Mental health and mental illness

Do you have worries about your mental health – perhaps because you are feeling depressed or down a lot, struggling to motivate yourself, or using self harm, alcohol or drugs to cope? Perhaps you feel sometimes like you are ‘going mad’, experiencing weird things, or maybe friends are noticing a change in your behaviour?

On top of this, you may also be worried about what others may think, or who to talk to. You may be concerned about being labelled as ‘mentally ill’, or that you’ll be stuck feeling like this for ever. These worries are normal, but can stop you from getting help, and that can just make things worse.

We all experience anxiety, stress and low times. Most of the time we get through with the help of a good friend, some loud music or a holiday. But if you find that the way you are feeling is not getting better, it is important that you find the courage to talk to someone. It’s also important that you find the right person to talk to. It may be enough to confide in a family member or friend, but if not you should talk to your GP. If it helps to write down how you are feeling before you go to see your doctor, or to take someone with you, then do so.

Talking to your GP is important. Your GP shouldn’t just be concerned with your physical health. They are also able to refer you to specialist services within the NHS. They can also refer you to the IAPT Programme (Improving Access to Psychological Services) or you can refer yourself. They may offer you CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), counselling or other help depending on what they think you need.

They may suggest counselling through your health practice, or that you contact Young People’s Services at Clarence Street about their counselling service (see here). has lots of information on mental health and emotional wellbeing issues, including self help tools, videos and podcasts. For useful websites see below.

If your GP thinks you need more than this, they can refer you to one of the Community Mental Health Teams. Each team has psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and support workers. They will decide who is the best person to help you and you’ll be offered an assessment (usually by letter), generally within 14 days. If you and your GP decide you need help more urgently than this, they can refer you to the Home Treatment Team who can come and see you at home sooner.

If you are under 18 then you GP (or school) may refer you to Lime Trees. This is the specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in York. You’ll be contacted first by a Primary Mental Health Worker who can decide with you what would be the best help. They may want to involve your parents in this. Lime Trees offer different kinds of therapy and support – for example you may see a psychologist or nurse, a family therapist or someone from one of their specialist teams such as the eating disorders team. They also work with young people with learning difficulties, hearing impairments or social/communication difficulties, and run groups for people to find help with a common issue.

Most people will be helped by one of these teams – a referral to mental health services does not usually mean being admitted to hospital.

You can also get information, advice and support from the organisations in the section What is Counselling and the following:

York Mind offer a number of different projects to improve mental health and wellbeing, including a specific project for young people aged 16–25. This includes an accredited life skills course and /or arts award training, as well as football sessions and one to one mentoring. They have a counselling service (including specific counselling for carers) and an independent advocacy service to help you make decisions and changes in your life. They facilitate peer support groups, befriending, activity groups and specific help for those thinking about paid work. You can refer yourself or ask a support worker to refer you. They can also support you if you are caring for someone with a mental health problem or illness. Email or call for more information.

Kyra Women’s Project offer women of all ages and backgrounds free and confidential support and information, including counselling and courses, aimed at improving confidence, well-being and bringing women together. For example pre and post-natal advice and support group, a ‘bump to birth’ course, IT and finance training. Also social groups such as yoga, singing, book club and gardening, and drop-in sessions to relax and socialise.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or needs to speak to someone immediately, contact the Samaritans. You can talk to them in complete confidence at any time, about anything. You can also call the Papyrus UK helpline. See also the boxed text above about mental health crisis.

YoungMinds Parents helpline provides information and advice for adults worried about the mental health of a child or young person. Childline has a 24 hour helpline plus online services about any issue.

Childline has a 24 hour helpline plus online services about any issue.