Talking to your GP about your mental health
GPs are there to help you with any problem related to your mental health as well as physical health.
You can go to them if you feel sad after a relative has passed away, if the pressures of life are making you unhappy and anxious, or if you feel angry or confused.
Mental ill health can have a negative impact on your physical health, just as a having a physical health problem can affect your mental health. GPs don't just prescribe medicines for mental health conditions. They can also help you to access talking therapies and point you towards specialist help.
Why go to see a GP over a problem that you think will eventually pass?
- A minor problem could develop into something more serious if ignored.
- Recurrent problems (like feeling anxious) can impact on your quality of life and lead to other problems.
- Seeing a GP regularly can help you to learn more about the support available to you, and helps your GP to better understand your needs.
Getting the most out of your appointment
Think about the following in advance to get the most out of your appointment:
- Do you need a double appointment? You have the right to book 20 minutes rather than the usual 10 if you think you need longer to talk to your doctor.
- You can specify if you want to see a GP with specific skills (like one that speaks your language or a specialist GP) or only a male or female GP.
- Ask a friend or family member to come to the appointment with you if you think it might help.
- Prepare a list of the concerns you want to discuss. Include physical and mental symptoms, how long you've felt this way and how it affects your life.
- Be open and honest. GPs are trained to deal with intimate and uncomfortable things in a professional and supportive way and everything you tell them is legally confidential (unless you could be a danger to others).
- If you think you know what will help you, tell the GP.
- Ask them to write down anything you don't understand and make notes during the appointment if you need to.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions or get the GP to repeat things.
- Make sure you fully understand what the next steps are before you leave the room.
- If you're unhappy, you can see another GP at your practice or make a complaint (see below).
Our information guides
If you're worried about speaking to your GP or aren't sure how to talk to them about your mental health, download our free guide How to talk to your GP about your mental health.
Download our free Information for you guide with tips for visiting your GP and information about your mental health.
Getting Doc Ready
To help prepare you for your GP appointment, Doc Ready offers additional advice, information and helps you build a checklist of what you'd like to say during your appointment.
Originally designed for young people through the Innovation Lab process set up by Right Here, Comic Relief and the Nominet Trust, Doc Ready is a handy tool to help prepare anyone feeling anxious about talking to their GP about mental health and wellbeing.
Getting a Second Opinion
If you're unhappy or want to be sure that the advice or support you were given was right, you can ask for a second opinion from another GP or a specialist. This is not a legal right, but you do have the right to see a GP who is competent to deal with your case. You can also make an appointment with another GP in the practice, or change practice altogether if your GP refuses to arrange a second opinion for you.
Accessing a GP
You must be registered with a local practice to make an appointment. Its easy and quick to register with a practice of your choice in your catchment area (around where you live), and see any of their GPs.
- For Wales visit NHS Direct Wales or call 0845 4647.
- For Scotland visit NHS 24 or call 0800 22 44 88 .
- For Northern Ireland visit Health and Social Care service finder.
Finding the best GP for you
You can change GPs whenever you want. You may wish to consider changing GP for the following reasons:
- It may be more convenient to find a practice that offers specialised counselling or mental health services. You can phone the practice to ask what they offer, or find the information for English practices on the NHS Choices website.
- If you feel that you have a bad relationship with your practice or do not get on with your GP, you may wish to look for other practices in your area which offer a better or friendlier service. England's NHS Choices website lists customer reviews and provides a Patient Survey score for each practice. The 'Quality Practice Award' is only given to the very best practices in England, while all practices must have 'Practice Accreditation'.
If you disagree with the way your GP wants to treat your health problem, or you're unhappy about the service provided by your GP practice, you may wish to make a complaint. You can complain directly to the GP or Practice Manager, or make a written complaint by following the practice's complaints procedure which should be readily accessible on the practice website or at the reception. If there is still an unresolved problem you can complain to the NHS Commissioning Board (England.firstname.lastname@example.org or 0300 311 22 33 ).
Under the NHS Constitution you have the right to have your formal written complaint acknowledged within three working days and have it properly investigated. You can also take your complaint to the Independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if you aren't satisfied with the way your complaint has been dealt with by the NHS.