Talking to your GP (family doctor) about a mental health issue can feel difficult. You might be worried about making an appointment, you might feel rushed (appointments are normally just 10 mins), or you might feel anxious or unsure what to say. You could be concerned about confidentiality or that you won’t understand what the doctor tells you.
We have put together some tips to help you prepare for your GP appointment:
- When you book your appointment you can ask to see either a male or female doctor, or a doctor that you have seen before and feel comfortable with.
- You don’t have to tell the receptionist why you want an appointment, although they may ask, and sometimes it can help if you do.
- You can book a double appointment (20 mins) if you think you will need more time.
- You can take a friend or family member with you, and they can come in to the appointment with you.
- Your friend or family member can talk for you if you don’t feel able to.
- It can help to write down what you want to say – this helps you to remember and is sometimes easier than saying things out loud, you can ask the doctor to read what you have written.
- Writing down a list of questions you have and taking this with you is also helpful.
- Be as open and honest as you can, it is hard for the doctor to help you if they don’t know the full story.
- Everything you say to the doctor is confidential – this means it is completely private and includes talking about self-harm, sexual health, drugs or alcohol, eating disorders or any other health problem. The only time when confidentiality might be broken is if the doctor feels either you or someone else are at risk of serious harm, and they would normally discuss this with you first; or if you are under 13 and asking for contraception or sexual health testing.
- Your doctor might suggest that it would help to talk to your family or carers about your problems – however it is your choice and they cannot insist or tell anyone (family or professionals) without your permission, unless they are worried about your safety.
- If there is anything you don’t understand – it could be about medication, or the doctor might use words you don’t know or talk about treatments you haven’t heard of – then don’t be afraid to ask them to explain further. You might also ask them for leaflets or websites with more information.
- You don’t have to accept or consent to any treatment or medication offered, if you are uncomfortable with what is suggested then you can ask about other options.
Childline has a lot of information about seeing your doctor.
We also recommend the Docready site. This site has answers to lots of questions you may have about seeing your GP. It also enables you to prepare for your appointment by building a printable checklist that you can take to show the doctor. See our member Holly’s guest blog for Docready.
If you have been prescribed medication and would like to know more about this, its uses, actions and side effects, you can look at the Headmeds site which has been written for young people.
Click here to see a short film about talking to your GP, made by young people from the Right Here project in Brighton and Hove
Questions you might want to ask your GP:
Why are the tests needed?
How and when will get the results?
Who do I contact if I don’t hear about results?
What different types of treatment are there?
Which are recommended?
What are the possible side effects or risks of this medication?
How long will the treatment last?
What will happen if I don’t have any treatment/ take the medication?
Are there any alternative therapies that I could try instead?
(Alternative therapies are things like acupuncture, reflexology, massage, relaxation, mindfulness or yoga – which can be helpful for some people.)
Is there anything I can do to help myself?
Do I need to come back and see you again?
How long will the referral take?
Do you have any leaflets or information I might find useful?
Are there any other services that can help me?
Is there a local group I could join where I could meet others going through the same thing?
If you are not happy with your treatment from the GP for any reason you can –
Ask to see another doctor
Ask for a second opinion
Make a formal complaint – you can do this directly through the surgery (ask the receptionist for a form, or the surgery website may have one you can download) or you can talk to PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) in some areas.
Alternatively you can get in touch with your local Healthwatch