Seeing your GP about Mental Health Concerns


When you are affected by any sort of mental illness, the first step to getting help is making an appointment with your GP.  This can feel like a very scary thing to do, but this article will hopefully help you to understand what will happen at the appointment.


What Should I Say? What Will They Say?

  • What you say depends on what your situation is.  However,  you may want to tell the doctor that you think you are depressed, for example, or list any symptoms you have.  Remember that physical symptoms can be present as well as psychological ones.
  • Once the doctor has an idea about why you are there, they will probably take the lead and ask you a series of questions.  These are likely to include asking how you are sleeping, if there have been any changes in your appetite, if you have any thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and if there have been any big changes in your life recently, such as leaving a job or moving house.
  • What is said after that obviously depends on the individual situation, but try not to worry too much because the doctor will know what they need to ask to get the information they need.


What Will They Do?

As above, this depends on the exact circumstances, but the doctor may do one or more of these:

  • Prescribe medication.  This is likely to be anti-depressants, or something else more suitable, depending on your situation.
  • Referral to a counsellor.  This may be instead, or as well as, medication.  If they think that you will benefit from talking to someone about what is going on in your life they may suggest this option.  The counsellor may be someone at the surgery, or in another location.
  • Referral to a mental health team.  This could be to see a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health nurse, or other professional.  This is not always done until other treatment has been tried, such as medication, unless there is a serious and/or immediate risk.
  • Nothing.  They may tell you to ‘wait and see’.  This might include keeping a mood diary, and then visiting the doctor again to discuss the outcome.


Things to Remember

  • They have seen/heard it all before.  Doctors see a lot of people with mental health issues, and they will know how hard it is for you to talk to them about it.  They will know what information they need out of you, so don’t worry if you forget something.
  • If you are worried about forgetting to say something, write it down.  Taking a list of things you want to say can help to refresh your memory.  You could even hand the list to your GP, rather than saying anything, if this would cause less anxiety for you.
  • You do not have to do what your GP suggests.  If you don’t want medication, say so.  If you do want a referral to a counsellor, say so.  You could then talk about what options are available and how you can proceed.
  • You can request an appointment with a particular doctor if there is one you know is more knowledgeable about mental health, or that you have seen before, or if you want a male or female.  Don't be afraid to ask for what will help you.