Information for the public

How can I get help for common mental health problems?

You should be able to get help for common mental health problems in a variety of ways, including seeing your GP or by contacting or visiting health or social care services yourself.

So that you can have the most effective care for a common mental health problem, it is important that you receive the right support and treatment (see What treatments might I be offered?) from the right professional and at a place most suited to your needs. Most treatments for common mental health problems can be provided through your GP or other healthcare professionals in primary care. However, if specialist treatment and support would help you, you may be referred to a specialist mental health service, which could be an appointment with a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychological therapist or mental health nurse.

If it is more convenient for you to do so, you should usually be able to attend health or social care services outside normal working hours or have treatment at home or in other places such as community centres or social centres.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be offered crèche facilities, help with travel to the service, or the assistance of an advocate (someone who helps put your views across).

What should happen when I first talk to a healthcare professional?

When you first talk to a healthcare professional, they may ask you a few questions about how you feel. For instance, if they think that you may have depression, they may ask you whether you have been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless, and/or by having little interest or pleasure in doing things in the past month. If they think you may have a problem with anxiety, the healthcare professional may ask you about how often you worry, how it affects your life, and whether you can control your worries.

If your answers indicate that you may have depression or an anxiety disorder, you should be offered an assessment (see What should I expect to happen at an assessment?). The assessment should be with a healthcare professional experienced in treating people with mental health problems – this may be the same person who asked you the questions above.

Healthcare professionals should take account of any learning disabilities or other problems that may affect your ability to respond to questions, so they may ask a family member or carer about your symptoms.

What can I expect from services for common mental health problems?

If you think that your care does not match what is described in this information, please talk to a member of your healthcare team in the first instance.

Healthcare professionals should discuss with you the care, support and treatment that can be offered and the aims of treatment. You should be offered the right care, support and treatment when you need it, and if your needs change, your healthcare professional should respond promptly to these needs. At different stages of your care you may be offered different treatments, and healthcare professionals should support and help you to make the right decisions.

The number of assessments offered and healthcare professionals you see about your mental health problem should be kept to a minimum. If more than one health or social care professional is involved in providing your treatment, it should be made clear to you why this is happening and there should be one person who organises your care with you (this will usually be your GP).

If you find it difficult to attend a service for assessment, treatment or check-ups, you may be offered the opportunity to keep in contact via telephone, text or email.

Healthcare professionals should take into account whether you have any physical or learning disabilities, sight or hearing problems, or language difficulties. If you have a mild learning disability or other problem that may affect your understanding, you should be offered the same care as other people with the same mental health problems. Assessments or treatments may be adapted to suit your needs.

Healthcare professionals should also consider any religious, ethnic or cultural needs you have. You should be offered assessment and treatment suited to your culture, gender, age and communication needs. You may be offered a therapist who speaks your language as well as English or a translator if needed.

Questions you might like to ask your healthcare professional

  • Can you give me more information about my mental health problem and the help you can provide?

  • What kinds of treatment and support might I be offered?

  • Will I have to see more than one healthcare professional for help with my mental health problem?

  • Will my confidentiality and privacy be respected?

  • Information Standard