THE CITY // MENTAL HEALTH Resources in Aberdeen

Corridor - Royal Cornhill psychiatric hospital Aberdeen

If you or someone you love has ever had difficulty with their mental health, you'll know what a huge and scary step it can be to reach out. Because there's nothing visible to point at, you might worry that you're being too dramatic or making it up somehow. There might be concerns about putting your experience into words and getting your point across. There can be fears - big fears - about how others might react: about labels and stigma and being plain misunderstood. And there can be significant confusion about who to turn to, what to expect and what help might be available when you do reach out.

Firstly, I'd encourage you to get help as quickly as possible when you're facing any struggles with your mental health. You know yourself better than anyone else - you know what your "normal" baseline looks like and you know when things have moved away from that point. It's okay to share that with someone. You absolutely do deserve help.

Secondly, whether the help is for yourself or someone you care about, I'd always make the NHS your first point of call. We're incredibly blessed to have the health care system that this country has. Use it!

In an urgent situation, NHS24 are probably worth a call on 111. They can suggest A and E or the G-MED team, when appropriate; provide access to out-of-hours psych teams; or give you help and advice on how to manage a particular situation at the time.

On any other occasion, I'd suggest turning to your GP first of all: they act as the gatekeeper to most other services and can be an incredible support in themselves. They know how to recognise symptoms and what questions to ask to build a clearer picture; they can prescribe medication and give additional practical advice; they can help you navigate difficult areas like being signed off work; they might have their own counselling team on site; and they're best-placed to refer you on if you require more specialist support. GPs are a god-send, for the most part. If you're one of the unfortunate people whose bravery doesn't pay off that first time - if you leave feeling like you weren't taken seriously or were misunderstood - please persevere. Write things down and know that it's okay to make an appointment with a different doctor if the first one wasn't able to help.

The NHS is the first, most sensible place to turn for help. But they're not the only service provider when it comes to issues of mental health! Throughout the country, third sector organisations and charities provide a wealth of resources and support that both back-up those provided by the NHS and help to fill in some of the gaps. What those services are, however, can be something of a mystery, with information on what's available and how best to access it often proving elusive and requiring quite some effort (which you don't necessarily have when struggling with poor mental health!) to source.

With that in mind, I thought I might compile a list of some of the organisations and resources I have heard about or encountered locally. I've narrowed it down to include those which cater specifically for mental health in adults (approximately 18-65 years old) within the city of Aberdeen, though some do offer services throughout the 'shire more broadly. The list is alphabetical, purely for simplicity, and I've tried to include a brief summary of what the service offers, highlighting key points and providing links with more detailed information than I can cover.   

If you or someone you care about is struggling, you don't have to go it alone. I hope that something you find here might provide some help...

Fit like? Mental health Aberdeen

▴  Aberdeen Foyer 

Running in Aberdeen since 1995, the Foyer provides a broad spectrum of services throughout the City and Shire, seeking to "support people in the North East of Scotland towards independent living, learning and work." 

Their Impact Project, in particular, is aimed at adults with long-term mental health conditions, seeking to provide a safe and enjoyable environment within which people can reduce their feelings of isolation, try new things, grow in confidence and develop their skills. They do this primarily through a changing weekly programme of group activities such as arts and crafts, mindfulness, baking and games, although they can also offer one-to-one support. There is also the possibility - as a person grows in confidence - to take on a peer mentor role, taking ownership of some of the groups and activities so that the service is truly user-led.

Prospective participants are encouraged to self-refer to the service (details here), or contact can be made by any health or social care professional.

▵  Aberdeen Students' Nightline

Run by students, for students, the Nightline is part of a wider network of university helplines throughout the country.  Open from 8pm-8am every night during term time, they provide an anonymous, non-judgemental listening service to any student in Aberdeen struggling with stress, anxiety or low mood. They offer support over the phone on 01224 272829 or here, via Instant Messaging.

Advocacy Service Aberdeen

Advocacy services exist to help people know and understand their rights, to make informed choices and to have their own views expressed and heard. They act independently of any other service-provider - not pushing any agenda - and are there to represent the person's perspective and empower them to regain an element of control over their own care. In practical terms, this might include providing information on the mental health act; assisting in the writing of an advanced statement; representing you to the mental health tribunal; or articulating your concerns more clearly to a member of your treatment team. When it comes to navigating the sometimes messy and confusing mental health system, advocates are an invaluable aid!

The service is free to use with contact details for each of their Aberdeen offices available online.

Bipolar Aberdeen

A self-help and support group for people with bipolar disorder and their friends, carers and family, they hold a monthly meeting from 7pm on the last Thursday of every month, providing a space for people to "share experiences and provide mutual support and advice on coping with bipolar." It's free to attend, with no referral needed, and details of each meeting can be found on their website or Facebook.

Cairns Counselling

With a team of 32 fully trained counsellors, Cairns Counselling seek to provide a safe space and develop a positive therapeutic relationship within which clients can explore the issues they face and talk through their emotional distress. They aim to provide an accessible service, open to people from all walks of life without the barrier of cost and, as such, offer their appointments in exchange for donations of an unspecified amount.

The waiting list can be between 4 and 10 weeks long, but prospective clients can self-refer using the form on their homepage, which allows you to specify which times and days will work best.

▵  Earth for Life 

Harnessing the benefits of the great outdoors, Earth for Life are a social enterprise using environmental education and eco-therapy as a means by which to develop skills, grow in confidence and "move away from unhealthy patterns of living into a richer, healthier and more meaningful life."  Their 'Branching Out' project offers a 12-week programme of woodland activities for adults using mental health services in Scotland, covering anything from health walks and tai chi to shelter-building and fire-lighting! I want to sign-up and get lost in the woods, immediately.

The programme ran in Aberdeen's Tyrebagger woods for the first time at the tail end of last year and seems likely to run again from April 2017. Contact details are available on their website for anyone who wishes to enquire or express an interest. 

Grampian Opportunities 

Working with disabled people and those with mental health problems, Grampian Opportunities promote independence, empowerment and fulfilment by collaborating with individuals and organisations to open up appropriate employment, volunteering and learning opportunities. They seek to develop skills and grow confidence through supported opportunities in areas such as admin/office work, marketing, advertising, finance, events organisation, journalism, IT, and more.

The organisation's main office is located in Inverurie, but they work throughout Aberdeen City, Moray and Aberdeenshire.  Clients can self-refer with contact being made via the 'Apply for Support' tab on their website.

Healthy Minds

Coordinated by the city council, Healthy Minds exists "to assist adults who are mental health service users to access learning and leisure opportunities within Aberdeen City". They can work on a one-to-one basis to help individuals identify and link-in to appropriate resources, while also offering a programme of group activities of their own. This programme changes regularly but has been known to include baking, badminton, computing, creative writing and hill-walking, to name a few.

Referrals can be made by any agency in the city, or potential clients can self-refer by contacting the team using the information on their flyer or website.  

HOPE Counselling

Similar to Cairns, HOPE seek to meet the need for affordable, accessible counselling in and around Aberdeen. Using an integrative method of counselling - pulling together a variety of approaches to suit you best - their team of twelve trained counsellors offer a safe and supported space to talk and explore your own unique difficulties. Open to individuals and couples, aged 16 and above, appointments are available at the Life Centre (Caroline Place) in Aberdeen or the Kirk Centre in Ellon and are charged at a low, means-based cost.

Having used the service in the past, I can testify that they're a genuine, caring, well-informed bunch! There are currently minimal waiting lists and all clients are asked to self-refer by phone or text, using the number on their website.

Mental Health Aberdeen  

Through their Aberdeen Counselling and Information Service (ACIS), Mental Health Aberdeen offers free counselling to clients looking to explore "difficult experiences, distress or conflict" by talking with a trained counsellor "in a warm, honest and confidential setting." 

Potential clients can self-refer, making contact by phone or email using the information found here.
Professionals (GPs, social workers, health workers, etc) may also make a referral on a client's behalf, if permission is given for them to do so.

MHA previously provided a number of other services throughout the City and Shire, but the current financial climate has seen much of this pared back in recent months - hopefully temporarily!

Momentum Skills 

The mental health Pathways project offers a vocational rehabilitation and training programme for adults aged 16 and over who have a mental health diagnosis and live in Aberdeen City. Through group and one-to-one sessions, they look at areas such as personal development and employability, helping people to "gain the skills they need to live independently and to gain access to employment."

Referrals can be made by health or social care professionals, or through Job Centre Plus. Clients can self-refer, with contact information available on their website, but a professional will be asked to complete a referral and risk assessment form. (It's worth noting that the service will not work "with people whose behaviour is assessed to pose a significant threat of self-harm or physical harm to others," or "whose substance misuse is affecting their daily functioning.")

NEEDS (North East Eating Disorders Support)

A self-help and support group for adults affected by an eating disorder, including sufferers, carers, and family. The group meets in Aberdeen at 7:30pm on the first Monday of the month, providing an opportunity to share experiences and resources and to support one another towards recovery, within a safe and confidential setting. Details of upcoming meetings can be found on their website and these are free to attend without any need for prior referral or contact.

More recently they've also launched an arts and craft group which is free to attend and meets at the Rosemount Community Centre on the second Tuesday of the month.


Working all across the country, Penumbra are one of Scotland's largest mental health charities, busily seeking to "promote mental health and well-being for all, prevent mental ill health for people who are ‘at risk’, and to support people with mental health problems."

They provide a variety of services in Aberdeen, including:
  • 1st Response - a short-term support and sign-posting service for those in crisis or distress. They act as a first point of contact when you're feeling overwhelmed, listening and helping you to plan the next steps to better manage your current circumstances. Open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, there is no application or waiting list and support can be provided by a Recovery Practitioner over the phone, by email, or face-to-face at their office on the city's Back Wynd. [Details here.
  • The Nova Project - providing one-to-one, person-centred support; POWWOWS (workshops on well-being); and peer support.  Tailored to the individual's needs and aspirations, they utilise a variety of recovery-focussed tools to help the service-user manage a mental health problem and learn ways of helping to stay well. Referrals can be made by carers or mental health professionals, or clients can self-refer, with application forms available on request from the contacts listed on their website. (A professional will be asked to complete a risk-assessment while you are on the waiting list.)
  • Self-Harm Project - a "recovery focused, non-judgemental and user-led support service" for people who self-harm. Working one-to-one with a recovery practitioner, service-users are given space to explore the issues and emotions surrounding their self-harm and to look - when they're ready - at strategies and tools which might better help them cope. Service-users may self-refer or referrals can be made by other agencies, with contact details available on their website. 
  • Supported Accommodation - With a small number of living facilities throughout the city, Penumbra provides people with mental health issues "the opportunity to learn and develop skills and to increase independence," within a supported environment. More information is available by contacting the North office, with details on this page.

Prevent Suicide (NE Scotland) App 

The work of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire's Choose Life steering group, the Prevent Suicide app is available on Apple, Android, Kindle and Windows 8 or 10 devices. It provides details on local services and resources and how to access urgent help; has advice on helping someone you might be worried about; and gives space to design your own 'Safety Plan', inputting personalised information such as coping strategies, safe places, the professionals involved your care, and your own unique "reasons to live."

It's a great tool for having everything at your fingertips in a crisis and is free to download from your app store or their website.

RGU Mental Health Movie Monthly

Less a "service" and more a shared-interest group, Robert Gordon University plays host to a monthly movie night, showcasing a film with a mental health theme. Open to staff, students and members of the public with an interest in mental health, the evenings include refreshments (free pizza, anyone?), a full-length film and a facilitated follow-up discussion. Details of upcoming events can be found on their Twitter or Facebook page.

(I made it along to an event a couple of months ago and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening!)

Rosie's Social Enterprises 

Run by Turning Point Scotland, Rosie's provides supported employment opportunities for people recovering from mental health issues or an acquired brain injury, helping them to "gain confidence, learn new skills through training and support, and move on in their lives," by being part of a thriving business and supportive community. Work placements are offered at their framers, craft and wedding stationary workshops and gift shop at 45-49 Holburn Street, or in their cafe at 137 Rosemount Place.

Referrals are taken by potential clients or those who support them, with a referral forms available to download here.


As well as providing a local and national helpline and email support service, the Samaritans receive drop-in callers at the door of their office at 60 Dee Street until 9pm, most days of the week. (Contact details here.)

SAMH (The Scottish Association for Mental Health) 

As well as their work at a national level (which I've previously raved about), SAMH also work at a local level within communities. In Aberdeen they provide a number of supported accommodation facilities for people with significant mental illnesses, working with them to promote resilience, achieve personal goals and develop independent living skills.

Referrals to the service can be made by a Social Work care manager.

Solstice Nurseries

"Growing plants and growing people," Solstice are a plant nursery and garden maintenance firm in Banchory-Devenick who provide supported employment placements to people with/recovering from mental health issues. By offering training, qualifications and work experience, service users are supported on their journey towards mainstream employment or work-related activity.

Referrals can be made by a CPN, Social Worker, G.P., Support Worker, or Job Centre Plus advisor. Self-referrals can also be made, though a professional will be asked to provide an accompanying reference.

VSA (Voluntary Service Aberdeen)

The VSA provide a number of services for those facing mental health difficulties, as well as their carers and families, throughout Aberdeen. These include:
  • Mental Health In-Forum - an open group for families and carers supporting someone with mental health difficulties, the forum provides a safe space to answer one another's questions, share tips and ideas, explore a particular topic and gain support. Details of upcoming meetings can be found on their promotional flyer here.
  • Reconnect - peer-support service that coordinates a weekly programme of group activities, helping service users to re-engage and access the wider community.  Details and a referral form are available on their website here
  • Supported Accommodation - with a number of care homes and rehabilitation facilities throughout the city, the service provides residential placements and 24-hour support for people with mental health problems, promoting independence and developing skills to self-manage their condition. Referrals are usually made through Social Work. 


If you know of any additional services you think could be included on the list, please feel free to point me in their direction.


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