As part of a new campaign, Mind is urging anyone who is worried about their mental health to speak to their GP. The mental health charity has put together a guide called ‘Find the Words’ offering advice on how to take that first step and have the conversation.
Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, said:
“Many of us worry about speaking to our GP if we’re struggling with any health problem. When it comes to talking about our mental health, it can be harder still. But bottling things up can make things worse. It’s better to ask for help earlier on. That way, if needed, you can start receiving the treatment you need to set you on the road to recovery.
“GPs are usually the first port of call for physical and mental health complaints, so they’re used to dealing with these types of issues. In fact, roughly one in three GP appointments have a mental health component. Nevertheless, it can be overwhelming having a conversation about what you are thinking or feeling with your GP or practice nurse, someone you may hardly know. That’s why we’ve put together a new guide with some tips on how to prepare for your appointment and make the most of the short time you get with them. Find out more at www.mind.org.uk/findthewords.”
Speaking to your GP or practice nurse is the first step to getting help. If you’re struggling with your mental health, you might be offered various types of treatment, or signposted on to other services. Typically, you could be offered, or given information about:
- Medication such as antidepressants
- Talking therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Physical exercise
- Alternative therapies such as arts therapy, outdoor ‘green’ activities or peer support
- Nearby organisations and charities that support people affected by mental health problems, such as local Minds
Felicity, 27, is from West london but currently lives in Devon. She said:
“I went to my GP in Ealing in November 2014 to talk about feeling depressed and he was absolutely fantastic. I initially made the appointment to discuss an ear infection, but when he asked how I was feeling I just broke down and told him everything.
“I’d had a really tough year, having recently broken up with my long term boyfriend and moved from our lovely flat to lodging with a family. He asked me whether I’d ever felt this way before and whether I’d ever taken any medication before. He signed me off work for a timescale that we agreed together, discussed medication options and printed off some information about antidepressants should I wish to take them. He also referred me for an assessment for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and suggested I stay with a friend or family member and return at the end of my sign-off period to discuss the future.
“I decided to go to stay with my Dad in Plymouth. When I went back to the GP after two weeks, I decided to take citalopram and he signed me off for a further week, and then another. As it turned out, I ended up staying in Devon, getting a new job down here, and meeting a new partner. A lot of what has happened was down to my brilliant GP, who was so much better than I ever could have hoped.”
Alan is 49 and lives in Essex. He's worked for Essex Police since 1986. He said:
“After many experiences, my mental health started to decline in 2013. I began getting flashbacks to certain incidents. Sometimes I’d feel like life was just not worth living. In December 2013 I went to the GP intending to talk about the stress I was under, and feeling unable to cope, but I ended up instead talking about my bad back. I just couldn’t find the words.
“In April 2014, I spent a week and a half unable to move, not washing, shaving or dressing, just staying in bed. After being urged by my wife, I finally saw a doctor. I was in the waiting room wondering why I was there and that I was only wasting their time. I only really went because I needed a sick certificate. With my wife’s support, I filled out the form, answering honestly. Based on my responses, the GP explained it was very likely that I was depressed, and could benefit for some help. It was daunting talking to him, but he was understanding. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. He helped me access the help I needed.
“This wasn’t the end of the problems – I still struggle with stress, depression and symptoms of PTSD. But I’m managing, I’m working, I have a good relationship with my wife and kids. I still have bad days but I’ve developed coping strategies. When I was ill I couldn’t tell anyone as I feared their reaction. If you’re suffering in silence try to tell one person, ideally your GP, so you can get the help you need. That first conversation is the toughest hurdle you have to overcome. Once you speak, people will listen, but you have to tell them.”