Our Infoline answers more than 30,000 enquiries each year. While we receive a huge variety of calls, some questions come up quite often. If you are thinking of calling our Infoline it might be helpful to read these frequently asked questions first of all.
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 previously had similar symptoms then you might find it useful to think about what helped you cope before. There are a number of actions you can take:
- Read our information about mental health problems to understand more about what might be happening and what support you can get
- Visit your General Practitioner (GP) – this is the route into support and treatment through the NHS.
- Talk to someone you trust – sharing how you feel can be a really positive experience, it can help you feel less alone and give you another perspective on the problems your facing
- Contact your local Mind for face to face support
- Share your experiences and listen to others on Mind’s online community Elefriends
How can I approach someone who seems to be distressed?
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 problems 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 someone else, 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.
See our information on sectioning.
How can I help if my friend or relative is experiencing a mental health problem?
It can be difficult when a friend or relative is struggling with their mental health. It can be painful to see them behaving differently to how they usually behave, and may have a big impact on your life if you find yourself in a caring role you did not choose. However, facing a difficult time together and talking about how you both feel can bring people together, giving you 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 local Mind
- keeping yourself and the person focused on positive things and day to day realities
You might find it helpful to read our information about ‘How to cope as a carer’
What can I do if a friend or relative will not seek help?
Sometimes you might feel that a friend or relative is becoming unwell and want them to seek help from a professional or other source, but they will not always agree.
There can be many reasons why people might refuse to seek the help that you feel they need:
- It could be that they want to solve their issues on their own, and see professional help as a weakness.
- They might actually be taking steps to find support already but not feel comfortable telling you about this
- Sometimes people who have had a bad experience with a GP or other support service in the past can be reluctant to try the same route again.
- For some people, a symptom of their mental health problem is a lack of awareness that anything is wrong. This is usually called a lack of insight, and is common in people diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
It is important to try to build trust and communicate positively with the person so that you can both understand where each other is coming from.
It is common to feel frustrated if you think someone is not trying hard enough to get well, but try not to make assumptions about how they feel. If you are able to make time to have an honest conversation and show them that you value what they are telling you it can be easier to move forward together.
If the person you care about is unable to recognise that they are unwell you can still try to build a trusting relationship. Focus on trying to identify with the emotions that they are expressing and the things that they are most concerned about, rather than the things that are most concerning for you. This might help you to agree that asking for extra support and treatment could be helpful.
What can I do if it is an emergency?
If you or someone you know is experiencing an acute mental health crisis and might be a risk to themselves or someone else there are several things that you can do. See our ‘I need urgent help’ button at the top of the page for immediate help, or the Mind guide to Crisis services for an overview of the support that should be available.
What does it mean to be sectioned?
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'.
See our information on sectioning.
Do I have to go to my General Practitioner (GP) to get help for a mental health problem?
If you want to access help from the NHS then your GP is usually the first appointment that you need to make. They act as a gateway to a range of more specialist services, from counselling to community psychiatric nurses. However, if you would prefer not to go to your GP you might be able to access support through a range of other services in the voluntary or private sector. See the ‘useful contacts’ at the end of each information page in our A-Z of mental health for more details.