This page looks at what mental health treatment is available on the National Health Service, how to access it, how much choice you have and how to resolve any problems.
If you need help urgently in a crisis, see Crisis Services.
Not in the UK? See our Treatment page.
If it's not an emergency, the main route for accessing NHS treatment is through your GP. GPs can prescribe medication, give advice and provide emotional support, and they often treat milder mental health problems themselves. They can also refer you to more specialist services, including counselling and therapy.
You have the right to register with any GP surgery in your area that is taking on new patients, and most GP surgeries will let you see any doctor you choose, so it's worth shopping around for a GP you find helpful and supportive. Some GP surgeries also have counsellors or mental health workers attached.
The following links provide more information about GPs:
What to expect when you see your GP about self-harm.
Explains the GP's role in providing mental health care.
How Do I Change my GP?
How to change to a new surgery.
More specialist mental health services available on the NHS include:
- counselling and psychotherapy
- psychiatrists - doctors who specialise in treating mental health problems, and may be more knowledgeable about medication than GPs
- community mental health nurses (CPNs) - their role varies, but they may provide counselling, offer advice and support, or administer medication
- hospital inpatient units
For most of these services, you need to be referred by your GP or another health professional. There may be a waiting list, especially for counselling and therapy.
Unfortunately, you can't generally choose which doctor or therapist you're referred to. The Choose and Book scheme doesn't apply to mental health care, but you can still ask for the type of help you would like, including a second opinion if necessary.
For more information, see the following links:
Mental Health Services
The NHS's own description.
Community-Based Mental Health and Social Care
More detailed information about what's available in the community (i.e. not as a hospital inpatient).
How to Cope with
Information on NHS hospital inpatient treatment.
The Crisis Recovery Unit is a specialist inpatient unit for people who self-harm and whom other services haven't been able to help. It is situated just outside London and accepts patients from throughout the UK. The programme lasts for six months and you usually go home at weekends.
In order to access CRU's services, you need to be referred by a psychiatrist.
More details are available on their website:
Crisis Recovery Unit
You can find out which NHS services are available in your area by looking on the appropriate NHS website. Although you need a referral for most services apart from GPs, it can be helpful to know what's out there - it makes it easier to decide what sort of treatment you want, and you may feel more confident asking for services you know exist.
In England, GP surgeries and some mental health services are provided by primary care trusts (PCTs), while more specialist mental health services are provided by mental health trusts. Your PCT can also help you if you're having trouble finding a GP. You can find details of GP surgeries, PCTs and mental health trusts below:
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, PCTs are called health boards. For details of services in your area, go to one of the following websites:
I've found the NHS works best when I take an active role in appointments, bringing up things that concern me and politely asking for the help I feel I need. Unfortunately, it can be hard to be assertive when you're depressed, anxious or otherwise struggling. Here are some tips that may help:
- Your GP is likely to play a big role in your care, so shop around for one you find helpful and supportive.
- Take some time to prepare for appointments, thinking about what you'd like to say. You can take notes in with you if that makes it easier to remember.
- It's OK to ask directly for the kind of help you need!
- You can take a friend or family member in with you for moral support, or ask them to speak up on your behalf.
- If you find it easier to communicate in writing, you could write your doctor or therapist a letter.
- Don't forget to look outside the NHS for help too - see the pages on charities & counselling, going private (if you can afford it) and support groups.
- If you're having any problems with the NHS, check out the section below.
The following pages offer help and advice if you feel the NHS is not meeting your needs.
In England, every NHS trust has its own Patient Advice and Liaison Service. PALS can help resolve any problems or concerns you have. They can also provide information on the NHS, how to make a complaint, health issues, support groups and so on.
A similar service is provided by Community Health Councils in Wales and Health and Social Services Councils in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, you can use the Independent Advice and Support Service available through your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Mind Guide to
An advocate is an independent person who can help you get your views across and access services.
How Do I Get a Second Opinion?
If you're not happy with someone who's treating you, you can ask for a second opinion.
If you're concerned about confidentiality, this page offers some information especially for young people who self-harm.