Mental Health Help
By Jessica Brown
It is a commonly-known statistic that one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. But for some, figuring out how to get the right sort of help can be confusing and disconcerting. There are several different ways that mental health problems can be managed, and finding out what’s best for you is important.
If you start to feel that you may be experiencing thoughts, feelings or behaviours that are symptomatic with any mental health problem, or you notice a prolonged change in your mood, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.
The first step is to see your GP and explain your symptoms as clearly as possible. You could perhaps take a dairy to the appointment that briefly explains how you have been feeling, both mentally and physically, over the past week or so, in order to give your doctor a better indication of what is wrong.
You may be sent for tests to determine whether your symptoms have an underlying cause. For example, thyroid problems can be linked to symptoms of depression or anxiety. Once other conditions have been ruled out, and an assessment has been made, your doctor will explain your options to you. Treatment will depend on the condition that you have and accurate diagnosis is the first part of getting the help you need.
This will usually be the first option suggested by your doctor, depending on your diagnosis. You may be put on a short waiting list for counselling in your area, this service is usually free of charge although you may be reffered to specialist counselling or group therapy run outside the NHS that charge a small fee. Counselling conducted within the NHS should be without cost to you. The type of counselling available on the NHS is quite restricted (counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT], psychotherapy), but this doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit from it.
Counselling can help with a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, bereavement, stress, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Your counsellor is bound by medical confidentiality, and will work with you to achieve any goals you have in mind towards leading a healthy, happy life.
Private counselling offers a larger range of different therapies, including hypnotherapy, mindfulness-based therapy and much more. The pricing and types of counselling available will depend on the area where you live, but may cost around £40-£100 for a 50-minute session. You must always ensure that your counsellor is qualified and certified. Please see our counselling directory.
There are a couple of mental health charities that also offer counselling and some areas may offer funded counselling at a subsidised price – so always do your research first to see what is available to you.
Rehabilitation for drugs and/or alcohol can be very successful for individuals suffering with addiction. There are several different types of rehabilitation, and it may depend on your location as to what is available to you. Some examples of what may be on offer to you are: out-patient rehab, in-patient rehab, abstinence-based rehab, support groups and addiction counselling. See your doctor for advice.
Medications will vary completely depending upon your condition. Some mental health problems may not require medication at all, and some, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, may indeed require long-term, or even life-long treatment.
As with physical illness, mental illness requires individual treatment and your GP will be able to best advise you on appropriate medication. Please also see our individual sections from the menu for more information on medication for particular disorders.
Alternative medication can help relieve symptoms in some people, however we advise discussing this with your healthcare professional as some 'natural' medicines can have contraindications you may need to be advised of.
There are many forms of self-help that can help to improve your mental and physical wellbeing. Self-help is often recommended on the side of other treatment, such as medicine or counselling.
Relaxation CDs and DVDs may help you learn some techniques to relax throughout the day. There are also many books available on managing mental health problems – even just gaining an understanding of your disorder can help. Please see our mental health shop for books, DVDs, CDs and more.
Your local area may also have support groups, where you can listen to other people’s experience and talk about your own. Having support around you is very important.
Many mental health charities also offer publications, full of advice, articles and personal stories of those suffering with mental health problems. Leading anxiety charity Anxiety UK, for example, offers a quarterly magazine to members, full of advice, information and inspiring stories. Psychologies, a monthly glossy magazine, often touches on mental health and wellbeing, and can be found in supermarkets and high street shops.
Some books you may find useful:
Please note you can still by back issues of Uncovered Magazine.
Along with Mental Healthy, there are several websites and forums dedicated to sharing information, explaining mental health and offering support. Aside from charities, there are many other helpful websites. The Big White Wall, for example, offers a great support and online community, where you can access mood tests and advice. (www.bigwhitewall.com). For young people, Voice Collective is a great site full of advice and information. (www.voicecollective.co.uk/)
There are many excellent charities in the UK working towards breaking down the stigma of mental illness and supporting those with mental health problems to lead happy lives. Many charities offer confidential helplines, forums and opportunities to get involved. Some of the main UK charities include: SANE, The Mental Health Foundatin, YoungMinds, Anxiety UK, Turning Point, Centre for Mental Health, Mind and Rethink.
Irrespective of the exact mental health problem you are suffering from, there are many ways in which you can lead a healthy lifestyle. Feeling healthy physically is conducive to feeling better mentally. There are also many ways in which you can boost your mood, lower stress and help to calm anxiety.
Regular mild to moderate exercise can help to boost the happy chemicals in your brain, as well as burn off energy, expel extra adrenalin in your system and give you a sense of achievement.
Your diet also has a big impact on your mental wellbeing. Eating small portions regularly will help to avoid any big dips in blood sugar, which can make you feel anxious. Eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables, fish and pulses can help keep you feeling physically energised. A diet high in saturated fat can lead to you feeling sluggish and tired, which will have a negative impact on your mood. Also, avoiding alcohol and caffeine will help fight off anxiety.
Another alteration you can make to your lifestyle to help improve your mental health is opening up and talking to loved ones. You never know – someone close to you could have been through a similar experience - the only way to find out if anyone can help is by letting them in on how you’re feeling.
Learning relaxation techniques can be very beneficial in lowering anxiety and managing your mental health. Meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises and low-impact exercise such as yoga and Pilates are all ways in which you can de-stress and help regain control of anxiety. Please note that you should take instruction if trying any of these for the first time.
Simple things, such as getting up, showered, dressed and going for a walk can make a substantial difference to mood.
Whichever path you chose to help aid your recovery, we hope you have found this page useful.