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Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Going to the GP: advice to other young people and to parents

The people we talked to offered many different types of advice to other young people and to parents based on their experiences of health services, healthcare, and seeing the GP. Here are some of their suggestions.

Messages to young people

•    if something’s worrying you about your health, go and see the GP
•    doctors want to help and support, so don’t be put off because of fear or embarrassment
•    if it’s an ongoing problem or long-term condition, prepare before the appointment
•    don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem minor or silly
 

Before an appointment, you could ask yourself what you want to know and write things down, including questions.

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Before an appointment, you could ask yourself what you want to know and write things down, including questions.

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Just really to be prepared. If they’ve got an appointment, think, ‘What do you want to know? Write anything down. It’s not silly to do it at all. It’s really good practice. And to ask questions. You know if you don’t ask, you know, you’re not going to get where you want to go. So you need to think, ‘Right this is my, this is my time with the doctor. I want to get my questions answered.’ And don’t be afraid of asking the questions. Nothing’s too stupid at all. But it’s just, you know, to communicate with them clearly and just be honest really. That’s all. 
 

Doctors are there to help and give a good service, whether the problem is a minor illness or sexual or mental health.

Doctors are there to help and give a good service, whether the problem is a minor illness or sexual or mental health.

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I think the main one for young people would be to not be too embarrassed. And that sounds like a really easy thing to say, but it doesn’t matter whether you're going to the doctor because you’ve got a cold, or a rash, or if it's sexually related, or if it's mental health. Those doctors are there to help and they are there to give you a good service. 

And if you're not happy with the answer they’ve given you, or you don’t think that they did something right, then tell the surgeries and the practice managers, and go back and get a second opinion. Don’t just kind of go, "Oh well I don’t feel right, but the doctor says I'm fine so I must be." If you know there's something wrong with you, then there's something wrong.
 

GP appointments are confidential so it’s important to be honest with the doctor. They won’t judge you because they are there to help.

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GP appointments are confidential so it’s important to be honest with the doctor. They won’t judge you because they are there to help.

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If I was to advise young people about seeing the doctor just, to not be scared because I know it can be scary because you always think of a doctor as somebody like your parents. But they’re never gonna judge you or, yeah try and be as honest as possible because I know that young people, they might lie to the doctor in case they feel judged. But it’s just so private that there’s, there should be really nothing to worry about.
•    if you’re unhappy with a GP, see a different one or get a second opinion
•    if you’re worried about talking to the GP about something difficult, take someone you trust with you to the appointment
•    it can be hard to talk to other people about depression, including parents. It’s important to only talk about what you feel comfortable with
•    don’t be embarrassed about having mental health issues or try and hide them
•    if you have panic attacks, finding ways of distracting yourself can help
 

It’s understandable if you don’t want to tell your parents everything about their thoughts and feelings. It’s good for parents to be supportive of that.

It’s understandable if you don’t want to tell your parents everything about their thoughts and feelings. It’s good for parents to be supportive of that.

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I know there is a part of you that wants to share what you can with your parents and that’s perfectly fine. But I think you don’t have to feel like you have to say everything. I mean there are certain things that you are liable to keep to yourself if you feel better for it. 

Maybe your parents are in the situation where they worry too much, or maybe they get too over-involved and that might not help your issues. I think first and foremost you’ve got to have yourself and your own health at the first most important, you know, at the prominence for everything. And I think sometimes if your parents can suffocate or hinder that, it’s not a good thing. They’re supposed to sort of supplement it and I think that’s what a relationship should be. 

And I think the flip side for the parents, they should be more supplementary and understanding if their children don’t want to tell them everything, within reason. I think they should be understanding of that because they don’t want to be too, to encroach so much because that can make, it can make your, the individual feel that their issues are more so affecting them than they really are. And plus it can also be seen as someone being a critical parent rather than a supporting parent.
 

If you’re depressed it can help to write things down, or call or text the Samaritans. There are people who want to listen and help.

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If you’re depressed it can help to write things down, or call or text the Samaritans. There are people who want to listen and help.

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If you're feeling so depressed and you don’t want to talk to someone, like maybe try other ways – like write it down, send a text, call a completely anonymous people like Samaritans or something. Like there is…or whatever makes you feel better. Or I don’t know, listen to music, try and express it in some way, in a healthy way, and share with someone that you know is going to listen to you. 

There is people that will listen to you always; you might not know it but there are. And just please remember that you're worth so much more than whatever it is you're going through, and you can…you're strong enough to beat it.
 

Distractions help when you’re feeling anxious, including stress balls.

Distractions help when you’re feeling anxious, including stress balls.

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“If you ever feel funny, I’d recommend sensory toys.” It sounds really rude. But it’s not. Like so just something that you can preoccupy yourself with. So sometimes if I’m in a lesson and I feel a bit funny, I like to do something with my hands. So I’ve got this thing. And it’s like one of those puzzly things. And you unravel it and then you’ve got to try and make a cube out of it. And it’s just really sensory. It takes my mind off everything that’s going round. And it’s really good. 

And the teachers can’t tell you off for it cos it’s not a phone. And then you can just sort of explain like, “Look, I’m just distracting myself.” And they seem to understand. Or you could play with like a stress ball, other of these things. I can’t remember what they’re called. But they like link together. And they’re just, oh, so fun. I love them, unravel them. 

Are you allowed to --

Sensory things.

Are you allowed to have them in class? Which helps kind of.

I was at college. I’m not sure if I’d have been allowed at school. Because kids might have been like, “I want one. I want that.” But, yeah.

So you recommend that kind of thing that’s --

Yeah.

-- a bit of a distraction?

Like, and it can be like good for wherever you are really. Like if you’re just on the bus. It’s just like pull it out your bag. Cos it’s like really small.
Messages to parents

•    be honest with children if they’re diagnosed with a long-term condition and need to have tests that could be painful
•    let your child see the GP on their own if they want to
•    if your child is depressed and finding it hard to talk to you about it, give them some space and they’ll talk to you when they’re ready
•    be supportive if your child has depression and ‘just accept they might not want to tell you everything’
 

It’s good when parents understand that their children might want to see the GP on their own.

It’s good when parents understand that their children might want to see the GP on their own.

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Parents – I feel like they should be like…they should let their young people, let their children see their GP if they need to see them, especially if there was like this young person's clinic, that they should let them see them by themselves, and without asking them what did you say to them. And if the young person feels comfortable telling them, then they should be able to tell them. But if they don’t, then they shouldn’t bother them or hassle them.
 

It can be hard to talk to parents about mental health. It helps when they understand and accept that you might talk to your friends first and to them later.

It can be hard to talk to parents about mental health. It helps when they understand and accept that you might talk to your friends first and to them later.

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Any advice you want to give to young people?

Yeah, I just always say, always talk to people and yeah, you're never alone in these situations. And, yeah, it's not odd or strange the way you're feeling so, yeah, talk to people about it.

And to parents?

The understanding of your child; if they are struggling to speak to you about it because it's really difficult. So, be understanding if they don’t come to you straight away, if they go to their friends…if they go to their friends first. But yeah, you know, I think as, you know, parents just want to…what's best for their children and so just make sure you give them some space first and then they’ll come to you in their own time.
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