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28th February 2014

Down to the Doctors

Down to the DoctorsIf you felt mentally unwell, and made the first step of going to your General Practitioner, what would you say when you got into the doctor’s consulting room? Well you’re unlikely to go and say I’ve got anxiety disorder, or bi-polar disorder, in other words you wouldn’t go with a diagnosis. You’re more likely to try and describe some symptoms. You might say you’re not sleeping properly, or you can’t concentrate on things, or maybe your stomach is churning and you’ve lost your appetite. Symptoms like these may have a number of explanations. What makes diagnosis difficult is many of those symptoms may be physical symptoms, with a variety of possible causes.

First steps

If you’re working with someone in the community, or in a care home , who you think is experiencing mental health problems, encouraging them to report these to their GP is the first step. Helping the GP to help the person is perhaps the next step after that. There are a number of potential obstacles in making these important first steps, but there’s a useful new guide published by the Mental Health Foundation called How to talk to your GP about mental health. This guide can be downloaded from:

Barriers to getting help

So what are the barriers that might prevent someone making that first step to seek help?

  • They might worry they are wasting the doctor’s time
  • They might find it difficult to describe what it is they are feeling
  • They won’t get much time in a GP appointment to describe the problem
  • They might worry they will be fobbed off
  • They might be concerned about treatment that will be offered
  • They might wonder if the GP will tell someone else about the problem

These feelings aren’t unique – you might have the same concerns whenever you’re seeking some help or advice for yourself or your family. What the Mental Health Foundation guide does is to offer some practical suggestions to get the most out of seeing a GP, like taking someone with you, or writing down the feelings you have been experiencing. Some GPs are able to offer a longer appointment if you give the surgery notice. The Scottish Association for Mental Health produces a similarly helpful guide called Know where to go which can be found at:

Further help

The QCS management system includes a range of policies providing guidance to staff on registering someone with a GP, providing choice, and helping someone seek advice from their GP.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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