Now before I begin, I just want to say that if you’ve gotten to the point where you want to ask for help – I am so proud of you.
In a world where it’s frowned upon to look after number 1, and a world where it can be embarrassing to admit your life isn’t as peachy as your social media suggests it is – well done for being so brave and deciding you want help.
It can take a lot of time and effort to get to the point of feeling ready to speak out – and we will cover this in another post. But if you feel like you’re ready, here are some handy hints.
The first step
1. Make an appointment with the doctor you feel most comfortable with. Don’t settle for anything less.
2. If you’re afraid of what to say or how to begin the conversation – just write down some bullet points on a piece of paper and give it to your GP to read with/for you. This way you’re not going to panic about if you missed anything out. If you cry (so what if you do, crying is a natural physical response) and find it hard to talk – your voice can still be heard.
3. Don’t feel like you have to rush out of that 10 minute appointment. Do not worry that you’re wasting there time.
4. The GP will make you fill out a very short mental health questionnaire. Don’t panic and try to be as honest as possible. They use this number to track your progress. (E.g a high score would mean you were currently undergoing a more serious bout of mental illness and they will work with you to lower that number). Remember, they fill out these questionnaires with everyone – you should not feel ashamed of your own emotions. Even if they are negative they are real.
Hopefully you will have a lovely GP who puts you at ease. Remember – they deal with this way more than you realise. You will not be the first person today to ask for help, to cry, to have snot running down their face, to not really know what you want, and you won’t be the last. That is perfectly fine.
Don’t panic that you don’t know what outcome you want. You’re not the professional – they are.
The second step
Depending on your borough/area – the process for mental health intervention may differ. The waiting times and availability of services will differ. But you have every right to get the help you deserve.
1. The GP will most likely refer you to the local NHS Talking Therapy Borough for an initial assessment. (If you’re lucky to live in an area where you can go straight to therapy please do this – even if you find out you don’t like it)
OR – the GP may give you a number to ring. Do this when you feel most comfortable. Telephone conversations can be intimidating – especially when they are official and emotional – so take care of yourself and make sure you’re somewhere comfortable, safe and private.
2. The GP will photocopy any notes you have given them to place on your file – this also means you don’t have to re-explain yourself every time you go for an appointment.
3. The GP should request you make a follow up appointment with them. If they don’t – book one anyway. Especially if they give you medication. (Again, a whole other blog post)
The third step
1. You may receive a questionnaire in the post from your local Mental Health Department. You must fill this out before your initial assessment (which usually takes place over the phone – but again depending on your area, you may be lucky enough to see someone face to face).
This is a very long winded questionnaire but will really help the professionals to know what help you need specifically, and they will use your answers – along with your feelings and input – to decide what treatment to offer you.
2. You will be given a set time for an initial assessment. If this is over the phone – do not try fit this in at work. Your struggles may not be visible but they are real. Give yourself the respect you deserve and make sure you can take the phone call somewhere you feel happy. You wouldn’t expect a face to face appointment to happen in a car park or in a smoking area, and neither should this.
3. Just be honest. Only you can speak for yourself. Your voice is so important.
Initial assessments are likely to be very emotional. This is fine. This is normal. This may be the first time you’ve truly opened up to someone about how you feel. This may be the first time someone’s asked you questions that trigger confusing feelings. This may be the first time you have to be honest about your struggles. Be brave, be strong and be proud. (Oh and treat yourself afterwards – you did a big thing)
So, you’ve gone through so many different stages and NOW you’re going to get treatment (long waiting lists may apply). What could you expect?
Now I don’t have a great knowledge of treatments available, and my knowledge is based on my particular Talking Therapy borough – which is very much under strain. But I’ll hit ya with what I do know.
1. Online CBT Therapy.
There’s a programme called Silver Cloud that you can log on to. It’s interactive and can target many different areas of mental health. You can do this anywhere with WiFi and can log on 24/7, but you have to be motivated to do this.
You are connected to an online counsellor and they will monitor your progress every two weeks. They will leave you a comment when they review your programme and you can respond – however it isn’t very intimate.
The plus side of this is there’s no waiting time. So this is a great one to get started with if you’re faced with a 6 month long waiting list for face to face therapy.
2. Telephone counselling.
Again – this can be for a variety of disorders. You will be working with one counsellor, so you can build a bond! You can also fit this in to your life quite easily which removes so many added worries of travel / taking time off.
3. Face to face CBT.
This one typically has a longer waiting time – however is obviously much more interactive so this is great if you really feel like you need some support. The fixed timings and schedules will mean you have to do the work (if you struggle to self motivate) AND you will also get homework to ensure you are really building the skills you need.
4. Face to face Talking Therapy.
This one has been my ultimate fave – but that’s my own personal preference. I personally wouldn’t have gotten as much out of having a counsellor IF I hadn’t done previous therapy to really enhance my knowledge of anxiety/ my own body, so I have to say I am grateful that the waiting list was so long. This one can be a bit more challenging as you may feel more exposed. There’s no activities or anything to hide behind. But that also makes it incredible flexible and a great way to really target WHY certain triggers may have arisen rather than just coming up with coping strategies.
1. Be proud of yourself. There is nothing more magical than you taking care of your own mind and body.
2. Be patient. Recovery is erratic. It can be fast and slow and up and down and everything all at once then nothing. This is a life long journey you are going on – it won’t be easy but it will be worth it.
3. Make yourself heard. You are entitled to more help if you need it. You are allowed to change your mind. You are allowed to say you’re still not ok. Your voice is important.
4. Stick with it. I promise you, one day you will look back and think “I’m so glad I persevered”.
5. Be kind to yourself. Recovery can be so exhausting. Going to therapy and doing the homework isn’t enough on its own. Practice self-care. Reward yourself for every achievement you have with your progress and journey – no matter how small.