If you think you have a problem with your mental health and would like some help, the first step is usually to talk to your GP. Don’t feel like you will be wasting their time – in fact 1 in 3 appointments with GPs concern mental health problems including depression and anxiety.
To get more out of your appointment with your GP, think about the following questions before you go:
• How are you feeling, and what are your symptoms? (such as racing heart).
• How long have you been feeling like this?
• How is it affecting your life; is it preventing you doing normal activities or something you normally enjoy?
• Are you looking after yourself, e.g. getting enough sleep, taking some exercise, eating properly?
The GP will firstly check if there are any physical causes to your illness (such as a recent bout of illness which has left you feeling a bit under the weather) and then suggest what you could do to help you feel better and recover. This may include:
• Keeping an eye on your symptoms – some mental health problems can get better by themselves with no treatment at all, so your GP may ask you to come back after two weeks to see if you are still having difficulties.
• Lifestyle changes –Looking after your physical health is key to improving your mental health. Your GP may suggest you take up some exercise as this can help to improve depression for some people. Your GP may also suggest other things that can help such as making sure you eat well and that you’re getting out of the house;
• They may suggest Self help
• Talking therapies for certain problems
• Referral to an NHS specialist service.
• Referral to a voluntary sector service.
• Prescription for antidepressants if you have experienced depression in the past, or if you have tried some of the suggestions above and they haven’t helped to improve things.
If your symptoms are more disturbing or disruptive to you, such as hearing or seeing things that others can’t or holding beliefs that other people don’t understand, then your GP will make an assessment of your needs and may offer a referral to an NHS specialist service. Your GP can also prescribe and review any medication that may be recommended and liaise with other health professionals involved in the assessment and care of your mental health problem.