Frequently Asked Questions

The following information will help you understand a bit more about mental health and mental health problems before you go to your GP.

What happens if my GP refers me?

If your GP feels you need more specialist help, he or she may refer you to one of our specialist mental health services.  Refer simply means that you need to see someone else as well as your GP.   This is often because they will know more about the problems you are experiencing than your GP does, so it’s easier for them to help you.

Usually you will be referred to your local Community Mental Health Team. These are based within your local area.  Your GP will contact the team for you and explain the problems you are experiencing. You will then be given an appointment with the person or people you need to see.

Being seen by a Community Mental Health Team or Primary Care Mental Health Team does not mean you’ll have to go into hospital.

Most people who are referred to these teams are cared for and treated at home, and with the right support, continue to lead active and fulfilling lives.

What happens if I'm admitted to hospital?

If the mental health problems you’re experiencing get worse or if for any reason it becomes inappropriate for you to stay at home, your GP or a member of your community team may suggest that you go into hospital for some treatment.

Usually this will be as an informal patient. This means that you are free to leave hospital and do not have to accept treatment.

Sometimes, however, people are treated as formal patients. If your GP or another health professional thinks you need hospital treatment and you refuse, you can be admitted to hospital against your wishes under one of the sections of the Mental Health Act.

Most people who are admitted to hospital stay for a short time – usually between one week and one month.

The admission process

When you first go into hospital, you may be seen by a number of different people. First of all, a nurse will ask you for some basic information about yourself. This will include your name, address, next of kin and your GP’s address. You may also have a physical examination.

You will then be interviewed by a psychiatrist so that he or she can find out how you feel at the moment and decide what treatment you need. Sometimes the nurse and the doctor will interview you together.

You will be given a tour of the ward and told how it works. You should also be given some written information about the ward you’re in. A psychiatric hospital is different to a general hospital – most patients do not stay in bed and can get up and do things around the ward and go outside the hospital with staff.

This is your chance to ask any questions. Let staff know if there’s anything you’re worried about and don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you don’t understand.

During your stay

Treatment in hospital usually involves some sort of medication. There should be information on your ward about the medication you are taking. You may also be given other non-drug treatments such as psychotherapy or occupational therapy. The nursing staff will also talk to you about your problems and help you to manage your thoughts and feelings.

You will have a named nurse who is responsible for you during your stay. You will also have a deputy for when your nurse is off duty. These can be good people to talk to if there are things you are concerned about.

While you’re in hospital, you will be involved in putting together your care plan. This is where your care and treatment is written down. It will also name one person who will be your care coordinator.

Compulsory admission to hospital

If your GP or a member of your community team feels you need hospital treatment and you refuse, you can be admitted to hospital against your wishes under various sections of the Mental Health Act. This means you are a formal patient and is often known as ‘being sectioned’ or ‘sectioning’.

If you are sectioned, you will be assessed before you go into hospital. This assessment is carried out by 3 health professionals:

  • a doctor – normally your GP
  • an approved doctor – normally a psychiatrist
  • an approved social worker (ASW) – with specialised mental health experience

These people will ask you questions to find what your state of mind is like and whether you are a danger to yourself or other people.

When you go into hospital, the admission process is the same as for an informal patient and you should be treated in the same way. However, you are not free to leave without a doctor’s consent and under some parts of the Mental Health Act you can be treated without your consent.

You must be given written information explaining which part of the act you have been admitted under and what it means to you. You do have rights and can appeal against your detention. If you have any concerns talk to the ward staff or ask for information about a local advocacy service.

How common are mental health problems?

Mental health problems can be experienced by anyone. Around 2 million people a year are diagnosed with some form of mental health problem in the UK.

Mental health problems cover a wide range of experiences, from the everyday worries and stresses we all have at some point, to more serious problems that can affect the way we live our lives.

It can often be difficult to judge when everyday feelings become a mental health problem.

For example, we all feel sad, or fed-up, or anxious sometimes. These feelings become a problem if they begin to interfere with your ability to cope with everyday life.

It is important to recognise when this happens so that you can look for support.

If you feel you are no longer able to manage the feelings you are experiencing, you should visit your GP. He or she will be able to help you.

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