Going to see your GP for a mental health difficulty
There's no need to worry about going to see your GP.
- How do I book an appointment with my GP?
- What should I ask my GP?
- What can I expect from my GP?
- How do I prepare before my appointment
- Will I be prescribed medication
- How much does a GP cost?
A GP is a doctor (a general practitioner) who is trained to look after your physical and mental health. Your GP should be your first contact if you have any concerns over your health, either physical or mental. You may be feeling down or your anxiety is out of control, or maybe you don’t know what is going on for you, no matter what it is, your GP is there to help.
Find a GP near you
If you don’t already have a GP you can find one by searching for General Practitioners in the Golden Pages or on the HSE website. Your college may also have a GP. GP surgeries usually work 9-5 hours, if you require a GP outside of these hours, especially if it’s a weekend, contact a GP out of hours service.
How do I book an appointment with my GP
- It’s easy enough to book an appointment with your GP. Simply ring them up or call into the surgery to make an appointment with the receptionist.
- You need to be registered to your GP’s practice in order to access their services. If you’re not registered ask if they are accepting new patients, and sign up.
- When booking the appointment, you shouldn’t have to say what it’s for, but if you are asked you can simply say that it’s a mental health issue without going into much detail. However, if you are very distressed or feeling suicidal it is important to say that you need an urgent appointment.
- You can request a male or female doctor if there is one available.
- If you feel unable to talk about what is going on for you, you can bring a friend or family member into the appointment with you. This can help if you find it difficult to talk about what has been going on for you.
What should I ask my GP
It can be difficult to talk to your GP about your mental health, especially if you’re not used to talking about how you feel. We’ve put together a few tips to help you get the best from your appointment.
- Don’t be scared to ask questions as your GP is there to help you get an understanding of what is going on for you.
- Try not be embarrassed about talking to your doctor, they have seen it all before.
- Say that you find it difficult to talk about what’s wrong. This will prompt your doctor to help you to talk. Be as honest as you can.
- Focus on talking about the way you feel and what has been going on for you in the weeks before your appointment.
- Talk about what help you would like and what you would like to happen next.
- Before your appointment make a list of any concerns or questions you may have. If you have a question don’t be afraid to ask it. Your doctor is used to people asking questions and will be expecting you to ask some, so don’t be shy.
What can I expect from my GP?
- Your GP should treat you with the utmost respect and be non-judgmental in their treatment of you. Your doctor may give you a diagnosis, although this is very unlikely on a first visit, or refer you onto someone else who may be an expert in dealing with your condition or illness.
- You may be referred onto the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Most CAMHS services work with young people up to the age of 16, and some of them work with young people up to age 18. If you are 18 or over you will be referred to the Adult Mental Health services. There may be a long waiting list so ask your GP if there is anything you can do to help yourself in the short term.
- Depending on where you live, you may be referred to the HSE’s Psychology service which can be accessed through your GP. Ask your GP for more information.
- Jigsaw is a youth mental health service in some areas of the country for young people aged 12 to 25yrs. Your GP may suggest referral to this service if there is one in your area.
- You may also be referred to counselling which is a type of talk therapy. This type of support involves talking to someone about your worries and concerns over a number of weeks. Your GP may recommend free or low cost counselling in your area.
- Your GP may also give you tips on how you can improve your mental wellbeing yourself. These might include tips for good mental health such as exercising and eating right, or ways you can improve your sleep. Before you make a decision ask all about the different treatment options open to you, and ask which would be the best for you.
How can I prepare before my appointment?
- GP appointments are usually pretty short so it’s usually a good idea to prepare what you want to say before you go in.
- Write down what you want to say in advance and don’t forget to take your notes in with you.
- Try to be on time for your appointment as if you are late it will only make you more stressed, and you may even miss your appointment.
- If you are feeling nervous, let your doctor know. If you feel extra nervous, maybe ask a friend or family member to go into your appointment with you. Or if they don’t attend your appointment with you, talk with them beforehand to go over what you will say.
Will I be prescribed medication?
You might be prescribed medication by your GP, and if this is the case make sure you know as much as possible about the medication prescribed to you. Ask your doctor to tell you about the medication, any potential side effects and for how long you will have to take the medication. Not everyone likes taking medication, especially if it is to treat a mental health problem. But just because you are prescribed something now, does not mean you have to take it forever. However, it’s important that if you are prescribed medication that you take it exactly as advised by your doctor.
How much does a GP cost?
GPs can vary in cost, but if you have a medical card or a GP visit card you can see your GP for free. Medical cards are issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and are means tested on your parent’s income if you are dependent on them, or your own income if you are no longer dependent on your parents. If you don’t qualify for a medical card, you may qualify for a GP visit card. A GP visit card allows you to see the doctor for free but you will have to pay for any prescriptions issued. If you don’t qualify for either a medical card or a GP visit card, attending your GP can be quite expensive. Talk to them beforehand as they may be able to set you up with a payment plan. If this is not possible it may be worth speaking to your parents or friends to lend you money.