Mental health resources and other help
The NHS is incredible, but the sad truth is that a decade of cuts has left it in a pretty sorry state. This is especially evident when it comes to mental health support, with long waiting times, overworked specialists and frustrating postcode lotteries all common.
Mental health problems differ in severity, and sometimes you’re able to utilise online support to help in mild cases. We’ve collected a bumper list of mental health resources here, so if you’re struggling, we hope you’ll find something here that helps.
Mental health help and resources
As we mentioned, the NHS is at breaking point and GPs are stretched, to say the least. But that doesn’t mean that you should overlook making an appointment with your GP surgery. Your GP is best placed to advise you, so we’d always recommend making an appointment even if it feels overwhelming.
What to expect: You’ll be able to tell the GP how you’ve been feeling. Things to consider include how long you’ve been feeling this way, steps you’ve taken to try and make yourself feel better (if any, don’t worry if you haven’t been able to do this) and how it’s impacting your day to day life.
If you struggle with articulating your feelings or are too anxious to talk about them, write a letter beforehand and give it to the doctor. This will give you time to fully consider what you want to discuss, and although it may feel odd writing a letter to someone you’ll see in person, it’s a common way of communicating your feelings and no doctor will object. Alternatively, make some notes and keep them with you to make sure you cover everything.
What will happen?
This will be different depending on what your issues are. You might be given the option of medication, be referred to a specialist, or be added to a waiting list for other mental health services which operate on GP referrals only. Depending on where you live, you might also be offered more immediate resources – your doctor may recommend books, apps or online courses to get the ball rolling.
SilverCloud is an online mental health platform that is free as part of the MAN v FAT Football membership. You may also be able to sign up to SilverCloud through your GP, depending on availability in your area.
What is it?
SilverCloud is an online portal that lets you access support based around cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is a form of therapy that is thought to be very effective for helping depression, anxiety and stress-related issues.
SilverCloud is backed by 17 years of clinical research and they’ve worked extensively in the NHS and the wider healthcare sector.
How does it work?
If you’re a MAN v FAT Football member, contact your coach who can give you a PIN to get access to your own personal SilverCloud dashboard.
Once you’re logged in, you get to choose support for a wide range of issues, from depression and anxiety to improving your resilience, overcoming sleep difficulties and even overcoming COVID-19 anxieties. There are also modules centred around mindfulness and dealing with money worries. Check out more information on the modules available to players here.
You’ve probably heard a lot about mindfulness recently as it’s a bit of a buzzword at the moment. It’s said to help with depression and anxiety and for boosting our general wellbeing. They might sound like grand claims, but they are rooted in science, with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommending mindfulness as a way to prevent depression.
It’s also said to increase your focus levels, productivity and quality of sleep.
What does it actually involve?
Put simply, mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and noticing what’s around you and within you. It’s all about being present in the moment and quietening your racing mind.
How do I do it?
There are loads of good online resources for mindfulness.
Headspace is a good app available for Android and iOS, though it does cost £49.99 a year, or £9.99 a month if you pay monthly. It has a free trial so you can see if it’s for you.
Calm is another app on Android and iOS that can help with stress and sleep. It costs £28.99 for a year, though there is a free trial too.
The NHS recommends an online course called Be Mindful which utilises mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (MBCT). It involves videos, audio and interactive exercises alongside assignments and tools to measure how you’re getting on. It costs £30 for the course, though you can register for a free introduction.
Insight Timer is a more wallet-friendly option that’s worth trying out. It’s an app available for both iOS and Android and it has a free version (though you’ll need to dodge the reminders to sign up for the premium version). It has a huge variety of mindfulness sessions available on a wide range of topics, plus thousands of free podcast episodes and talks.
In an ideal world, you’d be able to quickly access affordable therapy by going through your GP, but the reality is that this is not possible for a lot of people.
If you’re worried about the cost of therapy, go to your GP to discuss your options anyway, even if you’re wary of long waiting lists. In some areas talking therapies are provided by services who can offer discounted rates or can get you set up with students who are studying to become therapists.
You can refer yourself to an NHS psychological therapy service through the Improving Access To Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service. Anyone who is registered with a GP in England can use the service, which you can find here.
IAPT is unfortunately not currently available in Wales or Scotland.
If you’re going to pay to see a private therapist, make sure you’re seeing someone who is qualified. The NHS recommends that they’re registered with a professional organisation that’s been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority. You can find these organisations here, and you can check that someone is accredited here. You can also find a therapist on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) register here.
What can I expect from talking therapy?
You’ll meet with your therapist or counsellor for a number of sessions, typically once a week for an hour or so.
In your first session, they’ll introduce themselves and how things will work and you’ll work together to figure out what you hope to get out of your sessions. Over time, you’ll cover anything your therapist thinks will help you, which might be a more general chat, questions about your experiences or more structured exercises.
Therapy can be hard going, and it’s common to feel drained after a session. As long as you’re seeing a registered and regulated professional, be assured that they have the education and experience to know what will help you.
It’s important to note here that you might not get on with your therapist, and that’s ok! It’s perfectly within your rights to request to see someone different – just like in real life, some people gel better with some people over others, and with therapy it’s no different.
Therapy can be expensive and as we’ve mentioned previously, accessing it via the NHS can see you added to the bottom of a very long waiting list.
There are many online therapy providers who aim to make therapy more accessible by being both cheaper and more convenient than IRL therapy.
Some are exactly the same as in-person talking therapies, but taking place over the internet and there are even some apps that use AI or chatbots to give you a safe space to talk things through.
Talkspace boasts of helping 1 million users and provides what it calls ‘meaningful therapy’ online. It’s based in the US and starts at $65 a week, but it does offer unlimited messaging with your therapist which may be helpful for some.
Another app for digital therapy that is delivered by real therapists is BetterHelp, which positions itself as the world’s largest counselling service. BetterHelp is also US based and starts at $60 a week.
The UK Therapy Guide has a list of UK-based therapists who offer online sessions and who charge per session, which you can find here.
Chatbots and AI
Ok so this sounds weird, but there is value to be found in talking to a chatbot or AI. A popular app for this is Wysa. which offers an AI chat and tool packs for anxiety and depression. You can also access live therapy with a qualified mental health professional for $100 a month.
There’s also the Woebot app, which uses ‘self-care expert’ AI.
The power of peer support cannot be underestimated, and that’s where the success of support groups lie. If you can’t access professional support, or your struggles are mild enough for you to want to deal with them on your own, a support group may be a good way of receiving a little extra support.
Talk About It Mate is a great community that gets people talking, with the aim to make mental health just as important as our physical health. They do in-person support groups in Manchester, but have recently switched to offering online support thanks to COVID-19.
7Cups is a free online community where you can chat about whatever’s on your mind with a dedicated listener, or you can join support chat rooms. It’s important to note that these ‘listeners’ are volunteers and other users of the site, so you won’t be chatting with mental health professionals, although they do offer online therapy with licensed therapists from $150 a month. But nevertheless, it does sometimes help just to chat to someone.
The mental health charity MIND has a huge list of peer support groups here, although be aware that COVID-19 may have changed things.
Charities have a big role in mental health support provision in the UK. They rely on donations and volunteers which can hamper their efforts to provide support and fill in the gaps left by the NHS, but you may find that mental health charities can offer a lot of support.
The Samaritans is a biggie. Their vision is that fewer people die by suicide and they work tirelessly to be there for people who need them, answering a call for help every six seconds. If you need someone to talk to, you can get in touch with them in a variety of ways – by phone on 116 123 (with a Welsh language version on 0808 164 0123) or via email on [email protected] You can also write a letter to them if you don’t need immediate help:
PO Box 9090
The Samaritans offer an incredibly valuable service, but as you can probably imagine, they’re usually very busy. If you’re not in need of urgent help, it’s probably best to try another avenue, but they’re always around no matter what you’re going through.
Rethink Mental Illness has a comprehensive website with a lot of information and support, and they also offer support groups.
CALM (aka the Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a leading movement against suicide. They have a helpline which is open from 5pm – midnight on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat option which is also open from 5pm – midnight. As with the Samaritans, be aware that they’re swamped since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NHS has a huge list of mental health charities that can provide detailed advice on a variety of mental health conditions. Find the list here.
Books and podcasts
There’s an initiative called Reading Well, also known as ‘Books on Prescription’, which collates a list of books recommended by health professionals. You can get a list of the books recommended here, and all books should be available to borrow from your local library. Some titles are also available to borrow as e-books.
Reading books might not be for everyone, but if you’re interested in learning more about why you feel as you do and want some tried and tested ideas for beginning to overcome your struggles, a book is not a bad shout. They’re not like textbooks, they’re accessible and written for the average guy. Some are even personal stories.
If podcasts are more your thing, there are loads of podcasts focusing on mental health. This is a good list of popular mental health podcasts, and there’s another one here. And here. See, we told you there were loads.
The NHS has a series of 5 mental wellbeing audio guides here.
They’re not podcasts, but we also enjoy TED Talks, and they have a huge range of talks on the subject of wellbeing and mental health, which you can find here.
We hope this list of mental health resources is helpful, and hopefully this list goes some way to proving that struggling with your mental health or general wellbeing is REALLY common.
Seeking support can be really tough, and the parts afterwards are hard too, where you actually have to do the work and learn to look after your mental health. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as there is support out there, and you are most definitely not alone.
If there’s anything you’ve found helpful, email [email protected] and we’ll add it to the page.