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Are you struggling? Need some help?

Weighed down by problems? Want help feeling better?

If you're struggling with anxiety or depression or are just having problems coping, you're not alone. One in four of us will have problems with our mental health at some time in our lives. The first stop should be your doctor, where you can find out which therapies and treatments are available. They will be able to direct you to the appropriate treatment.

Don't feel worried about going - your doctor is there to help with your mental as well as your physical health. Most doctors see people every day who are feeling anxious, depressed or are having problems coping and want someone to talk to. In order to help, your doctor will try to find out what's bothering you. It could be anything from work stress and anxiety to relationship problems, poor housing or living with a chronic illness. 

Types of support
  • Talking therapies. Anyone can ask their doctor for talking therapy. Exactly what kind of therapy you will be referred to will depend on what the problem is. See section below for more information on different types of therapy.
  • Medicines. If you and your doctor agree that you would benefit from medication, there are various options that can help with conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, mania and other mental health problems.
  • Specialist care. More serious mental health problems such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia require specialist care, and you will be referred to a psychiatrist at the local hospital and/or the local community mental health team.
  • Emergencies. In an emergency, if your local surgery is closed, go to a hospital's A&E desk and ask to see the psychiatrist on duty.

If you feel suicidal... It's important to talk to someone you trust - for example, a family member, friend, teacher. Tell your doctor who will help you get the support you need, or you can call the Samaritans 24 hours a day on 116 123.

Talking Therapies

Talking therapy is a broad term. It covers all the psychological therapies that involve a person talking to a therapist about their problems.

For some problems and conditions, one type of talking treatment may be better than another. Different talking treatments also suit different people. A particular one may be best one for you and your situation.

To help you decide which one would be most suitable for you, talk to your doctor about the types of talking therapy on offer (let them know if you prefer a particular one). Below is a brief explanation of each talking treatment and the situations that they can help.


This is probably the best known talking therapy and the one most readily available at your local surgery. Counselling usually consists of around 6 to 12 hour-long sessions. You talk in confidence to a counsellor about how you feel about yourself and your situation. The counsellor supports you by listening actively.

Counselling is ideal for people who are basically healthy but need help coping with a current crisis, such as anger, relationship issues, bereavement, redundancy, infertility or the onset of a serious illness.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

The aim of CBT is help you think less negatively, so that instead of feeling hopeless and depressed, you cope better with, and even start to enjoy, the situations you face. In CBT, you set goals with your therapist and carry out tasks between sessions. A course typically involves between 6 and 15 sessions, which last about an hour each. Like counselling, CBT deals with current situations more than events in your past or childhood.

Much research has been done on CBT, and it's been shown to work for a variety of mental health problems. In particular, CBT can help depression, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder and some eating disorders, especially bulimia.

In the UK, CBT is available on the NHS for people with depression or any other mental health problem that it has been shown to help. There are also books and computer courses which use the concepts of CBT to help you overcome common problems like depression.


Unlike counselling and CBT, psychotherapy involves talking more about your past to help you overcome problems you're having in the present. It tends to last longer than CBT and counselling. Sessions are an hour long and can continue for a year or more.

There are different types of psychotherapy, but they all aim to help you understand more about yourself, improve your relationships and get more out of life. Psychotherapy can be especially useful in helping people with long-term or recurring problems to find the cause of their difficulties. There's some evidence that psychotherapy can help depression and some eating disorders. Some psychotherapists work in a hospital or clinic, where you'll see them as an outpatient. Other private psychotherapists work from home.

Family therapy

This may be offered when the whole family is in difficulty. In family therapy, a therapist (or pair of therapists) meets the whole family. The therapist explores their views and relationships to understand the problems the family is having. It helps family members communicate better with each other. Sessions are normally between 45 minutes and an hour-and-a-half long, and usually take place several weeks apart.

Family therapy is useful for any family in which a child, young person or adult (a parent or a grandparent) has a serious problem that's affecting the rest of the family. Many types of cases are seen by family therapists, including child and adolescent behavioural problems, mental health conditions, illness and disability in the family, separation, divorce and step-family life, domestic violence and drug or alcohol addiction.

Couples therapy

Couples therapy can help when a relationship is in crisis (after an affair, for example). Both partners talk in confidence to a counsellor to explore what's gone wrong in the relationship and how to change things for the better. It can help couples learn more about each other's needs and communicate better. Ideally, both partners should attend the weekly hour-long sessions, but they can still help if just one person attends.

Group therapy

In group therapy, eight to 12 people meet, together with a therapist. It's a useful way for people to get support and advice from each other. It can help you realise you're not alone in your experiences, which is itself beneficial. Some people prefer to be part of a group or find that it suits them better than individual therapy.

About Depression

Depression is a serious illness and very different from the common experience of feeling unhappy, miserable or fed up for a short period of time. When you are depressed, you may have feelings of extreme sadness that can last for a long time. These feelings are severe enough to interfere with your daily life, and can last for weeks or months, rather than days.

Depression is quite common and about one in ten people will experience depression at some point. However, the exact number of people with depression is hard to estimate because many people do not get help or are not formally diagnosed with the condition. Depression can affect people of any age, including children. Studies have shown that about 4% of children aged 5-16 in the UK are affected by depression.

People with a family history of depression are more likely to experience depression themselves. Depression affects people in many ways and can cause a wide variety of physical, psychological (mental) and social symptoms.

A few people still think that depression is not a real illness and that it is a form of weakness or admission of failure. This is simply not true. Depression is a real illness with real effects, and it is certainly not a sign of failure.

With the right treatment and support, most people can make a full recovery from depression. It is important to seek help from your doctor if you think you may be depressed.

Want to know more?

Worried about someone?

If you're worried about a friend, colleague or relative, they may appreciate it if you ask how they are.

Talking about a problem isn't easy. You don't have to be able to solve their problem or even to understand it fully, but listening to what they say will let them know you care. Try not to make judgements about their behaviour and thoughts. Try to empathise with the person rather than just sympathising with them. Empathy involves recognising how they feel but not taking ownership of their problem or making a judgement.

Here are the signs that suggest someone may need help:

  • Irritable or nervous behaviour.
  • A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating less than normal.
  • Drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual.
  • Being unusually clumsy or accident prone.
  • Becoming withdrawn, not contacting friends and family.
  • Losing interest in their appearance, for example, dressing badly, no longer wearing make-up or not washing regularly.
  • Saying things like, "You wouldn't believe what I've been through", or "It's like the whole world is against me". People sometimes say these things in the hope that you will ask what they mean so that they can talk about it.
  • Putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way, for example by saying "No one loves me", or "I'm a waste of space".

This list can be used to show you when to get involved before a problem gets bigger. It's helpful to have a conversation with someone early on and deal with any problem in its early stages.

What to say?

The act of listening is the most beneficial thing you can do when trying to help someone who may feel suicidal. Don't feel you have to tell them anything or give them advice. The best way to help is to ask questions. That way you leave the other person in control. By asking questions, the person you are talking to finds his or her own answers.

Active listening is a way of letting people talk about their feelings and work through problems. Although you do some talking, you're really acting as a sounding board. Whatever you say doesn't influence what the other person has to say. It just helps them talk.

Some helpful questions

  • When: "When did you realise?"
  • Where: "Where did that happen?"
  • What: "What else happened?"
  • How: "How did that feel?"
  • Why: be careful when asking a person "'why?" It can sound challenging and put the other person on the defensive. More effective questions are: "What made you choose that?" or "What were you thinking at the time?"

These questions ask the person to examine honestly the problems they're experiencing. Try not to say things that may lead the conversation down a dead end such as "I know how you feel", or "Try not to worry about it". All you need to do is start the conversation. Nobody expects you to know the answers. But that doesn't mean you're not helping.

Getting professional help

If someone has been feeling low for some time, it's a good idea for them to get support, whether it's by talking to a counsellor or getting practical help with the problems they're experiencing. Organisations that may be able to help include:

Useful links

Who To Call For Help

In the United Kingdom:
Nhs 111
Mind Infoline
Sane Line  Samaritans Phone Number

Hub Of Hope

In the United States:

List of Crisis lines to call worldwide

Lucy's story

Lucy Roberts 2

Find out how Lucy used ideas from the Ten Keys to Happier Living to help deal with depression and anxiety: Read Lucy's story

Useful Books

Here are two great books that can help if you're feeling unhappy or depressed:

Mindfulness Book   Pp For Overcoming Depression Book

Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world - by Mark Williams

Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression - by Miriam Akhtar