Alternative Support


Readers of Asylum magazine occasionally say to us ‘it’s all very well critiquing the mental health system, but where are the alternative sources of help?’ In order to address that we have made a list of resources giving practical support to help people cope with mental distress.

Additionally, we have compiled a list of places in the UK – not part of the mental health system – that support people experiencing mental distress and madness. If there are resources in your local area that should be on the list, please let us know.

We are always interested in feedback – both positive and negative – from people who have used any of these ‘alternatives’, and from workers who have had contact with them.  If you would like to share your experiences, or write a review of them, please contact us.

We would like to include discussion about these in future pages of ASYLUM Magazine.

Contact us at: [email protected] with ‘alternative sources of support’ as the heading, or write to: Asylum Magazine, PCCS Books Wyastone Business Park, Wyastone Leys Monmouth, NP25 3SR


Coming off psychiatric medication

Coming Off Psychiatric Medication

Harm Reduction Guide to Coming off Psychiatric Drugs and Withdrawal – by the Icarus Project and Freedom Center.

International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal 

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal – a webinar series

Surviving Antidepressants  – provides volunteer peer support for antidepressant withdrawal

The Withdrawal Project – Inner Compass withdrawal resources

Coping with hearing voices and unusual beliefs

Hearing Voices Network – includes list of hearing voices groups in England, Wales and Scotland Tel: 0114 2718210

Intervoice – the international community for hearing voices, includes ‘the practical guide to coping with voices’:

Beyond Belief – Alternative ways of working with delusions, obsessions and unusual experiences’ by Tamasin Knight. Book which includes self help strategies for people living with ‘unusual’ or distressing beliefs and things friends, relatives and professionals can do to help. Free to download.

Rufus May’s Website


Emerging Proud – aiming to expand the public perception of ‘normal’ all over the world.  

Living with self harm

Free downloads of the self-help books ‘The Hurt Yourself Less Workbook’ and ‘Cutting the Risk: Self-Harm, Self Care & Risk Reduction:

Bristol Crisis Service for Women – includes many self help resources related to self injury, including strategies for dealing with feelings and flashbacks. Also includes a list of self injury support groups in the UK.

Coping with distress

Samaritans – provides confidential emotional support for people experiencing distress, despair and suicidal feelings: Tel: 08457 90 90 90 email: [email protected]

Spiritual Crisis Network – provides information and email support for people experiencing spiritual crisis:

Lift depression – the human givens approach – includes practical self help ways of overcoming depression.

Human Givens Institute

Inner Compass Initiative – works to support individuals to engage in curious, critical, independent self-education and inner exploration, and collectively, to help develop more interconnected, empowered and resilient grassroots communities.

Just Pull Yourself Together – lists various categories of websites on topics related to mental health. 

Helping people in crisis

See the resources above plus:

‘Where women have no doctor’ – Chapter 13 mental health – by Hesperian. Book designed for those living in countries with few health care resources, describes practical, non-medical ways to help women experiencing mental health problems. Free to download.

First aid for emotional trauma.

Helping others in crisis.

Responding to people who have self-harmed

Rape Crisis Centres – provide support to people who have experienced sexual violence. Telephone: 0808 802 99 99 (open 12n-2.30pm /7pm-9.30 every day)


Art and Creative Writing

Start2 is an exciting online wellbeing resource that uses art and creative activities to boost your health.  Start2 is full of ideas that anyone and everyone can enjoy regardless of experience of doing creative activity.


Alternative places of support in the UK

The projects and support services listed below have been advertised as ‘alternatives’, however we have not visited them all, and so we can’t necessarily vouch for them. We offer them as examples in good faith without any endorsement. We are always interested in both positive and negative feedback from people who have used any of these places of support, and from workers who have had contact with them. If you would like to share your experiences, or write a review of any of the places below, please contact us, our details are given above.


England: South West

Bridge Collective, Exeter. A democratic community of mutual support run by people who have experiences, beliefs, and feelings that have sometimes been labelled as mental illness: Tel: 01392 433358

Counselling for Social Change, Cornwall. Counselling for Social Change offers an accepting and confidential space to discuss any issues currently affecting your life and work. We work in a supportive and empathic way to help you through life’s challenges.

Bristol Sanctuary.  A place which feels safe, comfortable and welcoming where people who are experiencing severe emotional distress can go for help out of normal working hours. Tel: 0117 9542952

England: South East

Community Housing and Therapy, London. A registered charity that runs therapeutic communities and believes that all people, regardless of financial circumstances, should have access to psychotherapy and not just medication. Tel: 020 7381 5888

Dialogue First.  A non-crisis community mental health service, run by NELFT NHS Foundation Trust which accepts referrals from primary care anywhere in the UK.  All staff have undertaken training in Open Dialogue. Tel: 0300 555 1201 ext. 54005 

Drayton Park Women’s Crisis House, London. Provides 12 women in mental health crisis a residential stay in a domestic setting, as an alternative to acute admission.  Tel: 020 7607 2777

Hastings Sanctuary – support for people experiencing mental health crises, run by Turning Point.

Maytree, London. A short term retreat for people who are suicidal.  Stays are free of charge: Tel: 020 7263 7070

Philadelphia Association Community Houses, London. Therapeutic houses for people going through personal crisis, serious distress or confusion. Stays are longer term, not usually for less than a year. Houses are open to people eligible for housing benefit or who can pay the low rent themselves: 020 77942652


England: Midlands

Safe Haven Corby. Providing a supportive environment for individuals over the age of 18 years (living or residing in Northamptonshire) who have short term or enduring mental health problems or deem themselves in ‘crisis’.                 Tel: 01536 461414


England: North West

Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service, Leeds. Provides ‘sanctuary and support in times of crisis’. Has a telephone helpline and Dial House, a place of sanctuary where people in crisis may visit (6pm – 2am Fri-Mon), they also have group sessions: Tel (helpline): 0808 800 1212 – open 6-10.30pm every evening

Sacred Space Foundation, Cumbria. A charity providing peaceful and confidential rest and recuperation facilities. It helps those suffering from the extremes of stress, burnout, emotional exhaustion or ‘spiritual crisis’. No fixed charge for stays but a donation is requested: Tel: 01768 486868

Sharing Voices, Bradford. A community development mental health organisation for people from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities. Believes in ‘giving power back to local people or people living in distress’. Promotes self help and mutual support, runs various groups and offers one-to-one support: Tel: 01274 731166

Soteria, Bradford.  This crisis house is not a hospital and is not led by doctors or professionals but aims to offer an alternative to hospitalisation within a compassionate community. Tel: 0794 862 1976


England: North East

Holy Rood House, Centre for Health and Pastoral Care, North Yorkshire. A therapeutic residential centre working with people living with mental distress from across Britain. Mainly supported by volunteers with a team of 12 therapists – counsellors, psychotherapists, complementary therapists, arts therapists – who offer hours of their time and skills to people because they believe in the unique work of Holy Rood. Working with all areas of trauma and in particular – trauma following sexual abuse. Tel: 01845 522580



Hearing Voices Network Cymru. Includes information and a list of hearing voices groups in Wales:



HaVen, The Hearing Voices Network, Dundee. A user led charity that seeks to create acceptance that hearing voices is a valid experience. ‘Hearing voices’ is seen to include voices, visions and distressing beliefs. Runs self-help groups and social activities: Tel: 01382 223023

Respite and Recovery, Isle of Lewis. Personalised respite and recovery breaks for individuals wishing to engage with their emotional, spiritual and mental health issues in a positive way, stays are free of charge:

Lothlorien Therapeutic Community, South West Scotland. Based on the therapeutic community model, which includes principles of collective responsibility and empowerment: