Depression and low mood

Messages to health professionals

Young people’s experiences of dealing with health professionals in primary, secondary and tertiary care were varied, see ‘Dealing with health professionals’. Over months or years they had learnt what worked best for them and how they felt health professionals could best support them. Many were passionate about young people’s voices been heard and listened to in mental health care, and about communicating these points across to all those working with young people.

“Do your job”
While being “young people orientated” was a very important characteristic for a health professional, at the same it was important for them not to come across as patronising. Young people wanted their doctors to do their jobs, not pretend they could personally understand what it was like to live with depression. As one woman put this;

“‘Cos they don’t know how people feel, so they shouldn’t say it.”
Young people wanted their health care providers to allow them time and to be patient with them, in the same way they wanted their parents or carers to respond. While being professional, young people appreciated a human side and “going the extra mile” and said they could sense who took a genuine interest in their wellbeing. Many also described how hard it was to talk about the sorts of difficult experiences they’d been through and hoped for sensitivity from doctors. One woman said;
 
“I know you’ve got this text book of depression and you use these things you have to treat it, but please half these people hate it, they hate the stigma of being told to sign something that has the words “mental health” in it. They hate the fact that they feel like this.”
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Besides offering conventional treatments of medication and / or therapy, people hoped for their health providers to adopt a proactive and “encouraging” approach to recovery. Many wanted to get as much information as possible, to be told of all the different options available for them. Some emphasised the importance of finding coping strategies together. For example, health professionals telling young people how taking up a sport, a new hobby or learning a new skill could help boost their confidence, alongside treatment. Many young people had been told by their doctor how common depression was and that they weren’t alone. However, some felt that demonstrating this in more concrete ways, like recommending books or highlighting “successful case studies” would’ve been helpful.
“Treat us as people, not as diagnosis”
Above all, young people with depression or low mood are young people. Not patients, diagnoses or conditions. Several young people felt that some doctors had been more focused on their diagnosis or treatments, than looking at them as individuals and their lives as a whole. They felt that they benefitted more from their treatment and care when the decisions were tailored to their overall life situation and they were involved. Being treated with respect and above all, as people, rather than “a walking illness” was essential. Being treated as a young adult rather than a child could also boost young people’s sense of self and confidence. Young people didn’t want to be treated any differently, even if they had a diagnosis of a mental health problem;
 
“You feel like you are actually insane. So don’t react to people like they are, just because they have a mental health condition it doesn’t make them any less intelligent, or any less capable of dealing with the minutest detail of their condition.”
 
Some people also pointed out that the better their doctor knew them, the better they could treat them. They resented doctors taking a blanket approach and explaining their behaviour too quickly through their diagnosis. They felt sometimes doctors made quick assumptions about how people with depression or low mood behave rather than find out from young people about their specific situation.
Respect confidentiality
Young people didn’t want to be patronised or “mollycoddled”. They wanted honest and straightforward information and open communication. Trust and confidentiality were essential elements to establish in the care relationship. Some people worried about telling their doctor or therapist certain things, in case their parents would find out. A couple had been to the clinic with their parents and had felt uncomfortable about being honest about self harm or any suicidal thoughts, for example. Also, they wanted their doctor to talk directly to them, rather than to their parents. Again, young people wanted their doctors to be open and inclusive.
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Last reviewed December 2013.

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