“Just Go to the Doctors”: with Mental Health, it’s Not So Easy

TW: Mentions of mental health conditions – anxiety and depression.

No one likes going to the doctors. No offence to our GPs out there, you guys are doing a great job, but the whole procedure is just such a faff. Mustering up the energy to get up and ring the doctors at opening time, hitting redial a billion times as you compete with fellow patients for one of the precious appointments, having to get the time off from work or finding someone to look after the kids… It’s just hard work and quite frankly a responsibility as an adult that none of us had really thought about until we had to do it.

Still, if your cough lingers long enough that you’re pretty sure it’s a chest infection, you find the drive to get your butt into gear and off you trot to get your necessary medication. With mental health issues, things aren’t that easy.

Mental health issues are some of the hardest things to visit your doctor about, because your illness literally works against you to stop you from going. With anxiety, for example, you realise things aren’t quite right but your anxiety can hold you prisoner; preventing you from seeking medical attention. You’re too worried to ask for help. What if the doctor thinks you’re a hypochondriac? What if you see someone you know in the waiting room and they ask why you’re there? What would they think? Is putting yourself out there and admitting you’re struggling really worth the risk? No, it seems much safer to stay quiet and deal with it yourself… and therein lies the danger.  Like many ailments, if you don’t get the proper treatment, mental health issues can become serious quickly until they are majorly affecting your life.

“Talking to someone who has been where you are now can be therapeutic in itself and they may be able to rationalise your worries and help you get the help you need”

It’s a tough one to handle, especially if it’s your first time experiencing these symptoms, but even those of us who have been dealing with these illnesses for many years can still find it difficult. Trying to determine if your decisions are based in sound logic or if your logic is becoming skewed by irrational fears is often hard to determine on your own. My advice would be to talk to someone. Someone you know, trust, and ideally has some experience with mental health. Talking to someone who has been where you are now can be therapeutic in itself and they may be able to rationalise your worries and help you get the help you need. If there’s no one you know that you feel you can talk to, you can always call the Samaritans on 116123 or text Papyrus on 07786209697at any time, day or night. The important thing is to talk to someone.

My final plea is this. Even if you have never suffered from mental health issues and you don’t understand them, please never discourage someone else from seeking medical advice. Any part of your body can go wrong and require intervention. You wouldn’t advise someone against going to the doctors for any other illness, so don’t do it for this.

“Mental illnesses are just that. Illnesses.”

In the past when I have spoken to a friend about going to the doctors regarding my depression I received the response ‘I don’t believe you need help for that type of thing. Just be more positive’. Luckily I’d been dealing with this long enough to brush off the comment and get the help I needed, but this type of comment could literally be fatal to someone who isn’t used to dealing with it. Mental illnesses are just that. Illnesses. They need to be treated as such and not just swept under the carpet by a society that finds it difficult to confront the idea that not everyone is feeling fine.

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