It is common for a person to be unsure about going to the doctor about their mental health. A lot of people may feel that they should only go if they know they are dealing with a specific issue, but a doctor or specialist can help them identify their condition and doesn’t expect a patient to have any prior knowledge about a diagnosis before receiving one.
A person should seek help if their life is adversely impacted by thoughts or emotions and they are finding it hard to get enjoyment out of the activities they used to.
Where should somebody go for help with a diagnosis?
A GP will be many people’s first port of call and can help with referrals to mental health specialists should they deem this necessary. They will ask the patient about how they are feeling and the issues they are facing, before either making a diagnosis – they can diagnose anxiety and depression, for example – or referring the patient for a diagnosis of a more complex mental health condition.
Referrals can be taken by psychiatrists, social workers or psychologists, among other health professionals. They will conduct an assessment to discover more about mental health symptoms, past health, relationships with family and friends and other factors which may impact which type of treatment will be appropriate.
Assessments are conducted on the patient’s terms and a chaperone (such as a family member or friend) can attend for support. Recommended treatments are always open for discussion and the patient should have a say in what they feel will work best for them.
What if somebody is experiencing a mental health crisis?
A person experiencing a mental health crisis – which can include psychosis or suicidal thoughts – can self refer to their local mental health crisis team, or go to a hospital accident and emergency department. Psychosis and suicidal thoughts should not be ignored and should be treated as a medical emergency, might like a bad bleed or heart problems.
If you are concerned that you or somebody else might harm themselves or others, you should call 999 or go to a hospital accident and emergency department immediately.
What if somebody doesn’t want to get medical help or a diagnosis?
Getting help from a trained medical professional is always advisable for somebody experiencing poor mental health. But not everyone will want to seek clinical help or a diagnosis immediately. In this case, it may be beneficial to explore non-clinical routes first before deciding to see a GP, or some people may wish to do this alongside.
These options include opening up to family, friends, or an employer in the first instance. It can help to have someone with whom to talk through thoughts and feelings and provide reassurance – some people may not want to seek a diagnosis as they worry about how relationships with friends, family and people at work might be impacted.
Employers have a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010 to not discriminate against an employee with a mental health condition. More than this, they have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees who disclose a mental health issue, but this would require a diagnosis as proof of the mental health condition as a disability. Therefore, someone should not be dissuaded from seeking diagnosis for fear of redundancy or other forms of discrimination at work. Recieving a diagnosis means that somebody with a mental health condition would be protected under The Equality Act 2010 as having a disability.
Charities and helplines can be a good place to seek advice, join forums to discuss experiences with others in a similar position, or speak with trained advisors on next steps to take following the acknowledgement of a mental health condition.
The Samaritans is an excellent support line to call if somebody is experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings which they are finding overwhelming, and is availble 24/7 with trained advisors and is completely free and confidential. The number is 116 123.
In summary, mental health conditions can be complex and they can make working out how to go about seeking help or a diagnosis all the more complicated.
In many cases, people feel empowered in the knowledge of what their condition is and how it can be treated. Others may feel pigeon-holed and worry that their experience doesn’t align with a stereotypical experience of their diagnosed condition. In either case, a health professional or trained advisor from a mental health charity can help the person receiving their diagnosis with thoughts and feelings relating to this new information.
More about mental health conditions here.
More about signposting to organsiations and services that can help here.
How to help somebody you are worried about with their mental health here.
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