The benefits of seeing your GP for mental health

October is Mental Health Month, a time for everyone to increase their awareness and consider their own mental health. Getting a mental health check-up doesn’t have to be a big deal. It's as easy as seeing your GP in the initial stages. In fact mental health is the number one reason Australians visit their GP, according to the Health of a Nation report by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.1

Some key facts

  • 62% of patient visits to general practitioners are for psychological conditions2
  • a major proportion of the fatal, non-fatal, and total burden of disease in Australia is related to mental health
  • in young girls and women aged 15 to 44 years, anxiety disorders lead as the non-fatal and total burden of disease
  • at some point in their lives one in seven people will have suicidal thoughts
  • the primary cause of fatal burden of disease in Australia is suicide for both males and females aged 15-44 years.3

Given the above facts, it’s important to know that you can go to your GP as the first port of call when you feel you need a mental health check-up. Over 50% of GPs surveyed by the RACGP said mental health was their biggest focus and concern for the future. Dr Michael Gannon, president of the AMA, suggests the family GP is the most accessible member of the medical profession who can address issues relating to mental health. They are best placed to refer people to other health professionals and can give advice on how they can help.

When you should see your GP

As with any other illness, being able to identify the warning signs is critical in seeking help early. According to the AMA website, warning signs can include feeling anxious or overwhelmed, having difficulty in getting to or staying asleep, or feeling disengaged from family, work, and life. If you require help in choosing a GP, your local community medical health centre can provide advice for which doctor in your area may be best placed to provide assistance relating to mental health issues.

When visiting your GP for a mental health related issue, there are some things you should be able to expect from them. These include:

  • a detailed assessment of you, your condition and extensive information on your illness
  • support
  • information on the health professionals to whom you may need referrals and how they’ll work with you.4

Your GP has the knowledge and availability to provide immediate assistance in dealing with mental health. They should be considered as your first point of contact when you are struggling or have any concerns about your mental wellbeing.

References

  1. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), ‘General Practice: Health of the Nation 2018’, September 2018,
    www.racgp.org.au/general-practice-health-of-the-nation
  2. Henriques-Gomes, L., ‘Mental health is Australians' most common ailment, GPs report’, Guardian Australia, accessed 19 September 2018,
    www.theguardian.com/mental-health-is-australians-most-common-ailment-gps-report
  3. Flannery, J., Hawthorne, M., ‘Gp’s play a key role in managing mental health’, Australian Medical Association, accessed 27 July 2017,
    ama.com.au/media/GPs-key-role-mental-health
  4. Black Dog Institute, ‘Finding a mental health friendly doctor’, accessed 8 October 2018,
    blackdoginstitute.org.au/finding-a-mental-health-friendly-doctor