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People react to feeling unwell differently. Most would agree though that if for example, a severe or persistent headache continues, a medical opinion and treatment will be required at some point.
What if the symptoms are less obviously linked to a medical condition? Most of us feel sad, anxious or panicky, worried, tired, frustrated and/or angry from time to time and find that these feelings pass after a day or two. If you continue to feel low for two weeks or longer the advice given on the NHS Choices website is that you may suffering from depression and you should consult your GP.
Mental health issues, like depression continue to be trivialised and are still not recognised by some as genuine medical conditions; yet it has been estimated that one in four people in the UK will experience mental health problems in any given year. If your GP diagnoses a mental health problem, ask for as much information as you can about the condition and the support available.
Your GP might:
– refer you to a community psychiatric nurse for counselling, or support at home,
– prescribe medication like anti-depressants or tranquillizers (don’t be afraid to ask for information about these drugs, such as how they will help, how long you will have to take, them, if they have any side effects and if there is any risk of you becoming addicted to them),
– refer you to a specialist in a community mental health team, for example a psychiatrist, or recommend admission to hospital,
– refer you to your local Citizens Advice (also known as ‘social prescription’. In some areas, having advisers available in surgeries to provide advice and information to help some patients to resolve the issues causing their anxiety has proved to be a success).
You are entitled to the same support regardless of whether your medical condition is mental or physical, for example:
i) Social Care. Your local social services department can provide community care services such as home helps, day care services, meals on wheels or care in a care home. They will assess what support you need and decide if you’re entitled to any services.
ii) Some people with mental health problems will need to go into hospital – sometimes without their consent. The rules affecting people in hospital and their rights are complicated. To find out more, you could contact Mind, the National Association for Mental Health (see contact details below). You should not be discharged from hospital without a full assessment of your health and social care needs.
iii) Financial help (benefits). You may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, Income Support, or Employment and Support Allowance. You may also get Personal Independence Payment (PIP), or Attendance Allowance if you are 65 or over. Again, your local Citizens Advice can help.
iv) Protection against disability discrimination. It may be illegal if you are harassed or discriminated against at work because of your mental health problem. It may also be against the law to treat you unfairly because of a mental health problem when you are trying to get goods or services.
If you need advice and Information in connection with a mental health problem, you can contact MIND on 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 – 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.
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