Mental wellbeing and visiting the doctor

Women Talking Formal

The Mail is teaming with Mindful Margaret River to share guidance and support from local members of the Mindful Margaret River alliance.

The ensuing comments are my personal views as a General Practitioner in Margaret River for 14 years, retired for the last 3 years, who is now sitting on the other side of the desk or operating table!

Throughout my 45 years as a GP, patients have often asked – What can I do to optimise my overall experience when visiting the doctor?

Peter Durey Selfie 2020
Dr Peter Durey

My advice was clear: understand the system, think about how you feel, consider what you want and list your concerns.

This has led me to consider two particular situations where your mental wellbeing and doctors come together.

The first instance is when a visit to the doctor presents you with some bad news.

Sometimes, after appropriate tests and subsequent diagnosis, the doctor may confirm you are suffering an illness which may be prolonged or severe.

An illness is something you have whereas, a diagnosis is something you are given. A diagnosis, like a label, may help with your understanding, however, may also define how you then act or feel.

Most illnesses resolve or, if not, are relieved however, dealing with the diagnosis often requires trust and challenge.

Trust in your body and mind that has, all your life, been silently resolving injury and illness. Trust in the care and motives of the systems and people involved in your recovery.

Trust in the positive benefits of understanding and acceptance, listening to your body and using your intuition. Remain mindful that fear, anger and denial hinder the healing process.

Challenging your illness and diagnosis can involve your decision to fight it as best you can, to hope for the best outcome, to take responsibility and to motivate yourself.

It can involve questioning a diagnosis or a treatment, seeking help from others, talking to family and friends and being aware of your emotional and spiritual responses.

The second situation I have in mind is when there’s something troubling you, something on your mind, an anxiety or worry, and you choose to visit the doctor to discuss it.

The doctor will ask questions to get a handle on what is troubling you.

Before you attend, it’s worth giving thought to those feelings, and what you need to explain to the doctor. It can be helpful to make a few notes before you go to the appointment.

Sometimes medications can help, which the doctor may prescribe during your visit. Alternatively, your doctor may propose that together you develop something called a Mental Health Care Plan.

This will involve a discussion about things that are troubling you, and perhaps completing a short questionnaire to assess your thoughts and feelings.

A Mental Health Care Plan entitles you to up to ten subsidised therapy sessions per calendar year with an allied health professional, such as a psychologist or counsellor.

The doctor will discuss this with you and make a referral to a therapist who suits you.

However, if for some reason, after meeting that person you are not sure they suit your needs, your Mental Healthcare session can be continued with another therapist.

Remember, just like antibiotics, talking therapies will almost always take more than just a few sessions to help you so try to hang in there.

Furthermore, there is plenty of good evidence to show that psychotherapy helps. In all cases, it is worth knowing a little bit about how the system and doctors work.

When booking an appointment, consider how long you may need. If your situation feels complicated it might take more time to talk it through. You might therefore be best to ask for a long 30-minute consultation (for some reason it’s called a ‘double appointment’).

Book well ahead if you can and use the online booking service if helpful. Have a think about which doctor you would like to see or ask for one who might be best suited for your particular concern.

On a final note, doctors work on a logical system of history (questions), examination and investigations to reach a diagnosis that results in treatment options.

Therefore, this process, on occasions, may require patience on your part.

– Dr Peter Durey

Mindful Margaret River is an alliance of mental wellbeing professionals, government agencies, community members and the Augusta Margaret River Shire to promote health and wellbeing.

First published by the Augusta Margaret River Mail 6 October 2020

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