Getting help

There have been a large number of posts in H&R lately on the subject of getting help for mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders. This is a collection of advice and information from TSR members and the wider world about what's involved in seeking help.

Your GP

Your first point of contact with the NHS will probably be your GP. It's normal to be nervous about going to see them about a mental health issue, but since about 1/4 of every GPs workload is made up of these kinds of cases, you should rest assured that they won't think you're weird!

Even if you're under 16, you can visit your GP completely confidentially, and they won't tell anyone what you've said. If you feel uncomfortable about talking to your family doctor, you can usually make an appointment with another doctor in the practice you're registered with. If you're over 16, you can also change the GP you're registered with without parental consent or notification.

If you're nervous about your visit, there are a number of things you can do to help. You may like to write down everything you want to say before you go. You can either read from the list, or just give it to your GP to read. You could also take a friend or parent for moral support, and you could even ask them to help you out by explaining how you're feeling for you. GPs will be used to this.

If you're over 18 and suffering from depression or anxiety, your GP may prescribe you medication to help you. You don't have to take it if you don't want to, and you are always free to ask about other treatments that might be available in your area such as counselling. Your GP will be able to refer you to these if (s)he thinks that's appropriate. If you're under 18, or suffering from a serious mental health problem that your GP can't manage, you will be referred on to specialist services.

School Nurse

Most secondary schools and sixth forms have a school nurse who is employed by the NHS rather than your school. These nurses normally visit on a weekly basis, and may have 'drop in' clinics where you can speak to them. If you're worried about talking to your GP, you can get mental health advice from your school nurse, and they can also refer you to other services (like CAMHS or counselling) if they feel you need it.

Some schools also have school nurses that work in a more first aid capacity and are on site all the time. You should be very careful with these nurses on confidentially issues, as if they are employed by the school rather than the NHS then they may have to share any information you give them with the school or your parents. If in doubt, always ask!


CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. If you're under 18, your GP will most likely refer you to a CAMHS team in your area, as they will be better qualified to deal with your needs. CAMHS teams comprise of child psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, mental health nurses, psychotherapists and other professionals with special training in the mental health of young people.

Sometimes there might be a long waiting list to see a CAMHS team.


CMHT stands for Community Mental Health Team. If you're an adult suffering from a more severe psychiatric problem, your GP may refer you to one of these teams. The remits of CMHTs vary depending on your location, but their intentions are generally to care for people in a community setting (rather than inpatient treatment). These teams comprise of lots of different people like psychiatrists, psychologists, community psychiatric nurses (CPNs), mental health workers and outreach workers.


Counselling is a "talking treatment" that allows you to talk about any problems or issues you might have in a safe environment with someone who is trained to actively listen to you.

Your GP may refer you for counselling with the counsellor at your GP practice (many have these on site now). You may also be able to access free counselling through a voluntary organisation in your area (check to see what's available). Universities often have free counselling services for their students, which many people find very helpful and convenient.