A voice and a choice for our mental health
Here are some things about confidentiality that you might not know – and that might reassure you a bit before you visit your nurse or doctor (also known as a GP or general practitioner):
- In a nutshell, everything said between a GP and patient (of any age) is confidential – and that means completely private – no matter what you ask or talk about. This could include sexual health, pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, depression or any other health problem at all. The only exception is if the GP feels that you or another person may be at risk of harm or abuse
- Your GP can’t share information about your health without your permission; the receptionist cannot even divulge that you’ve been at the practice.
- If it makes you more comfortable, you can insist that your GP doesn’t write anything down on paper or record anything on the computer, although it’s usually a good idea as it helps the doctor later to have some sort of notes.
- Occasionally, your GP may encourage you to talk to your parents or carers about your problem, or ask for your permission to contact them. (This might be because they feel that it will help you, that you don’t fully understand the treatment you need, or that adult help is necessary.) Don’t panic if they do this – they cannot talk to anyone else without your permission. If you definitely don’t want your parents involved, that’s absolutely fine. The GP might suggest you talk to a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or older brother or sister instead, but they cannot insist and at the end of the day, it’s your choice.
- In some situations, your GP may feel that they have to contact Social Services or another health professional to make sure you are kept safe – again, try not to panic – they have to discuss this with you first and tell you what is going to happen, so you will have a chance to ask questions.
- Confidentiality can only be broken on one condition: if the GP or nurse thinks you are in severe danger, for example danger of harm or abuse.
If you are still worried about confidentiality you can always call your GP’s surgery without telling them who you are and ask them some questions, like:
- Is the information that I give you kept confidential?
- Do you ever tell anyone else about young peoples’ health issues?
- Would you ever tell anyone else about my visit without telling me first?
So the bottom line is, if you don’t want anyone else to be involved in matters of your health (both physical or mental), they won’t be, unless you give permission to your GP. And if you are unsure about anything, just ask!
Lastly, before you visit your GP, make sure you also read about: