Support for people with mental health problems
Help in a mental health crisis or emergency
When you or someone that you care for is having extreme mental health difficulties, you may need help very quickly.
If the safety of someone with a mental health problem, or those around them, is at serious and immediate risk then contact the ambulance or police by dialling 999.
In an emergency you can also go to your local A&E Department.
The West London Mental Health Trust Patient and Carer Support Line is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0300 1234 244
If you (or someone you look after) become unwell and need advice or support the trained mental health advisers can help over the phone or contact other services for you if necessary.
If you or someone you know is concerned about your mental well-being, the first place to call should be your GP (family doctor). They will be familiar with your medical history and can direct you to the appropriate treatment or service.
They may refer you to a local organisation that can help with practical problems which might be affecting your mental health - whether these are caused by work stress, relationship difficulties, poor housing, living with a chronic illness or something else. They may also prescribe you some medication or refer you on for psychological therapy to help you to manage your problems.
In more complex cases they may refer you on for a more specialist assessment by your local mental health team.
You can get access to local NHS psychological services through your GP or practice nurse. Your local NHS psychological therapies service provides therapy and mental health services for people with mild to moderate mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, as well as feelings related to change, bereavement, and personal and family problems.
Support for complex mental health problems
If your doctor thinks you need treatment and monitoring, they will refer you for an assessment by a specialist mental health team.
Your local mental health team will be made up of both health professionals from your local NHS mental health trust, and social workers employed by your local council. This mental health team will assess both your health and your social care needs.
Following this assessment they may offer you a brief period of support to set you on the road to recovery, before referring you back to your GP for any ongoing treatment.
Alternatively if your mental health needs are more complex then they will refer you on to a mental health recovery team, who will agree longer-term support arrangements with you to aid your recovery. This process is known as the Care Programme Approach (CPA).
If your social care needs are high enough to meet the criteria for support set by your local council then you may be offered a personal budget to pay towards the cost of your social care. See Personal budgets and direct payments for further information.
Mental health care in hospital
Your GP or a member of the community mental health team may suggest that your condition needs inpatient treatment in hospital. This would usually happen in consultation with you.
When you are admitted to hospital you will be allocated a key nurse who will work closely with you. You will probably be given several different forms of treatment, which will run at the same time - for example you may be prescribed medication and also be encouraged to attend groups on the ward.
As an inpatient you will be able to wear your own clothes and have visitors. The aim of inpatient care is always to enable you to return home as safely and quickly as possible.
Sometimes if someone is too ill to make the right choices for their own well-being, they will be admitted to hospital involuntarily under the Mental Health Act. This is sometimes called being 'sectioned'.
When your hospital stay comes to an end, staff will organise a meeting to discuss the care you will receive after you leave. It is important that you try to be as involved in this as much as possible, because this will give you more choice over the services you use. You can ask an advocate to help you with this.
Depending on your situation the hospital team may refer you back to your GP to monitor your ongoing mental health with you.
If your mental health needs are more complex then you may be referred on to a specialist mental health recovery team who will provide longer-term support to you under the Care Programme Approach.
The Mental Health Care Act
There are various sections in the act to cover different situations, each of them giving health and social care professionals different powers to admit people to hospital against their will.
You can find information on the different sections of the act, and what they mean, on the following websites:
Mental health care advocates
People who are admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act are entitled to help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA). The advocate is a person who is independent of the hospital and is employed to speak on your behalf. They can help you discuss your feelings about your care and what support you may need in the future.
You should automatically be offered the support of an IMHA by hospital staff.
These organisations can offer advocacy advice for those living with mental health issues.