Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Information and support for your mental health.
Feelings, symptoms and behaviours
Feelings and symptoms
Read more about feelings and symptoms related to mental health problems, including:
- feelings and symptoms that can affect everyday life
- feelings and symptoms caused by life events
- feelings and symptoms in younger and older people
Read more about feelings and symptoms that can be common with mental health problems:
Read more about behaviours related to mental health problems, including:
Mental health conditions
Read more about different mental health conditions:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Binge eating disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Clinical depression
- Dissociative disorders
- Eating disorders
- Fabricated or induced illness
- General anxiety disorder
- Health anxiety
- Hoarding disorder
- Munchausen's syndrome
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Personality disorder
- Postnatal depression
- Postpartum psychosis
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Psychotic depression
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Selective mutism
- Skin picking disorder
- Social anxiety (social phobia)
- Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder)
Advice for life situations and events
Advice and support for your mental health in life situations and events:
Mental health services
Find out how to access NHS mental health services and where to get urgent help.
If it's an emergency or you need urgent help
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. You will not be wasting anyone's time.
NHS urgent mental health helplines are for people of all ages.
You can call for:
- 24-hour advice and support - for you, your child, your parent or someone you care for
- help to speak to a mental health professional
- an assessment to help decide on the best course of care
Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) is an NHS service for people in England aged 18 or over. You can talk to your GP about IAPT services or get in touch with them directly without talking to your GP. Psychological therapies can treat conditions like:
- generalised anxiety
- social anxiety
- panic and agoraphobia
- other phobias
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- body dysmorphic disorder
The support you can get and how you access it depends on where you are.
Find out about support for mental health for children, young people, parents and carers.
Mental health for children, teenagers and young adults
Find advice and support about mental health for children, teenagers, students and parents.
Advice for parents
Find advice and support for parents who have children or teenagers with mental health problems.
Help for teenagers, young adults and students
Advice and support for students and young people with mental health problems:
Talking therapies and counselling
Read about talking therapies and counselling for mental health problems:
Medicine and psychiatry
Read about medicines used to treat mental health problems:
Social care, mental health and your rights
How you can access NHS mental health services
Find out about the different ways to get help with your mental health, the process, and your rights.
Mental health services are free on the NHS. Your mental health is important and you should get help if you need it.
Talk to your GP first
You'll need to talk to your GP to use some mental health services. This is known as a GP referral. Your GP can also talk to you about your mental health and help introduce you to the right mental health service for your needs.
Get help without talking to your GP
There are also some mental health services that you can use without talking to your GP first. This is known as self-referral.
For example, you may be able to refer yourself for help with drug problems and alcohol problems. You can also use self-referral to access talking therapies through a service called Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT).
Get help through your work
If your mental health problem is because of stress at work, your employer might be able to refer you to occupational health services.
You can find out more from the Time to Change website.
Get help from your school or college
If you're a child or young person, your school or college might be able to refer you directly to a specialist mental health service.
How mental health referrals work
When you talk to your GP about your mental health they'll listen, give you advice and introduce you to a mental health service they think will be most helpful to you.
These services may come from your GP surgery, a large local health centre, a specialist mental health clinic or a hospital.
Your GP can also refer you to a psychological therapy service or a specialist mental health service for further advice or treatment. The treatment may be provided on a one-to-one basis or in a group with others with similar problems. Therapy can also sometimes involve partners and families.
Your right to choose who helps you
In most cases, you have a right to choose which mental health service provider you go to in England.
You have the legal right to choose which service provider and clinical team you're referred to for your first appointment.
You do not have a legal right to choose if:
- you need urgent or emergency treatment
- you already receive care and treatment for the condition
- the organisation or clinical team you've chosen does not provide the right care for your condition
- you're a prisoner or on temporary release from prison
- you're detained in prescribed accommodation, such as a court, secure children's home, secure training centre, immigration removal centre or young offender institution
- you're detained in a secure hospital setting
- you're a serving member of the armed forces
- you're detained under the Mental Health Act 1983
How to book your appointment
Once you've decided on a mental health service provider, you might be able to book your appointment through the NHS e-Referral Service.
There are a few ways to do this:
- your GP can book it while you're at the surgery
- you can book it online yourself, using the appointment request letter your GP gives you
- you can phone the NHS e-Referral Service line on 0345 60 88 88 8, open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, and from 8am to 4pm on weekends and bank holidays
Mental health assessments
A mental health assessment is a conversation between you and mental health professionals to help decide what kind of support you need.
You'll need to have a mental health assessment when you go to any mental health service for help.
A mental health assessment is not a test or an exam. It is about helping you. You only have to talk about what you want to talk about. The more open and honest you are, the easier it will be to get you the right help.
What happens during a mental health assessment?
When you have a mental health assessment, you might talk to a nurse, social worker, psychologist, specialist pharmacist, psychiatrist, or a combination of these and other healthcare professionals.
Bringing someone to support you
You may be able to bring a friend or relative to support you.
Some people prefer to bring an advocate who can represent their views and interests. They can be volunteers, like mental health charity workers, or professionals, like lawyers.
If you want to know what advocacy services are available in your area, check with your local council.
What you'll talk about in your assessment
During the assessment, you and healthcare professionals will talk about your needs.
The conversation might cover:
- mental health symptoms and experiences
- feelings, thoughts and actions
- physical health and wellbeing
- housing and financial circumstances
- employment and training needs
- social and family relationships
- culture and ethnic background
- gender and sexuality
- use of drugs or alcohol
- past experiences, especially of similar problems
- your safety and other people's
- whether anyone depends on you, such as a child or elderly relative
- strengths and skills, and what helps you best
- hopes and aspirations for the future
You only have to talk about what you want to talk about but the more you're able to share, the easier it will be to find out what will work best for you.
At the end of the assessment
When the professionals you're talking to have all the information they need, they'll make their assessment and explain it to you in clear language.
You should get the chance to ask questions about your condition, the diagnosis, possible causes, the treatments on offer, and how those might affect your life.
You should also be involved in making decisions about what treatments are best for you.
You can also expect to be given information to take home, so you can think about it in your own time, as well as advice on where you can find out more.
What you can do before and during the assessment
think about who you could take with you for support and arrange for them to come along
make some notes about what you want to discuss before your appointment
tick each point off during the appointment, when they've been covered
ask as many questions as you need to about anything that is not clear
make sure the health professional explains things to you as many times as it takes for you to really understand it
Reviewing how it's going
Your needs can change over time so it's important your treatment is reviewed regularly.
You'll always have a named person as your care co-ordinator. They should make sure you have regular reviews and you should go to them first if you’re worried about your treatment. They can also offer you support, including support for your family and friends if they need it.
Your review will be a face-to-face meeting in a familiar place. That’s often the clinic, community mental health centre or GP surgery where you usually meet your care co-ordinator.
If you prefer, it may be possible for the meeting to take place at your house. Or it could be at another place where you feel comfortable, like a community centre.
You might want to arrange to bring someone with you, like a friend, family member or advocate. You can find out about advocacy services from your care co-ordinator or local council. You can also get advice about finding an advocate from the mental health charity Rethink.
If a treatment or service is not working for you
If a treatment or mental health service is not working for you, you should say something. It's important for the mental health professional you're seeing to know about this.
It might be that another approach or a new assessment is needed to find a service that's better for you.
If you do not feel that your concerns are being taken seriously, ask the manager of your mental health service if you can see someone different, like another psychiatrist or care co-ordinator.
Your GP might also be able to help you, if you talk to them.
Annual health check for people with severe mental health conditions
If you have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, your GP surgery should invite you to have an annual health check.
During your health check the doctor or nurse will be able to look for any health problems, to help you get the treatment you need to stay well.
You can ask them questions about your health and tell them how you are feeling.
You can also talk about any treatment you are having or medicines you take.
You may be able to get a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, COVID-19 booster or flu vaccine when you have your health check. Ask about vaccinations when you make your appointment.
Who can have an annual health check
How to get an appointment
If you are eligible, you should get a letter from your GP surgery inviting you for an annual health check.
You can contact your GP surgery to ask for an appointment if you have not received a letter. A family member or friend can contact the surgery for you if you prefer.
If you're in regular contact with your mental health team, they can do the health check for you. If you have not had your annual health check yet, contact the care co-ordinator in your mental health team and ask how to book an appointment.
How having an annual health check can help
It is up to you to decide if you want to have an annual health check, but these checks can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing.
Talking to a doctor or nurse, and having a few simple tests, helps them find any health problems early. This means they can give you the treatment or support you need to stay well.
You can ask the doctor or nurse for more information about annual health checks before you decide.
What happens during the annual health check
Your appointment will take about 45 minutes. Before you have the health check and any tests, the doctor or nurse will check you are happy to go ahead.
The doctor or nurse will usually:
- do a physical check-up, including weight, heart rate and blood pressure
- ask you to pee in a small pot so they can check it for signs of some health problems
- ask you to have a blood test
- talk to you about staying well and ask if you need any help with this
- talk to you about your medicines and ask if you have any side effects
- check if your vaccinations are up to date
- check how you are coping if you have a condition such as asthma or diabetes
They will also ask if you are OK (give your consent) to share your health information with other health services, such as your mental health team. This is to make sure you get the right support if you need further care.
They may offer you a follow-up appointment to give you further information and support. This can help you improve your health and wellbeing, and manage any health conditions you may have.
If you need any additional support
The NHS has to make it easy for everyone to use health services, including anyone who needs additional support. This is called making "reasonable adjustments".
Tell your GP surgery if you need any extra help, such as:
- a longer appointment or having a carer, friend or peer support worker with you
- an appointment at the beginning or end of the day, or a quiet place to wait if you find it hard to be in a busy waiting room
- additional reassurance or support if you are afraid of needles and are having a blood test or vaccine
- a sign-language service
- transport if you need help getting to the GP surgery
- a home visit if you are unable to leave your home
If you need additional support, this will usually be written in a health profile or health action plan that the doctor or nurse can use.
Is it the same as the NHS Health Check?
The annual health check for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis is not the same as the NHS Health Check for all adults aged 40 to 74.
The standard NHS Health Check is done every 5 years and checks your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and dementia.