Mythbusting.  Getting help for mental health is easier than you might think.

Truth or Myth? You need to be referred by a doctor for mental health support

Myth. Mental health issues can be complex and vary widely in severity. It is not always clear to the sufferer if their symptoms amount to a defined illness and even if they would like to seek help, the prospect of being diagnosed with a mental health condition – and the stigma that goes with it – can be daunting. Therefore, it’s good to know that anyone can get help without it becoming a note on their GP records.

NHS mood indicator

If you are worried that you or one of your employees may have minor or even major symptoms of mental ill health, the NHS have an online ‘mood indicator’ that can help in the first instance. It asks questions on common causes and indicators of stress or depression and then gives you a possible diagnosis and severity rating with information on the next steps you should take to gain help or advice.

No matter if the worries stem from work or home, there are several government schemes which allow anybody to apply for free and impartial advice on how to cope. The levels of intervention vary scheme by scheme and can be accessed both via self-referral or referral by a GP.

Access to Work scheme

One of these resources is the Access to Work scheme, which aims specifically to help those suffering from mental health issues that are impacting on their work. As long as you are employed, if you have symptoms of stress or other mental health conditions and if you feel that those symptoms are impacting on your ability to do your job or continue attending work, you qualify for the Access to Work scheme. Without the need for a formal diagnosis.

The Access to Work mental health support service is free and offers employees support for a 26 week period. The employee seeking support may be absent from work or at work but concerned about their ability to continue working. Referrals can be made by the individuals themselves or with the help of a third party, such as the employer. The support is entirely confidential and although the consultants will aim to involve the employer in the rehabilitation process, this is done on the employees’ terms. Best and most lasting results can be achieved when the employee and employer work together to find a long term plan for maintaining the employee in employment so the consultants will try to help the employee achieve the necessary level of trust and cooperation with their management.

Anonymous helplines may also be a stepping stone toward resolving mental health problems. The Helplines Partnership lists all available mental health helplines and contact details for further advice and help. The NHS wellbeing pages also list many helplines and help centres as well as providing fact sheets for positive mental health and wellbeing.

Early intervention is most effective

It is best to get help as early as possible so even if you or your employee are suffering from only a few or only minor symptoms of stress or depression, it is best to research the options before the situation exacerbates. Where possible, managers should be mindful of the warning signs and help employees by signposting them to support resources where relevant.