the GP’s role in mental health care

Around 70% of people who sought treatment for their mental health in Australia in 2015-16 saw a general practitioner.

GPs are often the first point of contact for people concerned about their  health. Mostly, though, mental health care occurs within consultations initiated for other reasons. This could be when someone sees a doctor for a physical health concern, a general check up, or to get a prescription.

Whatever the reason, GPs see 88% of the Australian population every year, putting us in a unique position in the health system to work with people with their health concerns.

When you visit your GP with a mental health concern, you should be able to expect compassionate care alongside practical advice to help you navigate the treatment you need.

Why see a GP for your mental health needs?

People can see us without a referral, and we get to know our patients over time, which can make it easier to discuss difficult issues.

We see patients during important transitions, for example after giving birth, after a major illness, or during a relationship crisis.

We understand certain physical illnesses and medications can predispose people to mental illness. We also understand people with serious mental illnesses are likely to die from physical diseases up to 20 years earlier than the general population.

We are trained in diagnosis, but we understand mental health is complex. Not everyone with depression has the same illness experience. It’s critical we help people understand what their illness means, not just what it “is”.

It’s then our responsibility to help our patients understand their options, by communicating the evidence behind different treatments, and helping them navigate the mosaic of services available.

GPs spend a significant amount of time assisting patients to navigate multiple mental health systems which can be complex and expensive also.

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