Mind Infoline FAQ
Our Infoline answers more than 30,000 enquiries each year. While we receive a huge variety of calls, some questions are asked by callers again and again. This page lists answers to the most common questions we receive. If you are thinking of calling our Infoline, this is a good place to start.
I'm worried about myself
If you experience mental health problems, it can be frightening and you may feel alone. If this is a new experience, you may not know what is happening. If you have had similar symptoms before then you will know what does and does not help you in such circumstances. There are a number of actions you can take:
- Visit a General Practitioner (GP), if you can, to be referred to suitable treatment.
- Talk to someone you trust, saying what has helped you in the past, if appropriate.
- Draw up a crisis card, which is a plan of action for people to follow if you start to show signs that indicate that you need help.
Someone who is experiencing acute mental distress will often be feeling extremely anxious and frightened and may be agitated. It can be frightening to see someone behaving strangely, but there are a number of things you can do to help:
- Approach gently and quietly.
- Provide reassurance that you want to help and do not pose any threat.
- Remain calm yourself by focusing on how you want to support the person.
- Ask how you can help - often the person will know what does and doesn't help in a given situation.
People who are experiencing mental health distress are far more likely to pose a risk to themselves than to other people, but there are occasions when they may be violent. If you have reason to think that the person may hurt themselves or others, do not approach, but call for professional help. There are sections of the Mental Health Act which enable professionals to go into someone's house or to take charge of a situation in a public place.
It can be difficult when a friend or relative suffers from mental distress. It can be painful to see them suffering and may disrupt life if you find yourself in a caring role you did not choose. However it can also bring people together giving them a chance to express love and affection in a way that has not been possible before. Ways in which you can help include:
- supporting them and letting them know you are there to help
- talking to them about what they feel would help, if they have experienced symptoms before they will know what does and does not help
- offering practical help such as making a telephone call to a key worker or other person, or by going with the person to their General Practitioner (GP) or mental health centre
- keeping yourself and the person focused on positive things and day to day realities rather than allowing yourself to get caught up in their distress.
Some people, even when experiencing severe mental distress may not ask for help and even reject any suggestion of help. Although you may be concerned, pressing them may make matters worse. You may need to make the decision to contact professionals, especially if you think that the person may be a danger to themselves or someone else. You can contact local social services to ask for a Mental Health Act assessment, which would involve two doctors and an approved mental health professional. An assessment may result in a person being taken to hospital against their will.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an acute mental health crisis there are several things that you can do. You may need an emergency mental health assessment.
There are three main ways of having an emergency mental health assessment:
- you can go to accident and emergency
- phone the emergency number at the social services department of your local authority
- if the police take you to a place of safety it may also be possible to get an emergency appointment with your General Practitioner (GP).
The assessment is carried out by three people, two doctors and one approved mental health professional. If you are refusing treatment it may lead to being admitted to hospital against your will or being 'sectioned'.
There are some alternatives to hospitalisation which are community based. These include:
- community mental health teams who provide mental health care in the community
- crisis resolution teams who can provide rapid response following referral and intensive support afterwards.
These services, however, are not all available nation wide.
If you or someone close to you is in crisis and is strongly against involving any medical services, there may be an alternative crisis service in their area.
See our guide to crisis services.
Most patients in hospital for psychiatric treatment are there voluntarily, may leave when they wish, and their consent must be obtained before treatment is given. However, the Mental Health Act 1983 allows some people to be detained. When this happens, they are called 'detained' patients and their consent to treatment may no longer be required. This is often known as being 'sectioned'.
Your GP is your first point of contact if you wish to access medical services either National Health Service (NHS) or private. Your GP can also refer you for talking treatments such as counselling. There are a number of private and voluntary organisations offering services that can help.
There are many different treatments for mental distress. There are also things people can do that can help themselves, and some of these can be accessed outside of the National Health Service (NHS).
Different activities that can be helpful for people recovering from mental distress include:
- talking treatments such as counselling, self-help groups and complementary therapies
- change in lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise, spirituality, yoga, Tai-Chi, meditation, self-confidence or assertiveness courses
- natural herbal remedies can also make a difference.
See our A-Z list for more information on these areas.
If you are in contact with a GP, then ask to be referred to a counsellor. Alternatively, Mind's booklet Making sense of counselling has a list of useful organisations at the end that will help you find a counsellor. It is possible to get some counselling on the NHS, however in some areas there are a limited number which means that there may be a long waiting list. You could opt for private counselling but be aware that prices vary considerably.
As of 1 April 2009 the complaints system for health and social care has changed. This means that the health service commission and the mental health act commission no longer exist and have been replaced by the Care Quality Commission.
1. Complaints must be made within twelve month of the incident occurring or the complainant realising there is something wrong.
2. If you are not happy with the service you received you should first complain to the person involved or their primary care trust.
3. If this does not resolve the problem you can take the complaint to the care quality commission.
See this briefing on How to complain about health and social care for more information.
1. You can make a formal complaint to social services if you don't agree with the result of your assessment, or if you have been waiting for one for an unreasonable length of time.
2. If you are still not satisfied, you can take it to the Care Quality Commission,
3. If you feel that the Commission did not handle your complaint fairly you may be able to take it to the Ombudsman.