Seeking help for a mental health problem
A guide to taking the first steps, making empowered decisions and getting the right support for you.
What should I say to my GP?
It's not always easy to start a conversation about your personal feelings with your GP – someone you may hardly know. And it can be especially hard when you're not feeling well. But it's usually the first step towards working out what kind of treatment and support might help you.
Here are some things to consider:
- Be honest and open.
- Focus on how you feel, rather than what diagnosis you might meet.
- Try to explain how you've been feeling over the past few months or weeks, and anything that has changed.
- Use words and descriptions that feel natural to you – you don't have to say specific things to get help.
- Try not to worry that your problem is too small or unimportant – everyone deserves help and your doctor is there to support you.
Under 18? We have resources for you on how to get help and support
Being as open and honest as possible, even though extremely difficult, is what has assisted me.
How can I prepare for an appointment?
GP appointments are usually very short, and if you're feeling nervous you might forget to say things you think are important. Being prepared can help you get the most out of your appointment.
Here are some suggestions:
- Write down what you want to say in advance, and take your notes in with you.
- Give yourself enough time to get to your appointment, so that you don't feel rushed or stressed.
- If you're feeling nervous, let your doctor know.
- Think about taking someone with you to support you, like a close friend or family member.
- If you've talked to your family or friends about how you feel, practise what you might say to your GP with them.
- Highlight or print out any information you've found that helps you explain how you're feeling.
- Think about the outcome that you want from your appointment (such as access to therapy).
- If you have a few things to talk about, you can ask for a longer appointment (you'll need to do this when you're booking it in).
We've produced a brief leaflet to help you talk to your GP about your mental health. You can download it for free in English or Welsh from our Find the Words page here.
Everyone in England and Wales has the right to register with a GP and use their services. You don't need to provide a fixed address or show ID. If you live in England you can use the NHS online 'service search' tool for finding GP surgeries near you. If you live in Wales, you can find your nearest surgery by visiting the NHS 111 Wales website and searching for your postcode.
When registering with a GP surgery, you might like to think about:
- how close it is to your home or work
- if its opening times are convenient for you
- whether the doctors have any specialist training in mental health
- looking for patient reviews on the surgery's website.
NHS Choices has a detailed guide on registering with a GP, including information on how to register if you are:
- homeless or away from home
- visiting or living in the UK temporarily
- a former armed forces member.
This information was published in December 2017.
This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published.
References and bibliography available on request.
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