How to talk to your doctor about mental health

Talking to your doctor about mental health can be really hard, and a source of anxiety or worry for some people. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and alone when dealing with a mental health problem, but your GP isn’t just there to talk about your physical health. They don’t just prescribe medicines for mental illness, they have access to many different therapies and are there to listen and help you.

There’s often an uncertainty of whether you will be taken seriously, whether you need help or if the doctor will even be able to help. Don’t let this stop you, because it isn’t the case. Taking the leap and making a doctors appointment is positive, and Mind give some pointers of when to know if you should consider seeing a doctor:

  • finding it difficult to cope with your thoughts and feelings
  • thoughts and feelings having an impact on your day-to-day life
  • wanting to find out about available support

Never wait until a problem is too big, and don’t feel you have to leave it until you feel you can’t cope alone.

How to make the most of that doctor’s appointment

Be assertive

Don’t leave the doctors feeling like you haven’t been listened to, or you’ve been given a load of numbers to call or leaflets to read that don’t feel useful to you. You need to be assertive in what you want from the doctor and how you are feeling.

Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions you want, and to push for more information or details on the next steps you can take. .

Be open and honest

This can be scary, especially if you haven’t discussed these problems with many people, or anyone at all. Just remember that doctors see lots of patients daily so what you are telling them won’t shock them. You have patient-doctor confidentiality and the point of that is to make you comfortable. Tell them everything you need or want to.

Know why you’re there

As well as informing the doctor of why you’re there, you need to first know this yourself. Set a goal for the appointment; what do you want to highlight, what do you want to find out, what do you hope to get from it?

Have a list

Linking to the above point, having a mental or physical list of these goals can help make the appointment feel more practical and achievable and prevent you feeling overwhelmed. Note down what you feel, in a way that feels natural to you. Use words your familiar with. Note how long you’ve been feeling this way, and if anything has changed over the past week, month, or even year. Tell the doctor how this has affected your life.

Do what will make you feel comfortable

Some people suggest taking a family member or friend in with you. This might be hell for some people, but be a godsend for others. Do what’s best for you. Bear in mind a companion can be a great help in staying relaxed, but only if you feel okay with them hearing what you say to the doctor.

Be patient

The doctor isn’t a mind reader; they need as much information as you can give in order to give you an adequate referral or diagnosis. Don’t be embarrassed or feel your problem is too small, because everyone deserves help and the doctor wants to give it to you. Also, help them feel patient too. Explain if you feel nervous, show them any print-outs that might help explain how you feel, and if you have a few things to talk about make sure you ask for a double or longer appointment. Most surgeries provide this now.

Focus on feelings and behaviour

When people are struggling with their mental health, there’s usually a stress to put a diagnosis or label on how they feel. Instead of searching for this in the appointment, just really focus on your emotions and behaviour. The doctor needs to know you as a person not just tick a box.

If it doesn’t work, don’t give up

You may follow all of these tips but still leave feeling frustrated. Whether this is because you feel you haven’t been given the help you want or you just didn’t feel listened to, don’t give up. Ask for a referral to another psychiatrist or just switch GP’s and make another appointment; ask for another doctor.

Keep on trying until you’re satisfied with the support that’s offered to you. Don’t let a bad experience or a bad doctor dictate the extent of your issue.

Do you have your own tips or advice about speaking to a doctor about your mental health? Why not share them in the comments below? We’d love to hear them.