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A voice and a choice for our mental health

How to get the most out of your appointment

Talking about how you’re feeling is something many people struggle with, but if you want to start feeling better, talking is often a great help. Telling someone you already know could be the first step, and might be enough for you, but if you feel you need more support, talking to a doctor (also known as a GP or general practitioner) might be the next thing to do.

But how can you be assertive with your GP, and get across exactly what you want to? Sometimes it’s hard because you feel ill and it’s difficult to say what you mean. Here are some ideas that might help.

Before your appointment:

  • If you’d prefer to see a male or female GP, or one you’ve seen before that you liked, tell the receptionist when you make the appointment, and remember you don’t have to tell them why you want to see a GP if you don’t want to.
  • Read about your rights and about confidentiality. For example, did you know you can book a double appointment for 20 minutes if you want?
  • Really think about how you’re feeling or what’s on your mind. You might even want to practise saying it out loud (sounds strange but it might help!) or write it down to take with you.
  • Try to write down some questions about what you want to know, and take these with you to your appointment. Perhaps even do some reading, as this might raise more areas you would like to discuss and help you with the language you use in your questions.
  • Think about taking a friend with you. This might give you the confidence to speak up, or you could even ask your friend to tell      your GP about what you want or what’s on your mind.

During your appointment:

  • Tell your GP right at the beginning what you want to discuss and what you want out of the appointment.
  • Speak to your GP honestly; it’ll be easier for them to help you. (And you don’t need to worry about them telling anyone else – everything you tell him/her is totally confidential.)
  • Be as open as you can. Tell your GP about how your condition is affecting you, as well as any recent changes in your life, regarding home, college, work, relationships, sleep or eating patterns – it may help your GP to understand more about what you’re going through.
  • Write down key points of what the GP says to you – or ask them for some written information you can take away.
  • Ask the questions you prepared before you came, but don’t be afraid to ask more. Here are some ideas of other specific questions you might want to ask:
    • I don’t understand what you just said – please can you explain it again?
    • What does that word mean?
    • I understand you’d like me to start taking pills – but what are my other options?
    • What are the possible side effects of this treatment?
    • What can happen if I don’t take this medication, or choose this treatment?
    • Are there any lifestyle changes I can make that might help?
    • Are there any other signs and symptoms to be aware of?
    • What other help or support services are available to me?
    • Is there a group I can join or where would I find other young people going through what I’m going through?
    • Do you have any leaflets or information about my condition or my treatment?
    • Can I have a copy of any letters concerning me?
  • If you think of something new you want to ask, listen to your GP’s answer to the first question before you ask the new one.
  • If you feel confused by what the GP has said, you could try repeating back to them what you think they mean, then ask if you have understood or not.
  • If you disagree with something the GP says, that’s absolutely fine, but try to give reasons why you disagree and give suggestions as to what you think might work instead and why. Your appointment should be a two-way discussion.

 

Lastly, before you visit your doctor, make sure you also read about:

Knowing your rights

Confidentiality

How to give feedback