How to talk to your GP about depression

Talking to anyone about your feelings can be really difficult. But talking to a medical professional can sometimes seem even more so.

When I was 22, I struggled so much with my depression. I moved to a different town for a new job and thought it was going to mean a new start away from my bad moods. But I was wrong. I was constantly feeling down, I cried what felt like all the time and it was a sadness I couldn’t shake. A friend eventually suggested that I go and talk to a professional about my feelings, which really scared me. However, it turns out it was for the best.

I plucked up the courage and booked an appointment with my GP. At first I thought I was being silly but when the doctor said that it looked like I was suffering from depression, I realised I wasn’t being silly at all. My journey with GPs has been an interesting one and I’ve learned some things along the way. I wanted to share with you some pointers on how to talk to your doctor about depression and hopefully, they will be useful.

When booking an appointment

Getting over that first hurdle of booking an appointment is an important and brave one. When you ring up, ask to see a GP that you like and that you trust. It can make it a little easier when telling them what’s been going on. The receptionist is bound to ask something along the lines of ‘what shall I say is the problem?’. Just say that you’re struggling with your mental health and think you might have depression. By letting the receptionist know, they can make a note of it for the doctor.

Before your appointment

A day or two before you go to see your doctor, have a look at websites like Mind and the Mental Health Foundation for information about depression. Have a look at the ‘symptoms’ section and see if any of these relate to how you’re feeling. Make a note of these and anything else you’re feeling so that when asked, you can show them your notes or explain fully. If you want to take anyone with you, that’s alright too. It’s equally alright to go alone for the first appointment if you’d rather. I went alone for my first appointment because it suited me.

During your appointment

GP appointments tend to last for about 10 minutes so there’s plenty of time for you to tell them what’s been happening and about how you’re feeling. Make reference to your notes and talk your GP through them. Start at the beginning and work your way through to now. They might write things down as you’re talking which is totally fine. It just means they’re listening.

It’s also good to ask questions. Here are a few you could ask:

  • What type of depression do I have?
  • How can it be treated?
  • Will I have to take medication? If so, what?
  • What should I do in a crisis?

The most important thing is to be honest. If you get upset, it’s OK. I remember I cried throughout my first appointment. Once I started talking about it, the tears came. And the GP was absolutely fine about it and was very kind.

After your appointment

If you think you still have questions, you can always give Mind or the Samaritans a call. These guys are amazing, especially if you find yourself in a crisis and don’t know who to talk to. If you’ve been prescribed medication, look it up online just to see what it is, how it will help and what, if any, the side effects are.

Remember, it’s OK to not be OK. There’s help and support out there and people, like me, who have been through it who can offer some advice, from our point of view. This advice is just from personal experience. The absolute best of luck and I hope you get the help you need.