A charity has warned the months since lockdown have seen a "worrying" surge in the number of people seeking advice for self-harming - and how to support someone with suicidal thoughts.

Rethink Mental Illness said there was a looming mental health crisis - and urged people to seek support if they are struggling.

The charity has also urged ministers to act upon mounting concerns over mental ill health as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes after the charity saw significant rises in the number of people seeking help from its advice pages online.

It said that in the six months after lockdown, more than 2.3 million people visited rethink.org for advice and information.

The charity said demand for advice and information doubled compared with the six months prior to lockdown.

The increased activity on the website included:

People encouraged to ask for help

Laura Peters, head of advice and information services at Rethink Mental Illness, said: “If you’re struggling with your mental health, or worried about someone you love, it can feel incredibly confusing, disorientating and isolating.

“Going online is often the first step people take when they’re not sure where to turn, so these statistics indicate a growing public recognition of the impact of the pandemic on our mental health and the need for reliable information and guidance.

“The rising need for support with issues such as self-harm and suicide is worrying but it doesn’t solely indicate the level of distress that people may be experiencing.

“It also suggests people are recognising these concerns, being proactive and taking those first steps to help manage a challenging and turbulent time.

“It’s vital that people continue this journey and seek professional support.

The charity’s chief executive Mark Winstanley said: “This surge in demand for advice and information which has coincided with the onset of the pandemic is a sign that we’re witnessing something hugely problematic.

“We know that people are struggling with their mental health and that problems may be stored up for the future.

“It’s clear that the Government needs to invest properly in mental health now, above and beyond what we’ve ever seen before.”

Nadine Dorries, minister for mental health and suicide prevention, said: “As a Government, we have supported the Every Mind Matters campaign, which has free resources for adults, children, young people and their carers to support mental wellbeing during these challenging times, and provides tailored, practical steps to help deal with stress and anxiety and feel more in control.

“For those who need urgent support, psychological treatments and crisis lines have remained open to those who have needed them throughout the pandemic and we would urge anybody who needs it to come forward for help.”

Rethink Mental Illness’s support pages are available via rethink.org and Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day by calling 116 123.