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EXPLAINED: How to access mental healthcare in Norway

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: How to access mental healthcare in Norway
Here is what you need to know about accessing mental health services in Norway. Pictured is a person in a counselling session. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

It is important to be on top of mental health problems and get the help you need when issues emerge. So, how does accessing mental healthcare in Norway work?


It's never quite clear what life can throw at you, and everyone is susceptible to mental health problems. 

If you begin to struggle with your mental health, accessing help sooner rather than later is considered best practice. 

However, when in another country, it isn't always clearly signposted where you can access such services. 

In Norway, mental health help can be accessed both privately and through the state. 

Norway's online digital health portal, helsenorge, categorises mental health problems into three categories. These are minor and short-term difficulties (also referred to as mild issues), short-term but severe difficulties, long-term but mild difficulties (moderate problems) and serious and long-term difficulties (severe issues). 

GPs in Norway can offer treatment for mild or moderate health problems and refer you to a specialist. The GP will contact the mental health services in your area on your behalf. 

This may be an issue as although all members of the National Insurance Scheme can access a GP, there is a shortage of general practitioners in Norway. This means it can be hard to get an appointment in good time, or you may not have a GP and be stuck on a waiting list. 

All municipalities in Norway have several services that can provide treatment and support for people needing mental healthcare. For example, municipalities must employ psychologists within their health and social care services. 

You can learn more about your area's mental health services by contacting your municipality. Some local authorities will require residents to have a referral from a doctor before accessing the services. 


Access to these services, like access to a GP appointment, can depend a lot on how well-resourced the municipality where you live is. Those with mild and moderate problems may be placed on a waiting list. 

READ ALSO: What do foreigners think of the Norwegian healthcare system?

Those over 16 can also access urgent mental health care (rask psykisk helsehjelp). A referral from a doctor isn't needed to access these services. The service also has a low threshold and is aimed at helping those with various types of anxiety and mild or moderate depression, sleeping issues and early-stage substance dependency. 

The aim of the scheme is to ensure that patients receive support within one to two weeks. The service is only available in 75 municipalities, though. Some local authorities may have an alternative service. More than half of Norway's local authorities have a health life centre (frisklivssentral). Some offer help with depression, stress and alcohol problems. 

For those with more serious problems, you may be referred to a hospital or psychiatric outpatient clinic. If you need urgent assistance but cannot contact a GP, you can contact your nearest out-of-hours medical centre (116 117). Some major cities in Norway also have psychiatric casualty clinics.


You may be put on a patient pathway to ensure there is necessary follow-up, and a mental healthcare plan where you are involved in the decision-making process will be devised. 

Given the high level of English proficiency in Norway, you should be able to access mental services in the language if you struggle with Norwegian. 

Private mental health care 

Norway's state mental health care offer is quite robust. But, one of its most significant issues is that the speed at which you can access services and what is available will differ greatly depending on where you live. 

For some, this will mean long waiting times and an under-resourced local mental health team. Unfortunately, this means that some issues will go untreated for longer and may worsen. 


Going private is also an option. There are several private healthcare providers in Norway which offer GP appointments and more specialised mental healthcare. 

There are also some private therapy and counselling services available in Norway's biggest cities, where sessions can be taken in English or Norwegian. 

The obvious downside to this is the cost. If you have health benefits through work or a union or private health insurance, it is worth seeing what help you have available. 


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