How to speak to doctor about your concerns and mental health.
Speaking to your doctor and getting support with your mental health is a vital part of getting better, but sometimes the thought of speaking to a doctor can be daunting. This is not uncommon, it can be hard to speak to doctors about our physical health, then add in talking about personal things such as mental health and cramming it all into a ten minute appointment can become understandably difficult especially if its a doctor you are not familliar with.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. Here are some tips to get the most of going to your doctor.
Your doctor is not just there for your physical health – Doctors are often seen as someone that only deals with colds/viruses and injuries when in fact they are also there to support you with your mental health. Your doctor is also a major gatekeeper to mental health services and should be able to refer you to an appropriate service such as your local Community Mental Health Team or Early Intervention Team.
You should feel comfortable talking to your doctor about your mental health – Many Doctors nowadays have a good knowledge of mental health conditions and should be able to talk to you about treatments and support in a way you can understand and refer you to the right care and support.
You can change your doctor if you feel you are not being listened too – As mentioned most doctors are trained in mental health, but if you did feel you are not getting the help you require then ask to see someone else. You are completely within your rights to ask for a second opinion.
Try to remain calm – It can be hard to talk about how you are feeling, especially when you are low/anxious. It is normal to “well up” or cry when talking about personal things like your feelings. It is the doctor’s job to listen to you and try to make you feel comfortable when discussing your health.
Make the most of your time. To help your doctor make the right referral take in notes of your symptoms, try and be clear and concise and pay attention to how frequent they are, how long you have had them and how much distress they are causing you.
Be persistent – The most important thing is getting the help you need, as mentioned if you feel you are not being listened too then try again or ask to see someone else. Do not just dismiss your symptoms, you have the right to have them investigated if they are troubling you.
The information you give to your doctor is confidential – You have the right to access your health information, without having to give a reason (this can be done by providing your surgery in writing your request for your medical notes, there is a small charge for the photocopying of this information). If you are under 16, confidentiality means that if you don’t want your parents or anyone else to be involved, they don’t have to be. If they feel it will help you, your doctor may encourage you to talk to a family member of friend about your problem or ask for permission to contact them, but they cannot insist. Confidentiality has limits, and there are circumstances in which information may be made known. These are: when the patient gives their consent; when it is required by law; and when it is in the interests of an individual or the public. These are uncommon and extreme situations, for example, when there are concerns about a child’s safety, or when it’s suspected that a crime is involved.
Preparing for your Appointment:
Before your appointment: Being prepared for your visit and thinking about what you want to get out of it will help both you and your doctor. Think carefully about what you want to get out of the appointment. Ask a friend or family member to come with you, if you feel comfortable. Ask your hospital or surgery for an interpreter or communication support if needed. It may help you to bring some notes to the appointment.
- My symptoms include:
- When it started
- What makes it better
- What makes it worse
- Since my last appointment/in the last month, I have felt:
- I have looked after myself by:
- Medications, vitamins and supplements I take are:
During your appointment:
During the appointment, make sure you ask about anything you don’t understand. Ask for important words to be written down and explained. Write things down, or ask a family member or friend to take notes. Some things may be hard to discuss – for example, difficult experiences you have had, or if you drink a lot or use drugs. But being honest can help you get the treatment that will work best for you.
Questions you may want to ask your doctor:
I want to find out more about my condition. What are the best places to do this?
How do I meet other people who have the same condition as me? Are there any support groups?
Can I make any changes to my lifestyle which would help my health, such as giving up smoking, avoiding certain foods, or doing more of a certain type of exercise? Before you leave your appointment:
- Check that you have covered everything on your list/notes.
- Check that you understand: What happens next?
- What should I do?
- What will the doctor do?
- Who do I contact if I have any more problems or questions? If it helps, write these things down.
If you feel your doctor is not helping you get the support you need:
Most of the time doctors are excellent at dealing with all of our health needs if however you do not feel that you are being listened to or you are unhappy with your treatment or lack of treatment, it is really important that you don’t give up on getting the help you need.
Most complaints can be settled quickly by contacting your surgery, however if you feel that you are still not getting a resolution then you can contact the local Commissioning CCG (Care Commissioning Group) and ask to speak to PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service): Telephone: 0800 3893891
Email: [email protected]
Failing that you could contact your local PALs Mental Health Trust: Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust Telephone: 0800 953 0045 (Available Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm) Text: 07985 883 509 Email: [email protected]
Alternatively you can try calling our local mental health team CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health team) on T: 0121 301 4000 (Outside of customer relations opening hours, our switchboard operates 24 hours a day, which can act as a signpost if required).