There are lots of reasons for seeking support from your General Practitioner (GP) for your mental health but there are also a lot of reasons why people hesitate or avoid doing so. This guide provides some pointers around how to get the most from your GP appointment and what kind of support they can offer.
I’m Not Seeing a GP Because…
From experience, clients often express a reluctance to see their GP for their mental health. These are some of the reasons:
- Believing that a GP won’t be able to help with their mental health
- Believing a GP can only offer medication as a treatment
- Believing a 10-minute appointment isn’t of any use
- Believing they can’t explain how they feel and so can’t be helped
- Believing their problem is part of who they are rather than an illness
What Can a GP Offer?
While you may relate to the points above, it is important to understand that GPs act as the gatekeepers for our healthcare and we often need to go through them for referrals into different services to support both our physical and mental health. Often, people have a sense of just not feeling quite right in themselves. You may be reluctant to book a GP appointment without being able to out a finger on it and explain exactly what it is that isn’t right. However, the role of any medical professional is to support with this. Your GP may offer support in a variety of ways which may include:
- An assessment of any underlying physical factors that may be impacting your mental health
- A follow-up appointment to further discuss and review appointments
- A referral to a mental health service for further assessment
- A referral to a therapy service for treatment
- Prescribing medication
- Discussing time off work if necessary
- ·Signposting to self-help resources
- Signposting to local mental health services
- Lifestyle advice
Booking Your Appointment
We understand that GP appointments are generally 10-minutes which often doesn’t feel like very long to talk about how you are feeling and explore different treatment options. We have put this guide together to share some pointers on how to get the most from your GP appointment for mental health.
Tips for Booking a GP appointment
- Some GP surgeries now have a mental health nurse, so when you book, find out if this is an option available to you
- Some GPs have specialisms, so you might want to ask if there is a particular GP at your practice recommended for mental health appointments
- Ask if you are able to book a double appointment
- If you already have a good relationship with your GP, try to see the same GP for continuity if possible
- Ahead of the appointment, make note of the most important things you want to talk about and any questions you have
- If a GP appointment isn’t available for some time and you feel you need support sooner, you can request an urgent appointment or to speak with a duty doctor
- Consider if you would like someone to accompany you to this appointment
Tips for Attending your GP Appointment
- Ask any questions you may have
- If you’re unsure or unhappy with the treatment option, ask what other options are available
- Note down any key points or next steps
Book and Stick to Your Appointments!
GPs will often advise booking a follow-up appointment to review symptoms and if you are taking medication, they will likely request you arrange an appointment or a phone call to review this. From experience, people often don’t do this because they forget or feel it’s a waste of the GP’s time.
It’s not a waste of time – it’s an important part of your care and making sure you are receiving the right treatment. Some people don’t book their follow-up appointments because they feel better. That’s great, let your GP know you’re feeling better! Your GP will be much better placed to support you in the future if they know what has and hasn’t worked well for you.
If you’re either unsure or want to confirm the advice you have been given, you can request a second opinion from another GP. Additionally, if you are not happy with the advice or treatment given, let your GP know so that alternatives can be considered. Your GP can’t offer you something different if they don’t know that the advice or treatment isn’t helping.
Ongoing support from your GP
If you get on well with a particular GP, you can speak with them about the option to book subsequent appointments with them if possible. On the flip side, if you are unhappy with your GP or GP practice, you may be able to register at another practice local to you.