A guide to taking the first steps, making empowered decisions and getting the right support for you.
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In your appointment your doctor will probably make an initial assessment by asking questions about:
They might also check your physical health to rule out any physical illness. This could involve:
The outcome of your appointment will usually depend on:
For example, your doctor might suggest one or more of the following options:
If you drive, you might have to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) if you're diagnosed with a mental health problem. (For more information on your right to drive, including when and how to contact the DVLA, see our legal pages on fitness to drive.)
In most cases: yes. Your doctor should keep whatever you tell them confidential, and ask your permission before sharing it with anyone else. However, they may need to make an exception if they believe that you're at risk of seriously harming yourself, or someone else. In this case they should still try to tell you first so you know what's going on.
Depending on how big they think the risk is, they could:
If you care for children and are worried about what might happen if you tell your doctor how you're feeling, our pages on parenting with a mental health problem provide more information.
Whenever you use an NHS service in England, a record is created for you. These records contain details about the care you've received. One of these is called your Summary Care Record (SCR), which lists key medical information about you, such as allergies, medication and bad reactions. You can also ask your doctor to add extra details into your SCR, such as your crisis care plan (if you have one).
Certain healthcare professionals can then access your SCR electronically in different places, such as in your doctor's office and in hospital (with your permission). This can help them provide better care – especially in an emergency.
There are data protection laws in the UK to ensure your health records are kept confidential and secure. You also have a legal right to access personal information held about you by an organisation, including GPs and hospitals.
To find out more, see:
Receiving a diagnosis can be a positive experience. You might feel relieved that you can put a name to what you're experiencing, and it can help you and your doctor discuss what kind of treatment might work best for you. However, not everyone feels this way. You might have complicated feelings about what a diagnosis would mean for you – or you might come to disagree with it entirely. It's important to remember that a diagnosis doesn't have to shape your entire life, and may come to be a relatively minor part of your identity.
(See our introduction to mental health problems for more information on diagnosis, stigma around mental health problems, and recovery.)
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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