Today, Sunday 10th October 2021, is World Mental Health Day. Following on from 2020 – a year that highlighted so many social inequalities, the World Mental Health Organisation has decided to make the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.
If you find yourself experiencing mental health difficulties, please do not suffer in silence. Your GP is always a good first port of call. While in the UK, we are lucky enough to have mental health treatment available to us on the NHS, this does not mean that it is always readily accessible. Getting a GP appointment isn’t always as easy as it should be, and accessing mental health support can involve extensive assessments and waiting lists – time that feels like forever when you’re really struggling. More and more people are responding by resorting to private treatment, but this is expensive and just not possible for everyone.
In light of this, read on to learn about just some of the resources that are available, for free, for everyone.
People in Your Life
Do not be afraid to tell the people in your life that you are struggling, and ask them for support. They may not be a trained therapist, and they may not be able to help make your difficulties go away – however, they may be able to make the load a little lighter. If your mental health is making it harder for you to leave the house, ask a friend if they would mind coaxing you out for a coffee. If your mental health is making it difficult to eat healthily, maybe a family member would be happy to come and help you cook one evening. If your work performance is being affected, letting your manager know can help take the pressure off. Many workplaces will even have dedicated support staff for employees experiencing mental health problems.
If you go to the GP presenting symptoms of depression and anxiety, they will often refer you to IAPT. However, many people do not realise that they can refer themselves and forego the doctor’s appointment. IAPT stands for Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, and provides treatments such as counseling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and guided self-help. If you refer yourself to IAPT, you will undergo an assessment to check whether they feel that you’re a good fit for the service. If you are, most people start treatment within six weeks. If you’re not, they will be able to signpost you to a more suitable service.
Third Sector Organisations
There are many organisations out there that offer free support for people experiencing mental health difficulties. This can take many forms, including one-to-one support, such as counselling or mentoring; or community support, like workshops and activities.
Three Little Birds
Here at Three Little Birds, we offer one-to-one talking support and mentoring for young people and adults. Drop us a message here to find out more!
Mind is a wonderful mental health charity with local branches across the UK offering support. Find your local branch here and check out the support that they have available.
Hub of Hope
Hub of Hope is a great resource for finding free support in your area. You can search using your postcode/city and a wide variety of specific concerns to pinpoint a service that suits you. Search results will initially show private sector services as well, but by using the 'refine my results' function, you can easily filter these out. Click here to find services near you on the Hub of Hope.
When you are having a hard time, sometimes it helps to be around people who just get it. Peer support groups are places of understanding and acceptance. They can help combat the feelings of isolation that come with mental health difficulties, as well as introduce you to like-minded people, and allow you to share coping skills.
Rethink Mental Illness
Rethink Mental Illness has an excellent directory of over 140 peer support groups nationwide. Search for one near you by clicking here and entering your postcode.
Although it is not a tool exclusively for support groups, Meetup is a brilliant resource for people looking to find peer support. Simply search using ‘support group’ (or specify by what you are seeking support for, e.g. ‘bereavement support group’) and your location, and you will be surprised by how many results come back. Meetup can be particularly helpful for finding online support groups and workshops. Find support on Meetup by clicking here.
Hub of Hope
Hub of Hope can also help with finding peer support groups- just use the ‘refine my results’ function and select ‘peer support group’. Search Hub of Hope for peer support groups by clicking here.
When you are struggling, helplines can be a real lifesaver. Maybe you just want to talk, but you don’t want to burden anyone, or you don’t want to worry your family or friends, or to be viewed any differently. Speaking to a trained listener can help you feel less alone, get things off your chest, and allow you to get out of a negative thought spiral.
You can call the Samaritans helpline on 116 123 at any time, on any day of the year, and there will be someone there to listen to whatever is upsetting you. If you don’t want to talk on the phone and you don’t mind waiting for a response, you can also email email@example.com and receive a reply within 24 hours.
National Suicide Hotline
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Hotline is also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 689 5652.
Campaign Against Living Miserably
CALM have a helpline, open 5pm-midnight every day on 0800 585858, as well as a webchat service for those who prefer not to speak on the phone, but still get a quick response.
If phone calls aren’t for you, but you still need to get your thoughts and feelings off your chest, you might want to consider a peer support forum. These websites let you share your feelings and receive support and validation from others, many of whom will have experienced similar things. They are moderated by mental health professionals and are a safe way to … It’s like a nation/worldwide support group, available at the click of a button.
Clic is a UK-based online community where you are free to offload whatever is on your mind. Other Clic users and moderators can respond to your post with advice, support, or sympathy. It has dedicated forums for particular subject matters, such as specific mental health conditions, common stressors such as money and finance, and interests, like creativity and arts. You need to give some details to sign up, but other users will only see your username and profile picture - so you can remain anonymous if you wish.
7 Cups describes itself as an 'on-demand emotional health service' with forums, group chat, and individual chat functions. When you join (which requires nothing more than an email address and a date of birth), you will be met by a range of options. You can post in one of their many forums; browse the volunteer listeners who are currently online and select one to talk to - they each have a bio to help you work out if you think they are a good fit; or verify your email to access group chat support. The website also contains a number of self-help guides available for free. There is a paid option where you can speak to licensed therapists.
Struggling with your mental health? There's an app for that.
Mental health apps have been around for a while now, and they are only getting better. They are great for helping build daily practices that improve our wellbeing, keep track of our thoughts and feelings, and helping us learn new coping skills.
However, some major mental health apps are not exactly ... affordable. Free versions are often so limited that they aren't worth using, and free trials extend for 30 days at most.
Here are a few mental health apps that are worth it, and free (or at least have a free version worth using.
Moodfit has been voted VeryWell's best mental health app of 2020 and 2021, and for good reason. It is a habit tracker with a mental health focus- you can use it to set manageable, trackable goals for yourself, such taking medication, practicing mindfulness, or thinking about what you are grateful for. Check in every day and you can build habits beneficial for your mental health and keep track of how you're feeling over time. The free version limits you to only six goals to work on - but that is definitely enough to see an improvement
eQuoo is an evidence-based adventure game designed to help you build your emotional fitness. It's a cross between a skills-learning app and a story game where your choices determine the outcome. It will teach you ways to manage your wellbeing and communicate better with other people in your life, while still keeping an element of fun. It's a rarity in the world of mental health apps because you can use it without having to delve into your own thoughts and feelings - which is great for when you're feeling too fragile for that.
Balance is a personalised meditation app which uses your answers to questions to build guided meditations to suit your needs. Meditation has been proven to help people reduce their stress levels, control their anxiety, and improve their overall emotional health. Balance is great for beginners as it helps you develop focus and key skills over time. Whereas other meditation apps, such as Headspace, offer short free trials, Balance currently offers its users the first year free. However, after the first year, it does cost money - so be careful!
There are so many ways to access free support out there if you know where to look.. Maybe you weren’t aware of the options; maybe you just didn’t have the time to research them for yourself; or maybe you’re worried about a friend and want a handy post to let them know help is out there. If you’ve found this blog post helpful, please share it with your friends and family!
Are there any other great resources missing from this list? What topics do you want us to cover next? Let us know in the comments and help us start an open discussion about mental health and wellbeing.