Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Mental health

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland.

Coronavirus – mental health support

It’s important to take care of your mental health, and there’s support available to help you. NHS inform has advice on staying informed about coronavirus, keeping connected and getting support. 

Get information on supporting your mental well-being on NHS inform.  

The Clear your head website also has ideas and resources to support your mental well-being.

If you need help

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and you already get help from your GP, phone your GP or care team first. If you can’t talk to them, call 111 to speak to NHS 24.

You might find it helpful to talk to someone, for example through Breathing Space or Samaritans. Check how to get help with your mental health on NHS inform

What is mental health

Mental health is sometimes described as 'emotional health' or 'well-being'. It's an important part of overall health and can be adversely affected by life events such as the end of a relationship or a death, or by mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.

Mental well-being means different things to different people but is likely to involve feelings of being in control, a degree of satisfaction with life, self-esteem, optimism and a sense of belonging.

What are mental health problems

Mental health problems can be temporary or permanent and affect a person’s mental well-being. The most common problems are anxiety and depression, but others include schizophrenia, personality disorders, eating disorders and dementia.

Mental health problems affect different people in different ways and vary in terms of how long they last and how they affect people’s everyday lives. People can and do recover from mental health problems. The length of time it takes to recover is different for different people.

If you think you have a mental health problem

There are a number of things you can do if you think you have a mental health problem. Many people find it difficult to ask for help, but there are a wide range of services available and you can choose the services that appeal to you. For example, you might find it easier to phone a helpline rather than speak to a GP face to face. You could:

The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) has online guides and a list of services to which people can refer themselves if they're concerned about their mental health.

Feeling suicidal

Some people who are experiencing a mental health problem might find themselves feeling suicidal. The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) has produced a helpful booklet called 'Suicide - living with your thoughts' , which has strategies for dealing with your thoughts, suggestions to keep yourself safe and a list of sources of help.

Self-harming

Some people who are experiencing a mental health problem might self-harm as a way of coping with emotional distress. The people around a person who self-harms can often be affected by it too. You can find more information about self-harm on NHS inform.

What to do in an emergency

If you need help urgently, you could call Breathing Space, NHS 24 or 999 for an ambulance.

If you're feeling suicidal, plan to attempt suicide and have the means to carry it out now, you can call 999. You can stay on the line and talk to someone while you wait for help to arrive.

If you're concerned about someone who you think needs help urgently, you can call social services or NHS 24. Call 999 if you can’t get through anywhere else.

If you're concerned about someone else's mental health

If you're concerned about someone else's mental health and it feels appropriate, you could try asking them how they are. Sometimes just talking to someone who is willing to listen can be very helpful and make people feel less alone with their problems.

If the person has been having problems for some time, you might want to check if they know where to get more help. You could suggest any of the sources of help listed above.

You could also contact the local authority social work department. The local authority has specific duties to investigate, assess and support someone who has mental health problems in the community. Read more about community care assessments.

Sometimes the situation can be very serious and the person might need medical help right away. There are a number of things you can do in an emergency - see above.

Going to your GP

Going to your GP might be the first step you take towards getting help for your mental health problem. Your GP might:

  • refer you to a counsellor, a therapist or a specialist who might be part of your local community health team, for example a psychiatrist.
  • prescribe medication like anti-depressants.

If you have a preference about what type of treatment you'd like to receive, you should tell your GP.

If you’re not currently registered with a GP, you can find details of local GP surgeries on NHS inform.

Medical records

You might be concerned about your GP or other healthcare professional recording details about your mental health on your medical records. You have a right to see your medical records, and if you disagree with anything, you can ask for the information to be changed. There's more information about accessing your health records on NHS inform.

Your medical records won't be given to people who aren't involved in your medical care without your consent, except under specific circumstances. There's information about confidentiality on NHS inform.

Getting help in the community

Many people who want help for a mental health problem can get the help they need in their community through either their GP or a community health team.

There are often local support groups for people with mental health problems. A local association for mental health might be able to provide a list of groups, as might some national groups. Breathing Space is a confidential phoneline for anyone in Scotland who is feeling low, anxious or depressed.

Local authorities have specific duties to people with mental health problems and might be able to provide a range of services after a community care assessment.

Independent advocacy

If you're looking for support and are finding it hard to get the support you want, you might want to find an independent advocate. An independent advocate is someone who can help you find the information you need, express your own opinions and make your own decisions. They can also speak on your behalf in situations where you feel unable to do so.

You shouldn't have to pay to use an independent advocate. Health boards and local authorities have a legal duty to meet the costs of independent advocacy for people suffering from mental illness.

The Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA) works to promote independent advocacy. There's a directory of advocacy organisations across Scotland on the SIAA website.

If you're worried that your mental health might get worse, you could talk to an independent advocate about whether to write an advance statement or choose someone to look after your interests.

Getting help in hospital

Some people with mental health problems will need to go into hospital. You can be admitted to hospital either with your consent or, in some circumstances, without your consent.

If you've agreed to go to hospital voluntarily, the staff can't give you any treatment without your consent. You can leave hospital when you want, but you should discuss this first with the hospital staff. If the staff don't think you're well enough to leave, they might decide to keep you in hospital.

You can be admitted to hospital without your consent. This is sometimes called being sectioned or detained. You might be able to appeal against the decision to detain you. The rules about being admitted to hospital without your consent and your rights while you're in hospital are complicated. To find out more contact the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland. There's a guide to consent to treatment on the Scottish government website.

Advance statements about treatment

If you have a mental health problem and are concerned about the types of treatment that you might receive if you become ill, you can write an advance statement. This is a written statement, drawn up and witnessed when you're well. It sets out your views about the treatment you'd prefer to receive or not receive if you become mentally ill and are too ill to make decisions. For example, you might have views about whether you'd like to be given certain medications, therapies or treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

The Mental Welfare Commission has produced a guide to advance statements and an advance statement template with some examples. You can find these materials on the Mental Welfare Commission website.

Choosing someone to look after your interests

If you're likely to need compulsory treatment for your mental health problem, you can appoint a named person to safeguard and represent your interests. This person will be involved in decisions about any treatment given under compulsory measures. They will have the same rights as you to be notified, attend and be represented at a mental health tribunal, which has to deal with applications for compulsory measures.

A named person can be anyone aged 16 or over whom you trust and who has a good understanding of what you might want or not want. Your named person could be a relative or a friend. There's a comprehensive guide to appointing a named person on the Scottish government website.

Carers

A carer is someone who regularly cares for and supports a person with a mental health problem. The carer can be a spouse, relative, friend or neighbour and might not describe themselves as a carer. The carer doesn't have to live with the person they support, as they might provide emotional support from a distance. If someone helps a person with a mental health problem as part of their job, they're not considered a carer.

A carer isn't the same as a named person, although a carer can become a named person.

The rights and views of carers must be taken into consideration as much as possible when any decisions are being made about care and treatment for the person with the mental health problem.

There's information about the rights of carers on the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland website, including a good practice guide for practitioners and carers. There's also a guide to the rights of carers on the Scottish government website.

Help for carers

You can read more about help and support for carers. There's also information about help for carers on the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland website.

Equal Partners in Care is an online resource developed by NHS Education Scotland and the Scottish Social Services Council. The practice guidance section has links to guidance and good practice for supporting carers of people with mental health problems. It's available on the Knowledge Network website.

Human rights and discrimination

You might be concerned that treatment you've received for your mental health problem has breached your human rights, for example your right to respect for private and family life or your right not to be treated in an inhumane or degrading way. If you think a public authority, such as the NHS, has breached your human rights, you'll need to get specialist advice.

If you have a mental health problem, or even if other people think you have one, you might experience discrimination. This means that you might be treated unfairly because of your mental health, for example at work or when you're trying to access goods or services. This might amount to disability discrimination.

If you think your human rights are being breached or you're being treated unfairly because of a mental health problem, you can get advice about what to do.

Free mental health support

You can call a helpline if you're experiencing problems with your mental health. Some organisations can also support you over webchat or email. 

Remember that if you need help urgently, you could call Breathing Space, NHS 24 or 999 for an ambulance.

If you're feeling suicidal, plan to attempt suicide and have the means to carry it out now, you can call 999. You can stay on the line and talk to someone while you wait for help to arrive.

Breathing Space

Breathing Space is a free and confidential phone line for anybody experiencing low mood or depression. 

Breathing Space
Helpline: 0800 83 85 87
Website: http://breathingspace.scot

Childline

A free helpline for children and young people. The number won't show up on your phone bill. 

ChildLine (Scotland)
NSPCC Scotland
Templeton House
62 Templeton Street
Glasgow
G40 1DA

Tel: 0141 420 3816
Freephone helpline: 0800 1111
Email: scotland@nspcc.org.uk

Papyrus (for people under 35)

A free helpline for people under 35 who are experiencing thoughts of suicide. Or anyone concerned that a young person could be thinking about suicide. 

PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide
Lineva House
28-32 Milner Street
Warrington
Cheshire
WA5 1AD

Phone:  01925 572 444 (Monday to Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm)
Email: admin@papyrus-uk.org
Website: www.papyrus-uk.org

National confidential helpline - HOPELineUK

Phone: 0800 068 41 41 (Everyday 9am to Midnight)

Samaritans

Samaritans offers confidential, emotional support over the phone, face to face or online to anyone who is feeling distress or despair. You don't have to be feeling suicidal to contact Samaritans. It's available 24 hours a day. 

Samaritans
Write to us at:
Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK
Chris
PO Box 9090
Stirling
FK8 2SA

Helpline: 116 123 (free from landlines and mobiles - Monday to Sunday 24 hours a day)
Welsh Language Line: 0300 123 3011 (Monday to Sunday from 7.00pm to 11.00pm)
Admin tel: 020 8394 8300 (General Office), 029 2022 2008 (Wales), 0131 556 7058 (Scotland)
Helpline email: jo@samaritans.org
Admin email: admin@samaritans.org
Website: www.samaritans.org

Other help

Mental Welfare Commission

The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland is an independent statutory body. It has a duty to safeguard the interests of people who are mentally unwell through illness or have a learning disability, whether in hospital or in the community. It has a particular duty to check that practitioners follow the principles about providing services and compulsory treatment. Anyone with a mental disorder or their carers can contact the Mental Welfare Commission.

Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland
Thistle House
91 Haymarket Terrace
Edinburgh
EH12 5HE

Advice line for service users and carers: 0800 389 6809 (Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm, Friday 9am to 4.30pm)
Tel: 0131 313 8777
Fax: 0131 313 8778
Email: enquiries@mwcscot.org.uk
Website: www.mwcscot.org.uk

NHS inform

NHS inform is a national health information service for Scotland. NHS inform:

  • gives information on health and welfare topics, including medical conditions and patient rights
  • answers common health questions
  • uses an interpretation service called Language Line to support callers who can't or prefer not to speak English
  • has links to local information across Scotland and an online enquiry service.

NHS inform
Tel: 0800 22 44 88
Textphone users: 18001 0800 22 44 88
Website: www.nhsinform.scot

NHS Living Life

NHS Living Life is an appointment-based telephone counselling service based on a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach. The service is available to anyone over 16 suffering low mood, mild to moderate depression or anxiety. Calls are free and confidential. Callers are asked to provide some details and then an appointment is arranged to discuss the service and how help can be provided. 

NHS Living Life
You might be referred by your GP, or you can phone the service directly on 0800 328 9655. Calls are free and confidential. Find out more about NHS Living Life.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH)

The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) provides information about mental health issues for the public, carers and interested organisations.

Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH)
Brunswick House
51 Wilson Street
Glasgow
G1 1UZ

Tel: 0141 530 1000
Email: enquire@samh.org.uk
Website: www.samh.org.uk

The Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA)

The Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA) promotes independent advocacy in Scotland. There are leaflets about different types of advocacy and a 'find an advocate' page on the SIAA website to help you find advocacy organisations in your area.

Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA)
18 York Place
Edinburgh
EH1 3EP

Tel: 0131 524 1975
Email: enquiry@siaa.org.uk
Website: www.siaa.org.uk

Steps for Stress

Steps for Stress is part of a Scottish government campaign to provide information about stress and offer practical advice and signposting to sources of help. You can find information about breathing and relaxation exercises for stress on the NHS inform website.

Did this advice help?
Why wasn't this advice helpful?

Please tell us more about why our advice didn't help.

Did this advice help?

Thank you, your feedback has been submitted.