England only has one antidepressant withdrawal helpline – and it’s closing.
This will be scary news for many, as the nationwide service, called the Bristol Tranquilliser Project, won’t be replaced once it’s gone.
Funding for the helpline has been withdrawn, and it’s up to local services to plug the gap this will leave.
While nothing quite like it exists, there are some other avenues to keep in mind for support after coming off of antidepressants.
Just because your treatment is over, doesn’t mean your GP’s responsibility to you as a patient is.
It’s important to speak to your doctor before stopping, but if you have issues after stopping, you can always arrange to see them again and discuss what might work for you.
Though there isn’t a direct replacement for the helpline closing down, there are other mental health helplines you can contact.
Running 24/7, there’s the Samaritans on 116 123, though it’s a talk service, rather than a place to get advice. It can be a safe space in which to talk freely.
You can also call 111, which is available for mental health concerns that aren’t emergencies.
The mental health charity Mind, also recommends these helplines:
- SANEline. If you’re experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).
- National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK. Offers a supportive listening service to anyone with thoughts of suicide. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK on 0800 689 5652 (6pm to midnight every day).
- Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). You can call the CALM on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) if you are struggling and need to talk. Or if you prefer not to speak on the phone, you could try the CALM webchat service.
- Shout. If you would prefer not to talk but want some mental health support, you could text SHOUT to 85258. Shout offers a confidential 24/7 text service providing support if you are in crisis and need immediate help.
- The Mix. If you’re under 25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994 (3pm–midnight every day), request support by email using this form on The Mix website or use their crisis text messenger service.
- Papyrus HOPELINEUK. If you’re under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling, you can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 (24 hours, 7 days a week), email [email protected] or text 07786 209 697.
- Nightline. If you’re a student, you can look on the Nightline website to see if your university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.
- Switchboard. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 (10am–10pm every day), email [email protected] or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.
- C.A.L.L. If you live in Wales, you can call the Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L.) on 0800 132 737 (open 24/7) or you can text ‘help’ followed by a question to 81066.
- Helplines Partnership. For more options, visit the Helplines Partnership website for a directory of UK helplines. Mind’s Infoline can also help you find services that can support you. If you’re outside the UK, the Befrienders Worldwide website has a tool to search by country for emotional support helplines around the world.
Counselling and therapy
Talking services, like counselling and therapy can help.
There’s options on the NHS – though these can have long waiting lists – or find out if you employee offers the Employee Assistant Programme which offers various types of therapies.
Programmes offered through work are usually time limited, free and confidential – your boss won’t know you’ve used them.
Withdrawal symptoms, according to the NHS:
Antidepressants are not addictive in the same way that illegal drugs and cigarettes are, but you may have some withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them.
You’ll be advised to reduce your dose gradually to help avoid withdrawal symptoms.
These can include:
- an upset stomach
- flu-like symptoms
- vivid dreams at night
- sensations in the body that feel like electric shocks
In most cases, these are quite mild and last no longer than 1 or 2 weeks, but occasionally they can be quite severe.
They seem to be most likely to occur with paroxetine (Seroxat) and venlafaxine (Efexor).
Contact a doctor if you get withdrawal symptoms and they do not improve after 1 or 2 weeks or they get worse.
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