be effective for your mental health. In the NHS, it’s common for GPs to offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a way of learning the skills to address common thoughts people have during low mood. The NHS also has open access self-help CBT available free at any time.


Your GP may prescribe medication, particularly if they think it will help you make the most of therapy or help you if you have to wait for therapy. If you have questions about your prescription, the GP is best placed to answer them.

Private health resources

People with their own funds may be able to find a therapist outside the NHS. This might be helpful if the waiting list in your area is long. The BACP and UKCP both have directories of trained, qualified therapists.

How to plan ahead

If you, your care team or a loved one is worried that you might experience a mental health crisis, it can be helpful to get ahead of it by writing a plan.

There are lots of different names for mental health plans but most of them include recording several ways you can reduce risks and get help if you are feeling very unwell. Staying Safe and Samaritans both have free templates, and Mind has advice on what to write.

Plans might include ringing a helpline. Samaritans (116 123) is operated 24/7 and for young people there are also text services from Shout (85258). Men also have the option to ring CALM (0800 585858, 5pm-12am).

Where to turn in an emergency

If you are feeling suicidal or worried for your safety, it’s important to get the help you need. If you can, let someone trustworthy know: a friend or relative, and a crisis team if you have one.

In the event you don’t have anyone who can help you in that moment, you can ring the emergency services on 999 or go to A&E for help.

But by practising self-care, seeing a GP and making a safety plan before crisis hits, you may be able to reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.

Further reading

Additional support at home

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is an important, free support service which is designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply. If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help ensure you or they can access the best possible services at all times, and feel safe and independent at home. 

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