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Visiting your doctor – for young people

A guide for young people on talking to your doctor about how you're feeling, and tips on how to get the most out of your appointment.

This page is also available in Welsh.

Visiting your doctor

If you're worried about the way you're feeling or you're going through a difficult time, it might help to speak to your doctor. They're there to help you with your mental health just as much as your physical health.

This page has information on the following:

How can visiting my doctor help?

It might feel scary talking about your deepest feelings with someone you don't know that well, but your doctor is there to help you find the support you deserve. They can:

  • 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 which might be right for you
  • talk about different treatments that might help, such as counselling or medication
  • make a referral for you to see a service, such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), who could give you more support.

"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."

Is everything I say confidential?

Everything you say in an appointment will normally be kept between you and your doctor. They will only share what you've told them with someone else if they are worried that you or someone else could be in danger.

If they do need to tell someone, like your parents or carers, they should tell you first.

To find out more, go to our page on confidentiality

How do I make an appointment?

To book an appointment you can call or go to your doctor's surgery. If you are worried about speaking to someone over the phone, you could ask someone to call for you.

The receptionist might ask what the appointment is for. If you feel comfortable it might help to tell them or just say it's about your feelings. This might help them find you an appointment with a doctor with more experience in that area.

Most appointments last about 10 minutes but you can ask for a double appointment if you feel like you need more time.

If you are over 16, you can sometimes book appointments online.

You can ask at your local surgery to find out more.

How do I register with a surgery?

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

When you speak to the surgery they will tell you how to register and if you need a parent or a carer there with you as each surgery might be slightly different.

What happens in an appointment?

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

  • your mood – sometimes by 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 in your sleep or eating
  • your medical history – if you or your family have had any health problems in the past.

They might also check your physical health by taking your blood pressure, measuring your weight and doing some blood tests.

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

Does my parent or carer have to be there?

You can see a doctor or nurse at any age on your own, but they might encourage you to speak to your parent or carer about what's going on.

Even if you don't want your parent or carer there, it could help to ask another trusted adult or friend to come with you for support, or just to sit in the waiting room so you know someone is there if you need them.

How can I prepare for my appointment?

Appointments can feel short, and you can forget things you want to say, so being prepared can help to get the most out of your appointment. It could help to:

  • write down what you want to say
  • practise what you might say in your head or with someone you trust
  • bring any information that helps explain how you're feeling
  • take someone with you for support
  • keep a diary of how you feel
  • 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).

Your doctor might ask you some questions about your sleeping, eating, and exercise. It might help to think about these things before you go to your appointment.

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

Tips for talking to your doctor

It's not always easy to talk about what's going on but here are some tips that might make it a little easier:

  • Try to be honest and open
  • Use words that feel natural to you
  • Explain how your feeling affects your day to day life, such as your school and home life, your sleep and your appetite
  • Try not to worry that your problem is too small
  • Don't be afraid to ask if you don't understand something.

It's always OK to let your doctor know if the conversation's becoming too uncomfortable and you want to stop.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

There are no right or wrong questions but it might help to ask questions like:

  • Do you have more information I can take away to read later?
  • Is there any local support I can use?
  • Is there anything I can do to help myself?
  • Do I need to book a second appointment, and if so, when?
  • Who do I contact if things get worse or if I have any questions?

What if I don't like my doctor?

Sometimes you might be unhappy with your doctor. It could be that you don't feel comfortable talking to them, they don't understand what you say or you feel they don't really understand what you're experiencing. If you feel this way, you could ask for an appointment with a different doctor – although you may have to wait for another appointment.

If you are really unhappy with how your doctor (or any healthcare professional) has treated you, you have the right to make a complaint. You can ask at the surgery's reception desk for more information.

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

< Back to our resources on how to get help and support

Go to our main info hub for young people >

This information was published in June 2019. We will revise it in 2022.

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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