How do I get help for my mental health?

If you’re worried about your mental health, one of the most supportive things you can do is tell someone about it.  

Two young people talking and smiling.

Should I tell people I have a mental health problem?

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a specific mental health problem or you’re having feelings that don’t seem normal, it’s tempting to try and deal with it alone. And if you’re worried about how people will react, it isn’t surprising that you’re keeping it to yourself. Mental illness can make you feel lonely and isolated, but telling other people can help you feel better.

“Aim not to feel alone,” says Helen from mental health charity SANE. If opening up to friends or family feels too much right now, it might help to talk things through with someone you don’t know first (like a GP or counsellor), as a kind of practice run. 

Who should I talk to about my mental health? 

There are lots of people you can talk to about your mental health. The most important thing is that you trust that person and while it might feel difficult, you feel safe telling them. Here are some options. 

Your GP

Your GP will be very familiar with mental health and will have spoken to lots of people in your situation before. That’s why they’re a great first person to talk to. Your conversation will be confidential and they will talk you through your options.

They’re also able to put you in touch with local services such as counselling if that’s something you want to explore. 

Charities and mental health services

Mind charity has compiled a long list of services available to young people struggling with their mental health. It includes links to telephone counselling, anonymous live chat, and helpful information.

These contacts can be helpful whether you’re looking for general advice and someone to talk to, or whether you’re looking for help related to something more specific such as grief, eating disorders or suicidal thoughts.

Friends and family

When you’re ready, it can feel nice to open up to someone close to you, whether it’s a parent, friend or teacher. It means you have someone looking out for you in your day to day life. Make sure you trust that person and choose someone you think will handle it well.

Start by just telling just one person and see how that goes.   

How do I talk about my mental health?

Putting your feelings into words is sometimes difficult, and you may be worried you’ll say the wrong thing or explain it badly. Take time to think about what you want them to know.

If you’re planning on talking to your GP or mental health specialist, be prepared with a list of things you want to talk about. Often when we’re talking about something difficult, we get flustered and forget exactly what we want to say. A list will make sure you cover everything important. Things to think about…

Before you make your appointment, have a think about whether you’d feel more comfortable speaking to a female or male doctor. You can request your preference when you make your appointment. 

Your doctor will want to know how long you’ve been struggling and what your experience has been like. Prepare or write down an overview of your experience. 

If you’ve been considering taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, this is a good place to talk about it. 

Ask what your options are. Can your doctor refer you to local counselling or charities that support young people and their mental health? 

How do I tell my friends or family I’m mentally ill?

Think about how much you want to share and how quickly. Only say what feels comfortable.

Go somewhere where you’re not going to be interrupted and where the other person can hear you.  

If sitting down face to face feels too formal, try having the conversation while on a walk or while doing an activity. 

Think about what you want from that person and let them know. Perhaps you want someone to talk to occasionally? Perhaps you need help accessing the support you need? Or maybe you want them to go with you to the GP? 

Remember, those who haven’t ever struggled themselves often won’t know much about mental health problems; it may take a while to explain. It can feel disheartening if you don’t get the response you want, but remember, you haven’t done anything wrong and there’s lots of other help out there if this doesn’t work out. 

Next Steps

  • SANE offers support and information to people affected by mental illness. Call their helpline on 0300 304 7000, open 4:30pm - 10:30pm every day.
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • AnxietyUK run helplines, email support, live chats and therapy services for people with anxiety disorders. 08444 775 774
  • Anyone can contact the Samaritans on their 24-hour helpline to talk things through. 116 123
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 28-Aug-2020