Depression Awareness Week: How your GP can help

Publish Date: 09/04/2013

 

Feeling Low? Your GP can help

The first thing a lot of us might do if we started to feel physically unwell, is call up our doctor’s surgery and get an appointment to see our GP. But what if you woke up one morning unable to face the world because of depression, what would you do then?

Opening up about depression, anxiety or stress for the first time can be a frightening experience especially if we don’t understand your symptoms or the cause. Mental health problems can at times, be crippling, and left untreated can prevent us from doing everyday things from going to the shops to even getting out of bed in the morning.

The fear for many of us, is admitting we can’t cope and seeing that as a sign of failure, when in fact; this is the first step towards getting better. With a number of national initiatives in place there’s never been a better chance of getting access to the right support and treatment for whatever you’re experiencing, and visiting your GP is a good place to start with getting help.

You’re not alone!

A 2007 survey by the Mental Health Foundation, found that an estimated 250,000 people visit their GP each day to seek help for an emotional or psychological problem, and with more LGB people experiencing mental health problems than the general population, it’s really important for us to be asking for the support we need and deserve.

What’s stopping you?

There is still a lot of stigma surrounding depression and mental health in general.  People might fear that having depression means the person is dangerous or weak, and understandably this can then stop some of us from speaking up and asking for help when we start to feel low.

In a recent report, 87% of service users have said that stigma has had a negative impact on their lives, with proportions significantly higher for people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual so it’s not surprising that so many people still suffer in silence. But attitudes are changing, with an independent review of the national campaign; Time to Change, showing that people living with a mental health problem are experiencing less stigma and discrimination than before.

It’s also suspected that for LGB people, there are additional barriers that might put people off asking for help, such as fewer support networks or a fear of having to come out to your GP when you might already be feeling vulnerable. Even if someone you know has had a negative experience with their GP, it doesn’t mean yours will be the same and you can ask to see someone else or register at a different GP practice if it means you get the support you need.

Help’s at hand…

Thankfully, with legislation and national campaigns such as ‘Time to Change’ which sets out to end discrimination surrounding mental health, it seems that more and more people are now opening up about living with a mental health problem and seeking the help they’re entitled to. In fact, 81% of people say that they would now visit their GP with an emotional or psychological problem, which goes to show that attitudes are gradually starting to shift.

Getting the most out of your Doctor’s appointment:

  • Write down what you have been experiencing before you go, including how you have been effected emotionally, psychologically and practically
  • Make a note of any questions or worries you have – it you’re nervous you might forget to ask
  • Take a supportive friend or family member along for support, this could help things feel a lot less daunting
  • Be as open and clear as you can – the more information you can give your GP the better
  • You do have the right to request a second opinion or see a different GP. If you’re not already registered with a GP, or if you’d like to change the practice you’re registered at, you can visit the NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk

And finally…

Here at The Lesbian & Gay Foundation, we have a number of services available if you need help and support, or even just a friendly ear to listen, including: Counselling; Wellbeing courses; One-to-one wellbeing sessions for Manchester residents; Pop-in service plus our Helpline, which is available 365 days a year, 10am – 10pm on 0845 3 30 30 30

For more information on our services, please visit www.lgf.org.uk/wellbeing or call us on 0845 3 30 30 30; email helpline@lgf.org.uk