Where to turn for help if you're struggling with low mood, loneliness or despair
If you're struggling with your mental health, you're not alone - and there are plenty of people and resources out there to help.
Mental illness can appear in a variety of forms, from depression to OCD and anxiety, and it's estimated that around one in four people will experience mental illness in their lifetime.
However bad or low you may be feeling, it's important to remember that you will not feel this way forever. You deserve help, and there is plenty out there available, all year round.
If you need urgent help now
If you have seriously harmed yourself and your life is in immediate danger, call 999 immediately for help, or go to your local A&E if you feel able.
If you can't get through, call 111 for help.
Remember that you will not be wasting anyone's time by getting help in a crisis - mental health is as important as physical health.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts and need to talk, there is support available for you 24 hours a day. The Samaritans can be reached any time, anywhere in the UK at 116 123 or over email at [email protected] for completely free, non-judgemental help.
Alternatively, you can text "SHOUT" to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text "YM" if you're under 19.
Help for ongoing issues
The Samaritans are not just there for urgent or emergency situations. You can also contact them anytime you are struggling - they will always be there to listen.
Talking about your issues can often be hard, and sometimes the last thing you want to do when you're feeling low, but talking will always feel better than bottling everything up.
Your family and friends will want to help you. You should remember that you are not a burden on them, and they would much rather you shared your thoughts and feelings than keeping them a secret.
If you find it hard to talk with your friends and family face to face about these issues, you may find it easier to talk while doing an activity together, such as going for a walk or jog. Sometimes focusing on the activity and speaking side-to-side rather than face to face makes it easier to share difficult thoughts.
Alternatively, you could try texting or emailing, if you don't feel up to chatting in person.
If you don't feel ready to talk to friends and family, please consider speaking with a mental health charity. There's a charity for almost every kind of mental health issue you may be experiencing, from stress to panic attacks. The NHS has an extensive list of these charities and their contact details available.
Of course, just talking about your issues may not be sufficient in the long-term, and there is professional help available to those who need it. You can either talk to your GP about your mental health, and they may refer you to counselling, or you can refer yourself directly through the NHS wesbite.
Your GP may also offer you anti-depressants. While it is important to carefully consider whether this is the right option for you, remember that there is no shame or weakness in using medicine to help you with your mental health. Such treatments can be hugely effective in helping you cope day to day.
Planning for a crisis
It may help to plan ahead for a crisis if it's likely you will experience one in the future. Staying Safe has an entire website designed to help you make a plan of action.
It may also help to keep a journal of your activities, thoughts and feelings - even just a few short notes. Doing so could help you better identify what factors lead to you feeling worse or better, and improve at managing your mental health.
Your mood and mental health can be hugely affected by lifestyle factors, such as how much alcohol you drink, or how much you exercise.
When you are feeling low, it can be incredibly difficult to look after yourself by eating well and exercising, and you should not beat yourself up if you are finding this difficult.
If you are struggling, there is help out there for you. For problems with drinking or eating, there are mental health charities which can help in this area specifically - such as alcoholics anonymous (0800 917 7650, 24-hour helpline, alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk) and Beat (0808 801 0677 (adults), or 0808 801 0711 (for under-18s) b-eat.co.uk).
Exercise plays a huge role in influencing our mood, but the will to get out can be hard to do alone. You could try arranging walks - no matter how short - with your friends and family, or consider joining a local exercise group to incentivise yourself to get outside.
Even very small changes to your lifestyle - such as cutting out fizzy drinks or going on a short walk every day - can make a huge difference.