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Paul Morgan: mental health advisor

Paul Morgan is Deputy Director of SANE Australia, the mental health charity. He is a leading expert in promoting understanding of mental illness in the community. ASK ME A QUESTION

Husband with depression

Monday, September 20, 2010
"The A good GP will not only make an assessment and diagnosis, they can also now prescribe a mental health plan, including referral to a psychologist (largely covered by Medicare) as well as medication for a time if needed."
Topics:
Mental Health

Question:

My husband has been depressed for around two years since the death of a very close friend. He knows he has a problem and went to our GP about a year ago and felt he was fobbed off. He now has lost confidence and will not go and speak to a stranger. Please help as I don't know where to start.

Answer:

It's an indisputable fact that some of us are more prone to becoming depressed than other people. This is for a whole range of reasons, including genetic predisposition, personality and others factors. An upsetting event, such as the death of a friend — or even something far less serious, that others might shrug off — can then trigger an episode of depression.

For some people this can become an ongoing condition which seems impossible to shake off. It affects how they feel, and can also have an impact on relationships, work, and other aspects of life. Unfortunately, the effect on mood means that everything seems hopeless, and that nothing can change how they feel. This isn't true, of course, as treatments are generally effective against the symptoms of depression.

It's a pity, then, that the doctor your husband saw was not helpful, but it's important to persist as the GP is the key to getting access to good treatment. A good GP will not only make an assessment and diagnosis, they can also now prescribe a mental health plan, including referral to a psychologist (largely covered by Medicare) as well as medication for a time if needed. Most GPs are very familiar with these issues, and many have received extra training on helping people affected by mental health problems.

The Beyondblue website — www.beyondblue.org.au — has a "Get help" area where you can search for GPs and other health professionals with expertise and special interest in helping people affected by depression. Suggest you'd be happy to go with your husband if this would help, and remember to request a longer appointment so there is time to talk to the doctor. Make some notes with him too, to take along, covering essential facts.

For confidential information and advice relating to any aspect of mental health, you or your husband can also call the SANE helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or visit www.sane.org.


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