Seeing a GP for Mental Health

Mental Health: Who should I see?

Mental health problems are really common. 1 in 4 people in the last year have suffered with a mental health problem in the UK, and there are lots of different services you could access.

Should you contact a talking therapy service? Should you see a doctor, or do you need to see a psychiatrist? What’s better, to go NHS or private?

A good place to start is always with your GP.  

Why should I see a GP first? 

GPs see a very wide range of conditions on a daily basis. 40% of consultations with GPs are regarding mental health!A normal clinic for GPs will usually consist of 5 patients or more dealing with mental health issues, as well as many physical health problems too.  

At some point in most peoples’ mental health treatment journeys they have been in contact with their GP. More often than not this has been their first port of call. 

This means GPs will also be able to consider a wider range of issues that could be contributing to mental health issues.  

Physical health problems can affect your mental health.  

Physical health problems can affect your mental health too. Examples may include thyroid disorders and diabetes which can affect your mood.

Many medications could also be affecting your emotional and mental health.  

What can a GP actually do about mental health?  

The first thing a GP will do is listen to you, and ask further questions about your emotional, mental and physical health. We often pick up cues which help us to understand what might be going on. We don’t just think about what you’re telling us.

We ask questions to rule out different causes and to help us work out what is causing you your feelings.

Based on what you tell us we will start to consider what might be going on, and think about a ‘diagnosis’. Now, a diagnosis is just a name to a collection of symptoms that you’re experiencing with your mental health.

There isn’t always a diagnosis but often it helps with understanding what you’re going through. 

Communication

GPs are specially trained in communication. We support people through their mental health issues and we will also be able to recognise what kind of health professionals can support you too.

GPs can prescribe medications that may help support you through mental illness which may include anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, and suggest appropriate alternative therapies including talking therapies.  

If you have persistent thoughts of self-harm or suicide, or if your treatment with the GP in not helping them hospital teams may get involved. Often you will still have on-going follow up with your GP.

If you are experiencing symptoms that might be suggestive of a rarer diagnosis such as schizophrenia a GP will refer you to a hospital mental health team or psychiatrist for further help.  

When should I see a psychotherapist or a counsellor?  

Very often your mental health may be supported by more than one health professional. If you are experiencing depression or anxiety and are on medications, you will usually have a GP reviewing you at least every 6-12 months and usually more often to begin with.  

Seeing a therapist or counsellor is a form of treatment to help improve your mental health and wellbeing. If you had a specific event in childhood that is now affecting your mental health, seeing a counsellor would be a sensible approach. They will help to work through, understand and help you come to terms with any previous mental health traumas.

Are you worried about your Mental Health?  

If you’re worried about your mental health then the first thing you should do is reach out to those closest to you. Talk about how you’re feeling.

Sometimes just talking about what’s going on can really help. You shouldn’t come to conclusions about any diagnosis or specific mental health conditions without seeing a doctor.  

If the way you’re feeling is starting to affect your normal behaviour and daily activities then you should seek further help.

See a health professional as soon as possible if you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Don’t hesitate to contact emergency services if you feel you or someone else is at serious risk of harming themselves. Severe mental health problems that are a risk to your own life or someone else are emergencies too.  

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