How To Talk To Your GP About Your Mental Health

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Elizabeth Venzin established The MindShift Foundation in 2013. With a background in corporate leadership, her determined advocacy for better preventative mental health initiatives has led to successful public health campaigns, lobbying of state and federal governments, and now this book. Elizabeth is a frequent guest on ABC Radio and is a tireless campaigner and speaker on the importance of preventative mental health for individuals, families, communities and workplaces.

 Mindshift to a Better Place, by Elizabeth Venzin, is on shelves now.

While some mental health conditions can be prevented when we better take care of our mental and emotional health, that’s not always enough. Sometimes, we may require intervention to help us get back on track. Ongoing traumatic situations or biological factors may necessitate help from healthcare professionals, such as a general practitioner (GP) or a psychologist.

In my book, MindShift to a Better Place, I have a whole chapter dedicated to talking to healthcare professionals, and to the healthcare system as a whole. Too many people avoid the doctor, when the reality is they can be the best person to help us through a period of poor or challenging health.


How a GP can help

A GP can ensure that nothing physical is causing symptoms of poor mental health. For example, an ongoing lack of energy may not be symptomatic of low self-worth or depression. It may just be low blood sugar which is something that treatment can resolve. Pain and other symptoms can be hard to diagnose without proper exploration. If the issue is not physical, then your GP will be able to provide referrals to mental health professionals.

What can you communicate to your GP?

Be totally honest with your GP. Some things may be embarrassing to talk about, but your GP needs to know everything they can about your health to give you the best possible advice. Your GP is obliged to respect your confidentiality, so try not to fear being open about issues that you might normally keep private. You’ll need to tell your GP the following:

  • How you feel
  • Your symptoms
  • Your medical history
  • Your concerns
  • The circumstances in your life that you feel have affected your health
  • What you feel you need to get better.


Questions your GP might ask you

Your GP will need to ask questions to get to the heart of the problem. Here are a few questions you can expect from your healthcare professional.

  • What symptoms have you been experiencing and for how long?
  • How is your life affected by your symptoms?
  • What makes you feel better or worse?
  • How are you sleeping?
  • Are you on medication or supplements?
  • Do you drink alcohol, smoke or use recreational drugs?
  • Have you tried to control your symptoms?
  • Do you have any family members with a mental illness?


Questions for you to ask your GP

This isn’t a one-way street. While most of us visit a GP or healthcare professional for treatment, it’s also important to gain an understanding of what you’re going through. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or take notes.

Consider the following questions:

  • Why can’t I get over these low feelings?
  • How can I treat these feelings?
  • What are my options?
  • Is my physical health a factor in how I feel?
  • Do I have to go on medication?
  • Are there lifestyle changes I can make?
  • Can I get a referral to a mental healthcare professional?
  • Am I eligible for a rebate?
  • What costs are involved?
  • Do you have any literature to support my treatment and recovery?

Your GP is the best place to start is you want help for any health issues and that includes your mental and emotional health. If they can’t treat you themselves, they will likely refer you to a psychologist or another therapist who can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.



Elizabeth Venzin is the Founder and CEO of the Australian not-for-profit organisation The MindShift Foundation. She is an advocate for preventative mental health and the author of MindShift to a Better Place.

Resources about preventative mental health can be found at the MindShift website.

Copyright © The MindShift Foundation

Posted on March 2, 2020 by

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"How To Talk To Your GP About Your Mental Health"

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