So, you know that your GP can prescribe some medications in relation to your physical health, like birth control pills or insulin to manage diabetes. But can a GP prescribe mental health medication too?
Here are the most common situations where GPs will prescribe mental health medication, plus what you can do to prepare before your appointment and make sure you receive the most appropriate treatment plan possible.
Signs You Need to See a Doctor About Your Mental Health
You may have heard that therapy, exercise, and lifestyle changes can help your mental health, and even though you’ve been making changes, your symptoms persist. Everyone experiences stress and feels anxious at times, and if you are struggling with these symptoms and are feeling depressed, mental health medication management could help reduce or eliminate them.
If you’ve noticed a difference in how you’re thinking or feeling over the past few weeks or months, you should consider talking to your GP. Some of the most frequently experienced symptoms of poor mental well-being include:
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Finding it harder than usual to concentrate
- Irritability or moodiness
- Feeling low or constantly anxious or worrying
- Thinking negative thoughts
- Not enjoying your life as much as you did
- Finding day-to-day life difficult (not feeling up to washing or eating)
If you have a mental health condition, you might not have noticed the signs because symptoms can gradually build over time. 1 in 6 people will experience mental health problems every week.
Can A GP Prescribe Mental Health Medication?
When it comes to which mental health professional can prescribe medication – we commonly think that only psychiatrists can diagnose psychiatric disorders and refer patients for specialist care. Still, GPs are also responsible for prescribing medications to treat illnesses and referrals.
In many cases, your GP can prescribe mental health medication. However, in some instances, you’ll need to see a mental health professional first and then get a referral from them to a psychiatrist who can prescribe medications — if that’s what you need.
Some GPs are comfortable prescribing in these cases if they feel it will help, but if you feel uncomfortable about what your doctor is suggesting for your mental health medication management, you should probably see a psychiatrist.
How to Get Anti-Depressants from Your Doctor
So now that we know the answer to the question: “can a GP prescribe mental health medication?” it’s time to prepare for your appointment.
Your first appointment with a mental health professional or even just chatting to your GP about your mental health can be nerve-wracking. Before you head to your first visit, you should prepare to feel more at ease about your conversation and so that your doctor has all the information they need to help you.
Before your appointment, it might be helpful to write down what you’d like to talk about so that you don’t forget anything. Take a few minutes before to write a list of things you might want to bring up. Some ideas might be:
- Make a list of medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions, the names and amounts of medication you take, and your family’s medical history.
- Write down key personal information, including events in your past and any current significant stressors in your life.
- Write down any descriptions of how you’re feeling and how your mood affects your day-to-day life.
Write down a list of questions to ask. Some may include:
- What can I do to help myself?
- What type of mental health condition might I have?
- Why is it a good option for me to get medication to help with my mental health?
- Will counseling or psychotherapy help?
- What medication will help me?
- How long will treatment take?
- What side effects might I experience?
- What lifestyle changes will I need to make to help my treatment work?
- What resources (brochures or websites) do you recommend for me to help me understand my mental health condition?
In addition to the questions and notes you’ve made to prepare, it’s important that you don’t hesitate to ask questions if you don’t understand something.
If you feel like you need support during your appointment, bring a loved one with you, so you have a support system.
When To See A Mental Health Professional
After your initial consultation with your GP, it’s important to have a follow-up appointment to check whether your anti-depressants are working and if your symptoms are getting better or worse. In some cases, your GP will refer you to a specialist to get more experienced help.
Sometimes even going to a GP isn’t enough to help with your mental health journey. A good way to know that it’s time to seek the help of a mental health practitioner is if you find yourself relapsing more than once after your initial visit with your doctor. If symptoms persist, seeing a mental health professional may be beneficial and will allow you to work on long-term solutions for better mental health management.
It’s important to keep in mind that while a GP might be familiar with psychiatric illnesses; they don’t specialize in treating mental health. That’s why you should consider meeting with a psychiatrist specializing in mental health and treating it with medication.