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WHAT IS GOING ON?
When we experience changes in our mental health and wellbeing, it can feel confusing and overwhelming.Some symptoms can feel scary and it can be difficult to describe them to others.And whilst it is never a good idea to use the internet as a way of self-diagnosing, it can be helpful to try and make sense of what you are experiencing before asking for help.However, if you do so, it is always best to stick to trusted websites with information developed by qualified healthcare professionals.The ones I would recommend are:
Sometimes, these symptoms can pass by themselves and do not require any specific treatment.However, if you find that they are persistent and having a detrimental impact on your ability to function day to day – or they are having a negative impact on your quality of life – then, it is important to ask for help.And although it is easier to say to yourself ‘it’s not that bad’ or ‘there are people much worse off’, it is always better to ask for help sooner rather than later.
Your first port of call should almost always be your GP as they are the gateway to most mental health services.Sometimes it is a good idea to ask if your practice has a GP with a specific interest in mental health; these GPs tend to have a closer link with local mental health services and have had some more specialist training.
As an alternative (e.g. if you know that you would like a talking therapy and would like to access this quicker), each local area should have their own Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Team.These are teams of psychologists and other therapists who provide psychological therapy for mild to moderate mental health difficulties, including anxiety and depression.Many of these services have their own websites where you can refer yourself - the best way to find this is to google ‘IAPT [your local borough]’.These websites tend to have excellent resources on them too.
You might feel that your difficulties are caused by something in particular, such as financial worries or the stress caused by work or feeling isolated from people from your own community.There are actually a lot of charities and voluntary organisations out there supporting people in a huge variety of ways: specific mental health charities, those aimed at children and families, women specific charities, ones for veterans, bereavement services – the list is endless.Your local IAPT service should normally have a list and be able to signpost you or you could do a quick google search.
HOW DO I ASK FOR HELP?
Talk to your GP about how you have been feeling and what has been troubling you
Tell them what impact it has been having on you and your day to day functioning
Have a think about what you think might help – it’s okay if you don’t know, but if you have a preference for something in particular (e.g. therapy or medication), it is good to think about it beforehand.
Although it sounds simple, it is always worth going armed with a list of questions and the difficulties you have experienced.Having it written down can help you to get your key points across in what can be a highly emotive situation.
Don’t suffer in silence.Talk to people that you trust and tell them how you are feeling.Think about what you need and how they can best support you.
Know that you aren’t alone in how you are feeling.There are lots of books, websites and podcasts out there that you can access to hear other people’s stories and experiences.Whilst this is no substitute for getting professional help, it can make you feel less alone in what you are going through.
If you don’t have anyone that you feel you can talk to, you can call one of the many helplines for people who are struggling, including:
WHAT IF I AM NOT OFFERED ANY SUPPORT, OR I AM WAITING A LONG WAITING LIST FOR HELP?
Sadly, the NHS isn’t always able to meet everyone’s needs or preferences, or there can be long waiting time for treatment.Mental health services are chronically underfunded despite the overwhelming demand.There are however some other options that you might want to consider:
Asking if there is anything offered when you are on a waiting list
Services sometimes have a system for providing some level of support / contact whilst you are waiting for active treatment.This might be an allocated contact person or a therapy group whilst waiting for individual treatment.When you have your assessment, it is worth asking this question.
Alternatively, they may have suggestions for recommended local resources that you could use in the meantime.
Therapy and other support through charities and voluntary organisations
As mentioned previously, there are actually a lot of charities and voluntary organisations out there supporting people in a huge variety of ways: specific mental health charities, those aimed at children and families, women specific charities, ones for veterans, bereavement services – the list is endless.Your local IAPT service should normally have a list and be able to signpost you or you could do a quick google search.
Private treatment or therapy
This is often not an option to people because of the cost, which can be very expensive.If you have private healthcare, possibly through your work, then therapy can often be funded through this.
If the cost of long term therapy is too much, it might be worth (if possible) considering paying for an initial assessment session to think about what your difficulties are and if the psychiatrist / psychologist / other therapist can make any recommendations for things for you to try, resources to tap into and books to read.Although this may not feel ideal, it could be enough to make things more manageable until another option is available.
‘Most private psychiatrists would still prefer a referral from your GP. Your GP may be able to recommend psychiatrists who practice privately. Local private hospitals may also be able to advise you about this. Some psychiatrists may advertise in your local business directory. If they have the title 'MRCPsych' (Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists) or ‘FRCPsych’ (Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists), this means that they are current members of the College.’
Once you have found a therapist / psychologist, you can check to see if they are registered with the relevant organisation or regulatory body (which is important as this shows that they have the relevant qualifications to practice safely). Some of these websites also allow you to search for therapists:
Some workplaces have specific occupational health services where you can access therapy and other forms of support for free.This is particularly important to look into if your difficulties are making it hard for you to attend / return to work.
Building a network of support where you can
Talk to people that you trust and try to develop a plan together about how they can help.Could they text or call you each evening?Could you pre-arrange to meet up every week or two?What signs should they look out for that you are struggling (e.g. not responding to messages etc.) and what can they do in this instance that could help?It is always bets to think of these things before things get bad, because it is so much harder to think clearly when you are already struggling.
Try not to suffer in silence.
Use trusted online resources, for tips on maintaining good mental wellbeing such as:
And if anything changes, for example things get worse or you feel that you are unable to cope, you must go back and talk to your GP / mental health professional as soon as possible.
HOW CAN I KEEP MYSELF SAFE?
If you ever feel as though you are unable to keep yourself safe, you should immediately go to your local A&E department or call 999.If you feel unable to do this, then ask someone else to do it for you.
Your local A&EThey will have links to their own psychiatric liaison team who will be able to assess you and your needs.This won’t always mean being sent to hospital, as most mental health trusts have something called Crisis or Home Treatment Teams, who can look after you by visiting you regularly in your own home and being on call 24 hours a day.
When you see your GP / mental health professional, ask about local crisis services and helplines – who can you call when their office is closed?What signs / symptoms / feelings / thoughts would warrant you calling?This is very individual, but so important to think about before you need that help.
Discuss developing a safety plan with professionals and your family – what you and they can do and when you / they should do it?Again, early intervention is always best.
Here are some resources on how to cope with suicidal thoughts:
There is a huge wealth of books published on the topic of mental health and wellbeing; so much so, that it can be overwhelming knowing where to start.There are many that are written from a personal perspective, which can be incredibly helpful in letting you know that you are not alone in what you are experiencing.However, it is very important to know that there are also many books written by mental health professionals with the aim of helping to improve symptoms and quality of life.
The leaflet attached here outlines books that are recommended by the NHS to read in your experiencing these common mental health difficulties.However, it is important to note that they are not a substitute for seeking help or talking to someone and work best when they complement other support.