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If you’re struggling with your mental health, you are not alone (see box). The NHS offers a range of support, including ‘talking therapies’

Talking therapies, or psychological therapies, are effective and confidential treatments delivered by fully trained and accredited NHS practitioners. They can help with common mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression.

✚ You can access talking therapies for free on the NHS.

✚ You can refer yourself directly to an NHS talking therapies service without a referral from a GP, or a GP can refer you.

✚ NHS talking therapies services are also known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services.

What are talking therapies?

Talking therapies can help with common mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression.

Which therapy you are offered depends on which one has been shown to be most helpful for your symptoms.

Here are a few examples:

✚ Guided self-help – where a therapist coaches you as you work through a self-help course in your own time, either using a workbook or an online course.

✚ Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – based on the idea that thoughts, feelings, what we do, and how our bodies feel physically, are all connected. CBT works to help us notice and challenge patterns of thoughts or behaviours so we can feel better.

✚ Counselling for depression – a type of counselling developed for people with depression.

Talking therapies are offered in different ways, including:

✚ using a self-help workbook with the support of a therapist

✚ as an online course

✚ one-to-one in person, over the phone or through video consultation

✚ in a group 

40% of the public are not aware that you can refer yourself for NHS therapy (without a GP referral).

What can talking therapies help with?

You do not need to have a diagnosed mental health problem to refer yourself to an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT).

Getting support as soon as you start having difficulties can help to reduce their impact.

You may be:

✚ feeling anxious 

✚ feeling low and hopeless 

✚ having panic attacks

✚ finding it hard to cope with day-to-day life 

✚ struggling with flashbacks and nightmares 

✚ feeling stressed. Perhaps you’re finding it hard to cope with work, life or relationships.

Other things that talking therapies can help with include:

✚ worrying 

✚ obsessive thoughts or behaviours

✚ fear of social situations

✚ trouble sleeping 

✚ phobias

If you’ve already been diagnosed with a mental health condition you can still refer yourself to an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT), or a GP can refer you.

Talking therapies can also help if you have mental health problems resulting from other conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, long-term pain or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Between 21 July and 15 August 2021, younger adults and women were more likely to experience some form of depression, with around 1 in 3 (32%) women aged 16 to 29 years experiencing moderate to severe depressive symptoms, compared with 20% of men of the same age.

In September 2021 there were 1,019,290 people in contact with the NHS adult mental health services.

Adults accessing Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services increased by 73,000 in September 2021 compared to the same time the year before.

The Every Mind Matters website offers expert advice to help improve your wellbeing, as well as practical tips on sleep, coping with money worries and self-care.

Urgent help in a crisis

If you or a loved one are having a mental health crisis, you can call a local NHS mental health helpline for 24-hour advice and support:

Find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline

You can call for yourself, your child, your parent or someone you care for.

If someone’s life is at risk or they cannot be kept safe, call 999 or go to A&E.

 

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