I work as a GP and feel powerless to treat patients with mental illness

Govt Newspeak

Patients ask what depression is, but ultimately our understanding of mental health problems is poor

NHS England prescription

During medical school I was made aware, in an abstract sense, of the scale of the problem that mental health disorders pose to our healthcare system. Systematically I learned how each one was treated, readying myself to regurgitate management plans in a viva. With my hurried response to the examiners’ question, the hypothetical situation would be resolved, my patient healed.

Years later I am working as a junior doctor in general practice. The receptionists have left a note on the electronic record: “needs to talk about mental health.” My opening gambit is always to listen. I listen to the stories of childhood abuse suffered. I listen to the scores of people who feel that they just cannot go on anymore: work, home, there is no escape for them. I hear about the multiple visits to…

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