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First Response is a helpline for people of all ages in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who need urgent mental health support. 
If you are experiencing something that makes you feel unsafe, distressed or worried about your mental health telephone the First Response helpline and the phone number is 111 option 2. The helpline is available all day, every day.



Many of us can feel sad or low at times but this can be a perfectly normal response to life events. However, when this feeling persists for a long time and particularly if accompanied by physical symptoms, you may be experiencing depression.

Common symptoms:

·       Feeling low in mood for several weeks

·       Sleeping more or less than usual

·       Eating more or less than usual

·       Difficulties with concentration

·       Lacking energy to get through the day (or feeling agitated or restless if also experiencing )

·       No longer enjoying the things you used to

·       Avoiding other people

·       Feeling irritable or grumpy

·       Experiencing negative thoughts such as hopelessness, helplessness and/or worthlessness

·       Not washing or caring for yourself or your appearance in the way you usually would

Negative thoughts can be in relation to how you feel about yourself or your situation. Sometimes this can feel overwhelming and can lead you to have thoughts of wanting to self-harm or of suicide.

What you can do:

Depression is treatable and talking therapies are very effective. Finding a trusted person you can talk with is helpful. There are also things you can do to help yourself. See our self-help for depression for some ideas.



Our brains and bodies are designed to recognise threats and react quickly in order to protect ourselves. Therefore, it is natural to experience worries or fear in certain situations. However, when you find yourself consumed by worries that prevent you from doing the things you want to in life, or are worried or fearful of things you know rationally are not dangerous, it is time to ask for help.

Common symptoms:
·       Feeling overwhelmed by worries about what could happen (What if?)
·       Heart racing
·       Breathing fast
·       Sweaty palms
·       Feeling or being sick
·       Upset tummy
·       An urge to get away
·       Feeling angry or irritable
·       Avoiding situations that make you feel anxious
·       Trouble sleeping due to anxious thoughts
·       Imagining the worst
·       Not being able to problem solve your worries, feeling paralysed by them

What you can do:
Talking with someone is the first step in getting help. There are also things you can do to help yourself such as practising relaxation exercises and Mindfulness. See our self-help for anxiety for other tips.



People can harm themselves in a range of ways for a wide variety of reasons. This can vary from behaviours such as smoking, drinking or using substances, to cutting or burning oneself or ingesting toxic substances.

Self-harm can be a very misunderstood behaviour and people who engage in it can be worried that they will be labelled as “attention-seeking”. This is a most unhelpful label as we all need attention. Some people will be very open about their self-harm, others are extremely secretive and may feel ashamed, guilty or embarrassed.

Types of self-harm:

·       Drinking alcohol to excess

·       Substance use

·       Engaging in risky behaviours

·       Scratching at the skin

·       Punching walls

·       Hitting your head

·       Starving oneself

Reasons people might self-harm:

·       To release feelings that are intolerable

·       To change emotional pain into physical pain

·       To feel “something” when otherwise feeling numb or empty

·       To communicate distress to others when unable to in any other way

·       To punish oneself

·       To elicit some form of care (by needing to attend A&E/GP surgery)

·       To feel in control

What you can do:

Let someone know whom you feel comfortable with. Let them help you. Make sure you get any significant injuries treated appropriately by attending your GP walk-in centre or A&E department.

See our self-help guide for alternative coping strategies.

Image by Priscilla Du Preez


People can experience suicidal thoughts at times of extreme stress or after prolonged periods of low mood. These can vary in intensity from fleeting thoughts of not feeling able to go on up to planning exactly how to end your life.

Common thoughts and feelings:

·       Feeling overwhelmed and that you can’t go on

·       Feeling hopeless

·       Feeling like there is no point anymore

·       Feeling alone

·       Thinking people would be better off without you

·       Thinking there is no way out

·       Feeling like nothing is ever going to change or get better

·       Thinking that no one cares

·       Being unable to see a future for yourself

·       Feeling like no one can help you

·       Feeling like a burden to others

·       Urges to self-harm

·       Self-harm not feeling as effective anymore

What you can do:

There is help, you are not alone. These feelings do pass, but you need support to help them pass and keep them from resurfacing. Many people who have experienced suicidal thoughts go on to live satisfying and fulfilling lives.

If you are experiencing active suicidal thoughts, you can get help immediately from:

·       First Response Service by ringing 111 and choosing Option 2

·       Contact the Samaritans on 116 123

·       Go to your nearest A&E department

See our self-help guide for other ways of managing suicidal thoughts.

Signs & Symptoms: Donate
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