Doctors sometimes prescribe medication to treat mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, OCD and ADHD.

Medication isn’t usually the first thing a doctor will offer you to help with your mental health.

When medication is used

Often, a doctor will suggest some other things you can try first, before offering medication. For example, things you can do to improve your sleep, exercising regularly, and getting into a regular routine.

You might also be recommended a talking therapy like CBT or counselling.

There’s lots of research to show that, for some people, these things can work just as well as medication, or even better - and they can help you to feel well for longer.

Even if you are given medication, a doctor will often suggest you do some of these other things while you’re taking it.

If you need medication

Some people do need medication to help them feel better.

This might be because they’ve already tried other things which haven’t worked for them, or because of the type of mental health condition they have.

If you do need medication, the way you get it is usually slightly different depending on whether you’re under 18, or 18 or older.

If you’re under 18

If you’re under 18, it’s unlikely that you’ll be given medication by your regular doctor (your GP).

You’ll usually only be offered medication by a mental health specialist - known as a psychiatrist - who is trained to work with children and young people.

If your doctor thinks medication might help you, they’ll refer you to talk to a specialist mental health team, who can help to work out exactly what you need.

If you’re 18 or over

If you’re over 18, your GP might offer you medication.

They’ll talk to you about the different types of medication that might help, how long you’ll need to take them, and any side effects you might get.

Taking medication

If you are given medication to take, your doctor will arrange to check-in with you so they can see how well it’s working.

Not everybody gets side effects from taking medication. If you do get side effects, you’ll be able to talk to your doctor about them at your check-ins, and they can help you understand how to manage them.

Some medication takes a little while to work, so you might need to take it for a few weeks before you start to feel better.

And everybody is different, so you might need to try a few different things to find the right medication for you.

Asking for help with your mental health

If you’re struggling with your mental health, the first step is to tell someone you trust. For example, your doctor, a family member, teacher or a school nurse.

They can help you to understand all of the options available to you, including things you might not know about.

Read more about how to ask for help with your mental health.