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What is mental health?

Good mental health is about feeling well in your own mind. Some people call mental health 'emotional health' or 'emotional well-being' and it's just as important as good physical health.

If you're in good mental health, you can:

  • make the most of your potential
  • cope with life and the problems that you encounter
  • play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends

Our mental health can change over time. This can be because of life events which cause distress or unhappiness, or it can happen with no apparent cause. These changes can lead to mental health difficulties or illness. 

Mental health difficulties are very common and affect one in four of us at some point in our lives. In spite of this people experiencing them may feel afraid that no one will understand them, that the problem is 'all in their head', and that they won't be taken seriously, or that what they are experiencing is unusual and out of the ordinary. Quite the reverse is true  - lots of people around us are experiencing similar problems, and mental health difficulties are nothing to be ashamed of.

A mental health difficulty, such as consistently feeling sad or angry, which goes on for a long time, or has a serious effect on your life, is often termed a mental illness.

A diagnosis of mental illness is usually made by a doctor, who may suggest a number of treatments such as medication, counselling or therapy. In many cases these treatments can be very effective and help you get back to a state of good mental health.

There are a large number of recognised mental health conditions that doctors can diagnose and treat. Many of them are described in this section of the website - see the menu on the left of your screen. 

If you have concerns about your mental health, speak to your GP. They will ask you questions about your mood and any strange or negative thoughts or feelings you may have been experiencing, to help to understand what is wrong and make a diagnosis. If necessary they will refer you on for more specialist support.

Other information and advice

Please see the Other information and Advice page for organisations and services that support people with experience of mental health issues.