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Talking to your doctor about mental health – for 11-18 year olds

A guide for young people on how to talk to your doctor about how you're feeling, and how your doctor can support you.

Why should I talk to my doctor?

If you're struggling with how you're feeling or you're going through a difficult time, it might help to speak to a doctor. You can see a doctor for your mental health and wellbeing just like you would for your physical health.

GP means ‘general practitioner’. This is a doctor who can help you with your physical and mental health. In this information we use the word ‘doctor’, but it means the same thing as ‘GP’.

I already have a doctor's appointment

If you're ready to speak to a doctor now, we have another page that might help you.

How can my doctor help me?

It can feel scary talking about your thoughts, feelings and experiences with someone you don't know. But your doctor is there to help you get the support you deserve. They can:

  • Let you talk about and help you understand how you're feeling.
  • Help you understand more about mental health.
  • Give you a safe space to open up about things that have been happening.
  • Answer questions you have about things that you're experiencing.
  • Talk you through different support options and discuss which might be right for you.
  • Talk about different treatments that might help, such as counselling.
  • Make a referral for you to see a service that could support you, like Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
  • Help you find support in your local area or online.
  • Suggest things that might help at home, school, college or work.

It's up to you when you speak to your doctor, but you don't have to wait until things get worse to ask for help. Doctors are there to help you with whatever you're experiencing right now.

You don't have to wait to be at your absolute worst to seek help. You wouldn't do that for physical illnesses and getting help earlier can massively improve your recovery.

Stay safe

If you feel overwhelmed, or like you want to hurt yourself, support is available for you to talk things through. You deserve help as soon as you need it.

To talk with someone confidentially about how you feel, you can:

If you feel like you may attempt suicide, or you have seriously hurt yourself, this is an emergency. You can:

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
  • Tell an adult you trust and ask them to call 999 for help.

Mental health emergencies are serious. You aren't wasting anyone's time.

Will they tell anyone else what I've said?

Everything you say in an appointment will normally be kept between you and your doctor. They will only share what you've told them if they're worried that you or someone else could be at risk of harm.

If they do need to tell someone, like your parents or carers, they should tell you first. If there are certain things you don't want them to know, you could ask your doctor not to share these. You could also ask them to help you tell your parents, carers, or guardians if you think it would be easier.

They might also need to share what you've said, with your permission, to help you get more support. This might include speaking to CAMHS to refer you to their services.

Understanding confidentiality

Find out about how and when information about your mental health is kept private.

How do I register with a surgery?

A doctor's surgery is the place where you have appointments with a doctor – it's got nothing to do with having surgery, like in a hospital.

If you are not registered with a doctor's surgery, you can find a surgery using the NHS search tool. If you live in Wales, you can use the NHS Wales search tool.

After you've found a surgery near you, it will be free to:

  • Register with the doctor's surgery
  • Make and attend appointments

Each surgery might have different ways for you to register with them. They should tell you how to register and if you need a parent, carer or guardian to help you do so.

How do I make an appointment?

Each doctor's surgery might have slightly different ways of booking appointments. To book an appointment with your doctor you can:

  • Call the surgery
  • Use their online booking service
  • Use their app, if they have one
  • Go to your doctor's surgery in person

If you'd prefer to book your appointment online, you can search for your local doctor's surgery on the NHS website. You can search for surgeries in England and Wales to get their website details.

Once you've found the website and their online booking services, follow the instructions and answer each of the questions as well as you can.

Will I have to wait for an appointment?

How long you have to wait for an appointment depends on where you live and your local surgery. The date of your appointment might not be right away, it could be a couple of weeks away or longer.

Try not to be put off by this. Doctor's surgeries can be very busy and they will try to give you an appointment as soon as they can.

A receptionist should let you know when your appointment will be. If you've tried to book your appointment online, you might have to wait up to 2 working days to find out when it will be. Working days are between Monday and Friday. If you're still not sure when your appointment will be, contact your doctor's surgery.

What might my appointment look like?

Your appointment could be:

  • Face-to-face at the doctor's surgery
  • A phone call
  • A video call
  • A text message or email, which might lead to another appointment

If you don't have your own phone or laptop for your appointment, you could ask your surgery what to do about this. You could use a computer at your local library to book appointments online and answer emails. But you will probably want to have phone or video calls in a private place.


If your appointment is booked during the school or work day, you might want to let a teacher or your manager know. They might then be able to arrange a quiet space for you to go to for your appointment.

Most appointments last about 10 minutes. When you book your appointment, you can ask for a longer appointment if you feel like you need more time.

Your doctor's surgery will decide what type of appointment you need. When you receive your appointment date and time, you should also be told what type of appointment you've been given. If you have completed an online form, you might receive this by text, email or an online message.

Your doctor will be trained to have phone or video appointments. If this isn't right for you, you can ask your surgery for a different type of appointment. If you don't want your first appointment to be face-to-face, you can also ask for it to be changed.

At my in person appointment, I felt comfortable enough with my doctor to say what was going on. I was referred to CAMHS services and received counselling at school.

How can I prepare for my appointment?

It can feel scary to talk about your thoughts and feelings with someone you don't know, but your doctor is there to help support you. There are things you can do to get ready for a doctor's appointment to help you feel prepared, including thinking about what to say and what questions to ask.

A doctor's appointment can feel short and you might forget things you want to say. Being prepared can help to get the most out of your appointment. It could help to:

  • Write down what you want to say.
  • Keep a diary of how you feel or what you're experiencing.
  • Practise what you might say in your head. You could practise with family, friends, partners or someone else you trust.
  • Talk things through with a helpline first.
  • Speak to other young people on online message boards for advice, like The Mix and Childline.
  • Bring any information that helps explain how you're feeling.
  • Tell someone when your appointment is so they can support you before or afterwards. Think about if you want someone else there to support you during the appointment too.
  • Ask for a longer appointment if you have a few things to talk about – you'll need to do this when you're booking it.
  • Think of any questions you might want to ask your doctor.
  • Take a drink or snack with you if your appointment is in person. You might also want something to play with, like a stress ball if you're nervous.
  • Find a quiet place where you feel comfortable speaking if your appointment is by phone or video.
  • Make notes on your phone or on a piece of paper during the appointment to help you remember what's been discussed.

You might not feel fully prepared and that's okay. All you can do is try your best.

It helped me to have written down everything that I wanted to get across to make sure we had covered everything in the appointment.

Does my parent, carer or guardian have to be there?

You can see a doctor or nurse at any age, but they might encourage you to speak to your parent, carer or guardian about what's going on. You can explain any worries you have with your doctor, like if you feel they don't understand or won't be supportive.

If you're under 16, the surgery might ask you to bring someone with you to your appointment.

If you'd prefer not to have a parent, carer or guardian with you, it could help to ask another trusted adult or friend for support. They might need to be over 18, but you can check this with the surgery.

This person could go with you if your appointment is face-to-face. Or if it's over the phone or by video call, they could help you prepare and check in with you afterwards.

What happens at an appointment?

In your appointment, your doctor will listen to you and might ask questions about:

  • Your mood, like using questionnaires that ask you how you've been feeling recently
  • Your school or home life and any recent events that might be affecting the way you feel
  • Any changes you've experienced recently like changes in your sleep, eating habits or general health
  • Your medical history and if you or your family have had any health problems in the past

If you've used an online form to book your appointment, you might have answered some of these questions already. Your doctor might go through your answers with you.

Your doctor might want to check your physical health too. They might do this by:

  • Taking your blood pressure
  • Measuring your weight
  • Doing some blood tests

If your appointment is on a phone or video call, the doctor might ask you to come into the surgery at another time to check your physical health.

My GP seemed caring, empathetic, and most importantly, very respectful about my decisions. I'm glad I asked for help.

How to prepare for an appointment

If you've got an appointment with your doctor coming up, find tips and information on getting ready for it.


Remember: your appointment is for you. You can ask questions at any time or ask them to give you more information on anything you don't understand. You're not wasting anyone's time.

Tips for talking to your doctor

It's not always easy to talk about what's going on with your mental health, but here are some tips that might help:

  • Don't be afraid to be honest about your mental health. Your doctor should listen to how you're feeling.
  • Use words that feel natural to you. Explain how your feelings or experiences are affecting your day-to-day life. This might be things like your school and home life, your sleep and your appetite.
  • Don't be afraid to ask if you don't understand something.
  • Let them know if there are things that make it harder for you to talk. For example, if you'd rather turn your camera off on a video call. If you need them to communicate in a different way, it's okay to ask them.
  • Give as much detail as you're comfortable sharing. No detail is too small and it might help the doctor understand more about how you're feeling.
  • Let them know if you want someone to help you. If you feel overwhelmed, you might want a trusted adult or friend to step in.
  • Tell them if you want more time or another appointment before making a decision on what happens next. This might be to do with options for treatment or support.

Your doctor might ask you a lot of questions to find the best way to help you. The more open you can be the better, but you can say no to any questions you don't want to answer. It's okay to let your doctor know if the conversation's becoming too uncomfortable and you want to stop.

It might help to read our information on what to say to your doctor and what questions you could ask.


Remember: you're not alone. Your doctor will have spoken to lots of other people about their mental health before. However you're feeling, you deserve support.

What if I have a problem with my doctor?

If you don't agree with the type of appointment you're given, you should let your surgery know. You could tell them why it's difficult for you to have a certain type of appointment and what you would like instead.

You might not agree with everything your doctor says or want to talk about different options for support. It's okay to question your doctor and to say ‘no’ to anything you may disagree with. You could ask for another appointment with them if you want to talk things through in more detail.

If you're unhappy with the way your doctor has spoken to you, or you don't feel like they have answered your questions, you can ask to see a different doctor.

If you feel uncomfortable talking to your doctor at any time, you could also ask for another appointment with a different doctor.

This may be because you don't feel like they understand your cultural views. You could also have a trusted adult there to help you voice your views.

Making a complaint

If you feel you have been treated unfairly, you have the right to make a complaint about your doctor or any healthcare professional.

You can ask your doctor's surgery how to do this, and who you should make the complaint to. Each service has a different way of handling complaints. It can be difficult to ask for what you need, so you might want to ask for help from another trusted adult to help you do this.

It takes a lot to keep fighting for yourself and find someone who understands, but there is someone and they can help.


Remember: it's okay if you don't agree with what your doctor has said. However you feel is valid. If you're not comfortable with the support offered, it's important that your make your views heard.

What happens after my appointment?

What happens after your appointment will depend on a few things. These include what you've said, what your doctor thinks will help you, and what support is available for you.

You might want or need another appointment to talk things through more.

Make sure you take the time to reflect on your appointment and what has been discussed. Be kind to yourself and think about what you want to happen next. You might want to discuss it with a trusted adult or friend too.

After your appointment you could:

  • Be referred to a mental health service like CAMHS
  • Be offered a primary mental health assessment if you live in Wales
  • Be offered local or online support
  • Be monitored for your physical and mental health
  • Be offered different treatments, like counselling
  • Be prescribed or discuss medication
  • Have another appointment with your doctor to talk about how you're feeling and what you're experiencing
  • Ask your doctor to help you talk to your parent, carer, or guardian about what you've discussed

It can take a while to get more support, whether that's another appointment with your doctor or help from another service like CAMHS. You can ask your doctor what you or they can do to support you in the meantime.

Medication for mental health

If you need medication for your mental health, it should be given to you by a psychiatrist following an assessment. This is usually done through services like CAMHS.

Your doctor might discuss medication with you, but guidelines say they should only prescribe it after you've had an assessment with a psychiatrist.

If you're confused or worried about what's happening with your medication, speak to a trusted adult like a parent or carer.

What could I do next?

Talking to your doctor is a great way to get help you start feeling better. But there are other places you can go to for help and advice.

Finding support

I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep going and keep trying to seek the right support, even if it is from elsewhere. Because you deserve it.

This information was published in January 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

The quotes on this page are from young people we spoke to while making this information. They've given us their consent to use their quotes in our information. The words, experiences and opinions in the quotes are not related to the young people shown in any of the photographs we use.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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