How to talk to your GP about mental health

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“Talk to your GP” is the number one bit of advice given in every advice article about mental health.

You’re not alone in wondering, where do I start? Help is at hand.
 

Too anxious to go to your GP, or don’t think you can find the words to describe how you’ve been feeling? What if your GP judges you? This never happens, but in our minds, it absolutely does. 

Stats show that men are less likely to visit their GP than women, and find it difficult to talk about mental health. Knee giving you gyp? You’d ask for help. Mind playing up? We run a mile. Stop running and start talking. 

When to ask for help?
You should look for help if your mental health starts to impact your everyday life. Or if you feel that you’re struggling to manage the problem by yourself.  

In these cases, book yourself into a GP for an appointment.   

If you have any thoughts of harming yourself or others, you should refer yourself to a local mental health crisis team or consider going to A&E, where there are psychiatric liaison teams onsite.

It’s worth remembering anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns are common. They’re nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. By seeking help early, you can limit the impact that a mental health problem has on you and your life. A GP can talk through your options and refer you to a psychiatry team if specialised help is needed.

How to prepare for your appointment
It’s a good idea to know in advance: 

  • What you want to talk about  
  • What particular issues you want to address
  • Whether you want a friend or family member to join the appointment with you 

It can help to write down your feelings or any information you’d like to share, so you don’t forget or freeze on the spot. The GP is likely to ask you about any drugs or medications that you may be taking as they can have an impact on your mental health.  

What will the appointment be like?
Your GP will ask a series of questions that may include: 

  • How you’re feeling  
  • What issues you’re experiencing 
  • Family medical history  

 They could ask to conduct a few physical checks like a blood pressure test.

Try to mention anything you think may be important. It can be hard to talk about feelings or traumatic events but by being open and honest, the GP has the best opportunity of ensuring you receive the right treatment. 

And no, the doctor won’t judge you. Mental health issues are experienced by a whopping 1 in 4 of us, so whatever you’re struggling with, you can guarantee that your doctor has dealt with it before.

What might the GP recommend?
The first step your GP will take is to determine whether there are any lifestyle changes that can be made to address your problems.  

 They could recommend: 

  • Stopping smoking (if you do currently) 
  • Reducing the amount of alcohol you consume 
  • Changing prescription medications 

 If further treatment is needed, then your doctor might suggest that you:  

  • Begin taking antidepressants 
  • Are referred to counselling  
  • Are referred to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)  
  • Seek help from a nearby charity or organisation that can help  

 A change in our lifestyles can have a real positive outcome on our physical and mental health. We’ve mentioned before the importance of the feel-good hormones released via exercise and limiting alcohol as it is a natural depressant so don’t be surprised if questions come up relating to drinking and exercise habits. 

Are there other forms of help?
There are lots of groups and organisations that have been set up to help people with mental health problems, and to allow people suffering to be able to communicate their experiences to others who have faced similar issues.   

 You can also talk about your mental health with friends and family or write about your experiences in a journal. These techniques can often help you deal with mental health problems by relieving some of the burden through confiding in others.  

Always seek additional help if you’re finding things aren’t improving.

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