How can you access different mental health services in the UK?

Mental health and learning disability services in the UK cover a very wide range of conditions and gaining access to services that are right for you can be confusing and challenging. Most NHS services require a GP referral, which may take a long time and not necessarily meet your needs.
What kind of service do you need?

Some NHS services can be accessed without GP referral or through other parts of the NHS. Examples are alcohol and drug teams or talking therapies for anxiety and depression. This varies by area, so search on the internet or ask at the library, council, or GP practice. Other specific services, including those for learning disabilities, require GP input and referral to specialist teams.

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Visit your GP

Making an appointment with your GP is a good way to understand what options are available to you on the NHS. Even if they cannot help you with an immediate solution, it may be worth getting some advice and a referral to local NHS services.

Many GPs have a lot of experience with mental health problems and can suggest various options. GPs are also familiar with looking after people with learning disabilities and can advise on challenging behaviour training as part of their care.

Ask your employer

Many employers have an occupational health service that may offer some mental health and wellbeing services including counselling, stress management and bereavement counselling. Schools and universities are also often able to provide support in these areas if approached through pastoral care.

Depending on the organisation, employers may also offer challenging behaviour training, such as that provided by to help staff dealing with the public.


There are several well-established mental health charities that provide mental health services both on behalf of the NHS and also privately. You can see what is available on their website here:

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Private providers

If you can afford it, there are many private services that you can access directly. If you use a private provider, you should ask them to supply relevant accreditation details.

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