Understanding the NHS


What is the NHS?

The National Health Service (NHS) is England’s public healthcare system. It plays an important role in helping young people find psychological support.

The NHS offers free talking therapy to anyone over the age of 16 who is already registered with a General Practitioner (GP). This program is called ‘Improving Access to Psychological Services’, also known as IAPT. The service includes counselling, evidence-based treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and guided self-help. These are available in person, by video, Telehealth or as an online course. Other language options are also available, including services in British sign language. 

How do I access IAPT?

To access IAPT, you do not need to have a diagnosed mental health condition or a GP referral (but you can be referred by a GP if you prefer). You can refer yourself directly to the NHS IAPT services. Here's how:

  1. Register with a GP if you are not already registered.
  2. Contact your local NHS IAPT service.
  3. Someone from NHS IAPT service will get in touch, this usually takes a few weeks.
  4. They will ask you more details about the problems you are having.
  5. If they think they can help you, they will recommend a therapy for you. This is based on your symptoms and how severe they are. 
  6. Wait for your first session! But the waiting times may vary. While you wait, check out the online resources below!

Alternative Options

Mental Health Services for Children & Adolescents

If you’re under the age of 16 (or 18 in some cases) you may not be eligible for IAPT. This means you will need to access different services that are specially designed for young people. In England, we call these services Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services or CYPMHS. The old term for these services was Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), so don’t be surprised if you see this term as well. 

The most important thing to note about CYPMHS is that the services will be different depending on where you live. The first step is finding your local CYPMHS website. This will tell you how to access support, referrals and waiting lists. 

To access your local CYPMHS website:

  • Try googling your area and the term “CYPMHS”.
  • Try looking at local Integrated care board (ICB) website and search for children and young people’s mental health.
  • Look at the NHS's helpful website on how to find alternative support.

If you feel overwhelmed or lost, don’t stress - this is completely normal. It can be really hard to understand how these support services work straight away. If you feel comfortable, you could ask a parent, teacher or friend to help you. Alternatively, you can also use the Young Minds Website to talk to someone about getting help! 

Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need support. You’re not alone and there are lots of friendly adults around who will be able to help you find the support you need!

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