‘Sharing experiences helped me to understand what I was going through and how to make sense of it’
(Service user quoted in Leach, 2015)
Whilst good relationships with other people can both support good mental health and be a source of help at times when our mental health is challenged, not everyone has the support they need. This may be because, for whatever reason, they have become isolated, or because the people they know are not comfortable talking about emotional and mental health issues.
So what can you do if you are worried about your own mental health but don’t have the social support you need?
1: Try talking to your General Practitioner (GP)
GPs are used to talking to patients about a whole range of life challenges, including mental health issues. Just sharing your problem with someone else can be very helpful and GPs should know what other types of support are available locally. If you don’t feel that a particular GP you have seen in the past is the best person to talk to, ask the receptionist or the practice manager about other GPs in the practice who have a particular interest in helping patients with mental health issues.
2: Use online or telephone support services
Consider using online or telephone support lines, so that you can communicate about your worries or issues with someone. MIND, the Samaritans, Depression Alliance and others all offer help and you don’t have to be at crisis point to contact them. There are also nationwide online support groups for particular conditions such as depression, surviving abuse, anxiety, and hearing voices, which can be found through internet searches or by following the links provided by organisations such as MIND , SANE, Support in Mind Scotland and the Mental Health Foundation.
3: Look for local counselling or psychotherapeutic support
Counselling and other forms of psychotherapeutic support should be available in your area, although there are often costs associated with this and there can be waiting lists for those provided by the NHS. Some areas have free or low-cost counselling services provided by the voluntary sector and it is worth searching online for these or asking your GP for details. NHS Choices has a webpage that will help you find psychological support under the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme.
4: Search for user-run self-help groups
There may be mental health service user run self-help groups in your area, ranging from dealing with issues of depression and anxiety through to ways of managing the hearing of voices. Most of these will have a presence on the internet so it is worth searching to see what is available near to where you live.
5: Practice relaxation, mindfulness and read self-help books
There are a range of self-help books, leaflets and websites covering most mental and emotional health issues as well those that promote relaxation techniques and meditation practices such as mindfulness which you could use to help yourself. The information provided by MIND is a good starting point.
6: Try voluntary work or sport and leisure activities
Becoming actively engaged in community activities through volunteering, community education, or sport and leisure activities can be a good way of connecting with other people and improving your physical and mental health. Your local library will be a good starting point to find out about such activities.
Many mental health problems can be addressed by getting support, so although it can be tempting to take a ‘wait and see’ approach, if you have difficulties that have persisted for several weeks or more, it is worth considering one or more of the six suggestions set out above.
Leach, J (2015) Improving Mental Health through Social Support: Building Positive and Empowering Relationships, London: Jessica Kingsley.
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- Mind's information and support pages
- Call the Samaritans on 116 123, for free or look at the other ways of contacting them.
- The NHS Mental health - live well pages