The results from previous RACGP ‘Health of the Nation’ surveys of GP’s has stated that patients talk to their doctor about mental health more than any other health issue.
That has doctors well placed in discussing your mental health or that of a loved one. Your GP will discuss your symptoms or how you feel, any concerns you may have, and how what you are feeling is affecting your life.
Taking a close friend or family member along to your consultation for support is also an option. This person may be able to further explain the current situation to your doctor and then help after the consultation regarding what was discussed.
Your doctor may assess you for a mental health plan that documents your health care needs, goals, treatment and referrals. They may also suggest self-guided care through the many online programs and resources that are available.
Contributing factors to poor mental health
A wide range of causes can contribute to a period of poor mental health. For many people there is a combination of factors, with some of the following having a deeper effect than others:
- abuse, trauma, or neglect from early in life
- genetic factors such as a close family member with a mental illness
- social isolation or loneliness
- the experience of discrimination and stigma
- social disadvantage, poverty or debt
- the loss of someone close
- severe or long-term stress
- suffering a long-term physical health condition
- job loss and unemployment
- homelessness or poor housing
- caring for someone long-term
- alcohol and drug misuse
- domestic violence, workplace bullying
- trauma such as violent crime, a life-threatening situation or affects of military combat
- physical causes such as a head injury or neurological condition such as epilepsy that impacts behaviour and mood
- personality traits such as perfectionism or low self-esteem
Where to start?
A multitude of publicly available information and support services can be found online. However, your GP is a logical place to start when you, or someone you know, is experiencing a mental health issue.
One logical reason for this is that generally there is an existing relationship with our doctor, where trust has been built over time. This includes an understanding of your current medical background and family medical history.
Your doctor can make a holistic assessment that takes into account mental and physical elements that make up your current health situation. From there GPs can offer treatment or refer you to other mental health services.
Your doctor has a broad perspective on what local mental health services are available and can help select someone best suited to your needs. They can be selected from a variety of mental health professionals including counsellors, psychologists or psychiatrists.
How can I support the mental health of others?
The sooner someone with a mental illness receives treatment, the better the outcome is likely to be.
Although you may encourage someone to see a doctor for a mental health assessment, this may be refused. In that case, you can make an appointment with a doctor yourself to discuss any concerns and find out what options are available to assist.
There is plenty of support and treatment options available that can be discussed with your doctor. Utilising these is essential for the long term, as looking after yourself and someone else’s needs can be hard to balance. Ensuring that the support you provide is within your limitations can also be discussed with your doctor.
A great resource for those wishing to initiate support others is the ‘R U OK?’ website. It aims to assist those that may be struggling with their particular life circumstances. The idea is to initiate a conversation with ‘R U OK?’ that then follows up with steps to ‘Listen’, ‘Encourage Action’ and ‘Check-in’.
Useful organisations and resources regarding mental health.
The following are just some of the national mental health organisations that offer free resources and support
Lifeline Australia : 13 11 14
24/7 crisis support for people who are having difficulty coping or staying safe.
Beyond Blue : 1800 512 348
Information, 24/7 support and practical resources including fact about anxiety and depression.
Suicide Call Back Service : 1300 659 467
Provides professional 24/7 telephone and online counselling
Veterans Support Service : 1800 011 046
Support for current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel and their families
PANDA : 1300 726 306
Supporting the mental health of expecting and new parents
Kids Helpline : 1800 55 1800
24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25
Free online support and counselling for 12-25-year-olds, their family and friends
MensLine Australia : 1300 78 99 78
Telephone and online counselling service for men with emotional health and relationship concerns
A more specific and extensive list of mental health resources can be found here at the Queensland Mental Health Commission.
Finally discussing your mental health in a consultation with your doctor can be a comfortable environment in which to discuss management and treatment options. If you would like to do so please make an appointment with our friendly reception staff.