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Know your rights guide

Mental Health

Find out about mental health and your options for getting support. This guide applies only in England and Wales

What is mental health?

Mental health is about how we think, feel and act. We all have mental health and need to take care of it.

Our mental health can range from good to poor.

Good mental health can help you think positively and feel good about yourself.

Poor mental health can mean you find your thoughts or feelings very difficult to cope with.

What are mental health problems?

We all feel sad, worried or angry sometimes. But if you have difficult feelings that last a long time, you may be experiencing a mental health problem. 

Lots of people experience mental health problems, and there are many different types. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Other terms you may hear, or prefer to use instead of ‘mental health problem’, include:

  • poor emotional health’
  • ‘overwhelmed’
  • ‘mental illness’
  • ‘mental ill-health’
  • ‘emotional difficulties’.

What causes mental health problems?

There are many possible causes of mental health problems. For lots of us, there may be more than one cause. 

Going through very difficult experiences may contribute to mental health problems. These experiences could be related to migration. For example:

  • if you experienced violence in your home country and had to leave
  • if you’re separated from your family and friends 
  • if you’re applying for leave to remain in the UK and aren’t sure what the outcome will be.

See Mind’s information about mental health problems to find out more. 

How can I get support for my mental health?

If you’re struggling, it’s always ok to ask for help. Even if you’re not sure if you’re experiencing a mental health problem.  

You might want to seek help if you’re:

  • worrying more than usual
  • finding it hard to enjoy your life
  • having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with.

There are different places you can try to get help for your mental health. You might find some easier to access than others. Find out about your rights for receiving medical care in the Health section of this guide. 

A doctor (GP)

Your local GP is there to help you with your mental health as well as your physical health. 

Anyone in England or Wales can register with a GP surgery. You don’t need proof of immigration status to register. You may have to register as a temporary patient if you’re staying in the area for less than three months. 

Your GP could:

  • make a diagnosis
  • offer you support and treatments (such as talking therapies and medication)
  • refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist
  • recommend local support options.

If you find it difficult to understand English, ask your GP surgery for an interpreter for your appointment. 

Will I need to pay for support and treatment?

It’s free to register with a GP surgery. Once you register, there is also no charge to see your GP.

Whether you must pay for other National Health Service (NHS) support can be complicated. It depends on things like:

  • your immigration status. For example, you won’t need to pay for most treatment if you’re a refugee or an asylum seeker with an ongoing claim.
  • your income. You may get support with health costs if you’re on a low income. For example, you could get support with paying for prescriptions in England (they are free in Wales if you are registered with a GP).
  • the type of treatment you need. NHS treatment is split into two types of care:
    • primary care, delivered by GPs and community services. Most primary care is free regardless of your immigration status 
    • secondary care, delivered by hospitals and specialists. Payment for this can depend on your immigration status. Find out about your rights for receiving medical care in the Health section of this guide.
  • whether you’ve been sectioned. If you are sectioned and detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983, you won’t have to pay for the care you receive while you are in hospital. Some people who have been sectioned can get free help and support when they leave hospital. This is called ‘section 117 aftercare’. This must be provided for free whatever your immigration status.
  • whether you’re in England or Wales. For example, in England some refused asylum seekers can’t have free NHS hospital treatment. In Wales, refused asylum seekers can have free NHS hospital treatment.

Contact Doctors of the World for advice if:

  • a GP practice refuses to register you
  • you’re worried about a hospital bill
  • you’re not sure what healthcare you can get free of charge
  • you’re struggling to access NHS treatment
  • you’re in Scotland or Northern Ireland, where different rules may apply. 

0808 1647 686 (Tuesday to Thursday, 10am to 12 Midday)

[email protected] 

Find out about your rights for receiving medical care in the Health section of this guide.

Charity and third sector organisations

There are many charities which offer support services, such as:

  • listening services. Listening lines are there for you to talk through your feelings and experiences without judging you or telling you what to do. For example, you can call Samaritans on 116 123. Or you can text SHOUT to 85258 for support over text message. Both services are free and always open  
  • information about mental health problems and support options
  • support groups with people who have shared experiences
  • talking therapies. These involve talking to a trained professional about your thoughts and feelings.

To find these services you could:

  • contact your local Mind. Local Minds are independent charities which provide mental health support. Find your local Mind on the Mind website
  • call Mind’s Infoline on 0300 123 3393, Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm. The Infoline could help you find support in your area
  • see the list below for other organisations that could help. 

See Mind’s information on seeking help for a mental health problem for more details. 

How can I get help in a crisis?

If your life is at risk right now

If you feel like you might attempt suicide, or may have seriously harmed yourself, you need urgent medical help. Please:

  • call 999 for an ambulance
  • or go straight to A&E, if you can.

If you can’t do this by yourself, ask someone to help you. 

Mental health emergencies are serious. You’re not wasting anyone’s time.

If you don’t want to call 999

If you can keep yourself safe for a short while, but you still need urgent advice:

These services may refer you on to secondary care, which you may need to pay for. Find out about your rights for receiving medical care in the Health section of this guide.

See Mind’s information on getting help in a crisis for more details.


  • It’s always ok to seek help, even if you’re not sure if you’re experiencing a mental health problem. 
  • You don’t need proof of immigration status to register with a GP. 
  • If you find it difficult to understand English, ask the service if they can provide an interpreter.

Mental Health Self Help Guide

In this guide find tips, tools and activities to support and improve your mental health. This self help guide has been written for us by the Waltham Forest Refugee Psychological Therapies Service.

For more information and support

Mind’s services

Other Organisations  

British Red Cross


0808 196 3651 (10am to 6pm daily)

Practical and emotional support, including for refugees. The British Red Cross support line is available in more than 200 languages. 

Doctors of the World


0808 1647 686 (Tuesday to Thursday 10am to 12 Midday)
[email protected]

Advice and support about accessing healthcare, including for migrants.

Helen Bamber Foundation


Support for survivors of trafficking and torture, including therapy, legal protection and housing help. 

Hub of Hope

A national database of mental health charities and organisations from across Britain who offer mental health advice and support.


Information about mental health problems and treatments, including details of local NHS services in England. For example, you might be able to refer yourself to NHS psychological therapies (IAPT) services.

Refugee Council


Information and support for refugees, including mental health services.


116 123 (freephone)

[email protected] 



Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. You can visit some Samaritans branches in person. Samaritans also have a Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).


85258 (text SHOUT)


Text message support service for people in crisis.