Mental health services in the UK

It’s pretty cool that we don’t have to pay for medical treatment, but for things like therapy that require time to be effective, it can mean that waiting lists are long and you may not have a choice about your therapist.
For me the most important step was seeing the GP but this can be problematic if your doctor has little experience with mental health disorders. But remember, you can ask for who is good with mh conditions, and make another appointment you don’t have to settle for being misunderstood and turned away.
The NHS does have some brilliant therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists, but you have to get into the system first.

IAPT
For anyone who suffers with depression or anxiety, you will likely be put onto a cbt programme. Initially I had six “low intensity” sessions, and as I understand it, it’s commonly used as a way to give you a point of contact during the wait for the longer cbt.
For some people the 6 sessions are enough, but for me it wasn’t.
“High intensity” IAPT meant meeting a new clinical psychologist and having around 20 sessions over a period of about 9 months. This was good because you have more time, and therefore more chance to develop a better relationship and trust with your therapist. They also assess risk and ask about medications and you can ask them to phone your GP if you are thinking about going on medication. This took away the element of fear over explaining my situation in detail to a doctor, and made my transition onto medication much more smooth. On a personal note, I also struggle with anxiety when speaking so it was a life saver!

CAMHS
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
Oh CAHMS. Where to begin?! Well. Personally, my experience was PANTS. I felt misunderstood, belittled and let down. But that was all down to geography. Where I lived at the time, there was only a very small service. I imagine the waiting lists can be lengthy in larger cities, but the expertise and efficacy is (hopefully?!) far better.

Eating disorder services
Most treatment is outpatient in the UK. Inpatient treatment is primarily for physical management rather then therapy, aside from a few programmes for adolescents that I’ve heard of.
Again, and as with anything NHS related, the service you are referred to depends on where you live. The bigger the service, the greater the chance you can ask to change therapists if you don’t like your allocated one.
Groups and CBT are the main therapies used, but many other things are incorporated and many people (myself included) have had and continue to have treatment despite having other conditions as well.

Counselling
If you are a student you can usually find a contact number or email for a youth service that’s free in your area. These are typically time limited, but it was that first counsellor that gave me the courage to go to the GP and get specialised help.
There are also counsellors at some GP services, so don’t be afraid to ask 🙂

oops.. I forget about CMHT
CMHT stands for Community Mental Health Team. Every county should have one, and they are groups of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers and occupational therapists. They are usually classes as secondary care- meaning you wouldn’t be sent to them if you could be helped with a lower level of care. The CMHT deal with more complex cases, often taking referrals from those seen in a and e for suicidality, psychosis etc. Because they are a team, your care is monitored and discussed with the relevant professionals meaning everyone you see is kept up to date.

I think that’s about it… If anyone has any other good knowledge or thoughts then COMMENT and spread the word.
It can suck when you’re waiting and/or when you get to see someone and they are terrible at their job. It’s taken me about 5 years to get the right help- so you can do it too!
Xx

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