Don’t wait for your health care provider to ask about your mental health. Start the conversation. Here are five tips to help prepare and guide you on how to talk to your health care provider about your mental health and get the most out of your visit.
1. Don’t know where to start for help? Talk to your primary care provider.
If you’re going to your primary care provider for other health concerns, remember to bring up your mental health concerns. Mental health is an integral part of health. Often, people with mental disorders can be at risk for other medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. In many primary care settings now, you may be asked if you’re feeling anxious or depressed, or if you have had thoughts of suicide. Take this opportunity to talk to your primary care provider, who can help refer you to a mental health specialist. You also can visit the NIMH Find Help for Mental Illnesses webpage for help finding a health care provider or treatment.
2. Prepare ahead of your visit.
Health care providers have a limited amount of time for each appointment. Think of your questions or concerns beforehand, and write them down.
3. Consider bringing a friend or relative.
Sometimes it’s helpful to bring a close friend or relative to your appointment. It can be difficult to absorb all the information your health care provider shares, especially if you are not feeling well. Your companion can be there for support, help you take notes, and remember what you and the provider discussed. They also might be able to offer input to your provider about how they think you are doing.
4. Be honest.
Your health care provider can help you get better only if you have clear and honest communication. It is important to remember that communications between you and a health care provider are private and confidential and cannot be shared with anyone without your expressed permission. Describe all your symptoms with your provider, and be specific about when they started, how severe they are, and how often they occur. You also should share any major stresses or recent life changes that could be triggering symptoms.
Examples of symptoms include:
5. Ask questions.
If you have questions or even doubts about a diagnosis or treatment your health care provider gives, ask for more information. If your provider suggests a treatment you’re not comfortable or familiar with, express your concerns and ask if there are other options. It’s okay to disagree with your provider on what treatment to try. You may decide to try a combination of approaches. You also may want to get another opinion from a different health care provider. It’s important to remember that there is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment. You may need to try a few different health care providers and several different treatments, or a combination of treatments, before finding one that works best for you.
For More Information