Knowing when you could benefit from the help of others is only one part of the battle, it also helps to know how to ask.
Deciding who to see.
There are a few choices when it comes to mental health care professionals and whilst this guide is written from the perspective of the UK NHS system, it is similar worldwide. Choosing who to talk to can be difficult and depends on many different factors – who you are comfortable with, who you trust and who you feel can help.
For many the first stop is talking to their doctor about depression. For NHS patients who cannot afford private consultations this is also the primary choice as your G.P will lead your care.
Friends & Family
Having at least one close friend or family member aware of your illness and your treatment can be very comforting and practical. They can offer personal support and friendship at times when you may not be able to get hold of professionals. Their care is often more tailored to your needs too which makes it even more effective. In a perfect world we would all be comfortable discussing our problems with everyone – but that’s often not the case. Feel free to only involve those who you think can have a positive impact on your treatment.
There are a number of charities who can help with advice, referrals, additional support, learning materials and friendships. I’ll be listing these in a separate post here and including some of the more popular charities who you can get in touch with.
In some countries private therapy or therapy covered by your insurance plan may be the best choice. Prices vary worldwide so an estimate isn’t possible but try to find a counselor or therapist who has received positive reviews from either people you know or as a referral from your doctor. In the UK private therapists are often unable to prescribe medications and as such will have to work in partnership with your doctor to administer effective care. Different types of talking therapies include CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), Grief Counseling, Couple Counseling, Group Counseling, Psychotherapy and more.
If you are thinking about suicide, or if your depression, anxiety or mania is too much for you to handle on your own there are a number of emergency crisis centers listed at www.suicide.org who can help. Many of the crisis centers are staffed by people with first hand experience of the difficulties you are going through and can talk to you in a non-judgmental, supportive way.
Discussing Your Mental Health
Talking To Your Doctor About Depression
Discussing complex matters like mental health and depression deserves as much time as possible. If your doctor’s surgery offers double length appointments it may be worth asking for one of these. If you have a personal preference as to which doctor you feel most comfortable discussing things with then ensure you get to see that person. Mental health is just as important as any other part of your well-being and getting an appointment made to see a professional is the first step in getting the treatment that will make you feel better.
Your First Meeting
Be open and honest with your doctor, at this stage there is no benefit to hiding or be ashamed of any aspect of the things you are struggling with. Talking to your doctor about depression can feel awkward but you wont be the first, or last. As there are not so many physical symptoms or tests which a doctor can study in order to diagnose you, your descriptions and explanations are critical. Worried about how to start the conversation? Take a look at some of the examples below and see if any suit your situation:
“I wanted to discuss my mood, and some of the affects it is having on my daily life.”
“A friend told me that I should come to see you and discuss depression. I have been struggling more and more lately and think it is time I got some professional help.”
“I’m worried about my mental health – and wanted to talk to someone about whether what I feel is normal, or if I could benefit from some form of treatment.”
Once the first sentence is out life gets much easier, and your doctor is trained to ask the right questions and to guide the discussion in a practical and helpful way. You may be asked to complete some questionnaires in which case be honest as these will often affect how you are treated. The most important thing to do is remember to be calm, concise and open about the problems you experience.
What Help To Expect
Your doctor may start treatment or alternatively refer you to a specialist, therapist or counselor first. It is possible that they will start antidepressants and they will discuss the side effects, efficacy and options available.
When starting antidepressants it is important to remember that the effect is rarely fast. It can take weeks or even months for the drug levels to increase in the body to a level where a difference is noticeable. If you are offered talking therapies you should take every opportunity to attend as these are an important part of both treating depression directly but also in understanding how your pharmaceutical therapy is going.
Can I Take A Friend
Its unlikely any professional would object to this, and if it helps then you should definitely take them along. At the end of the day your primary goal is getting treatment and feeling healthier, happier and relaxed. Sometimes family members and friends can help to provide the doctor with an important third-party perspective – but don’t get too upset with your friends if they choose that moment to be brutally honest – its important.
What Should I Tell Them
You can share as much, or as little as you feel comfortable with – and you should never feel pressured into discussing any topics which you are not ready to or comfortable talking about. The more you can explain and describe your doctor the better chance they have of providing sufficient and appropriate treatment. Try not to hide symptoms or down play the effect they have on your life as it could mean you miss out on the most effective methods of care.
Take notes before you visit and write down the topics, problems and difficulties you want to discuss.