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Mental Health

Access to Mental Health Services

NHS Mental Health Services

As with a huge range of other treatments, the NHS provides free access to different mental health services to people living in the United Kingdom. Some services will require a GP to initially refer an individual and other mental health support services are accessible via a self-referral method (e.g. drugs or alcohol issues and support).

For those experiencing mental health needs who are employed, an employer might also be able to offer help and assistance via their own occupational health services.

Students who are in educational services at colleges, schools or universities might also be able to request further assistance from their educational establishment who can advise on what is available.

To find a mental health support service in your area , the NHS can assist further and young people can also search the NHS for further mental health support by entering a location or postcode of their particular locality.

Young lady sitting alone in a hospital corridor illustrating potential mental health issues

For children and young people,the NHS provides dedicated services and the 'CYPMHS' covers all services that help children and young people who require support with their wellbeing or mental health (also sometimes known as 'CAMHS' or 'children and adolescent mental health services').

A person's GP will typically make an assessment of an individual and provide relevant support, treatment options and further advice. GP's can also make a referral to a mental health service provision of a more specialised nature or psychological therapy service to access treatment and further information.

Mental health services can be provided by more localised health centres, mental health hospitals and clinics.These might also be directly accessible within a local GP surgery who provide the service at their location.

Mental health therapy may occasionally include other family members and partners and can be offered within group settings or during one-to-one sessions.In England, individuals have the right to make a choice on their preferred mental health service provider in most cases, but where there is a need for emergency based treatment (e.g. urgent), this right to choose will not apply. There are also other circumstances where the legal right to a choice of provider is not applicable -e.g. someone who is detained under legislation of the ‘Mental Health Act 1983’,or in a hospital setting which is secure.

Members of the armed forces and prisoners do not have a legally applicable right to choose.

Further information and details about a legal right to choose can be accessed via the NHS Choice Framework.

Urgent Mental Health Help

Urgent assistance for mental health is available via the NHS, and mental health support might be needed in cases of emergency, breakdown, or in a mental health crisis. In these circumstances rapid access to advice of an expert nature and further assessment is especially important.

Local NHS urgent mental health helplines are available (for England only) and these can provide further help and assistanceto those who need 24-hour support and further advice. Calls can be made by an individual independently, or on their behalf (e.g. for someone who is cared for, a child, parent, etc). Further assistance and assessment can be provided via the available support on offer. Use the local NHS urgent mental health helpline search tool to find a suitably located service.

The Samaritans are free to use and can be contacted via‘116 123’or via email (for a response within a 24-hour period).

Alternatively, the 'Shout Crisis Text Line' can be accessed by text message to 85258 and sending the text "SHOUT" (text "YM" if you are under the age of 19).

Young people who are below the age of 19 years old, can also call Childline on telephone 0800 1111 (remember, this telephone number will not appear on a telephone bill).

Further advice can be accessed via the Mind charity and their information on how to cope during a crisis situation provides useful and informative help.

Where advice cannot be accessed via a local NHS mental health (urgent) helpline, a call to 111 or request to a GP for an urgent appointment might be more appropriate. The NHS can help signpost to the correct services or resources andassist in locating additional help where required.

The NHS 111 service can be contacted via telephone on '111' or online, via the NHS 111 online service.

The emergency services are contactable via telephone number '999' in any emergency where any life is put at risk and should be contacted in life-threatening circumstances or emergencies. The NHS has published further guidance on 'When to call 999' for further advice.

Alternatively, and where this might be appropriate, a local Accident & Emergency service (A&E) can be accessed. Search for an A&E department using the NHS search tool.

Charities & third sector mental health services

Generally, the NHS is known as the biggest healthcare provider in the UK, however alternatives are available to assist with a mental health support need.

There are options to choose from which include local and national charities and other community based organisations which include support groups (e.g. peer based support), talking-based therapy/counselling, therapies (arts, alternative and complementary), advice services and help available online such as live chat and forum platforms. The Hub of Hope' is a useful signposting resource to help find a locally based service.

One such well known mental health charity, 'Mind',has a huge range of available resources which are accessible online and also offer further assistance on 'seeking help for a mental health problem'. 'Mind' can also direct those seeking assistance to available 'helplines and listening services' which might be appropriate and supportive to use.

Accessing help and assistance from family, friends, a person who is trustworthy or ‘peer support’ is also beneficial in some circumstances. There are also available internet-based communities for those who prefer to seek help online and the ‘SANE’ charity provides one such resource.

Private mental health services

This is sometimes an alternative option for many individuals who wish to access private sector mental health care and finance their own treatment. There are varying reasons on why private mental health care might be preferable, including gaining a further opinion or being able to acquire faster access to available support options (e.g. to avoid a long NHS waiting list time).

Those accessing private providers might also be seeking a wider range and choice of treatments that the NHS is able to offer, or access support which is available over a longer period than NHS services can provide.

Private healthcare services may be available online and in person, so it is worth exploring the total range of mental health care options available. The private sector will often take direct (self) referrals or via an NHS GP and it is worth while contacting a preferred service to ask for further detail around their referral process.

A range of available organisations are on hand to give advice on how to locate a suitable therapist. The ‘BACP’ (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) is one such service who can assist with identifying a suitably qualified individual and also providea location and specialism search to return personalised results online.

Privately offered therapy healthcare can be expensive and the choice on whether to use a private sector service can be based on many individual factors and reasons. It is worth researching providers available and their different costs which can also depend on frequency of care, treatment and sessions required. It is often possible to pay the provider of healthcare directly or, if appropriate, a privately held healthcare insurance policy might cover part or all costs incurred.

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