Mental Health remains the most common reason for a GP Visit. View from a Doctor’s Desk – Dr Lisa Surman

With this month being Mental Health Month, the focus is on the importance of the mental health of our patients and the resources we can provide, which was highlighted in the Australian Health of the Nation Report.

The recently released annual Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Health of the Nation Report identified the current health trends and issues for General Practice .

Patients see GPs more than any other health professional and 84% visit their GP multiple times a year. Three in every four patents report that their GP always listens carefully, shows respect and spends enough time with them.

Mental health issues such as depression, mood disorders and anxiety remain the most common health issue managed by GPs and was also identified as the health issue causing GPs the most concern for the future, followed by obesity. Mental health and obesity were the key areas the federal government should prioritise for action.

One in four Australians will face a major mental health problem in their life, mental health being the ability to think, feel and behave in a way that allows us to perform at our best – in our personal lives with family and friends, at university at work and in the community. The most common issues are anxiety and depression.

Learning to manage anxiety and/or depression can make a difference to how your patients react to stresses in life and feel calmer. There are many levels and different techniques and tips on how to achieve this :

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat well
  • Get enough sleep
  • Practice relaxation exercises
  • Reduce alcohol and drug use
  • Spend time with friends
  • Ensure work/study/life balance
  • Use cognitive strategies to deal with stressful thoughts
  • Practice mindfulness to let go of worries
  • Engage in enjoyable and fun activities

Take the opportunity during Mental Health Month to encourage patients to reach out for further assessment, support and referral if required. There are also a host of great resources you can refer them to on the Australian Government’s Head To Health website.

Dr Lisa Surman, CBD West Medical Centre, Perth, WA

Member of Best Practice Software’s Clinical Leadership Advisory Committee

“Often patients spend time talking about current medical and social issues, taking valuable time away from dealing with what they have really come in to discuss. One of our solutions is to direct them to news articles on our website written by a doctor in our Practice that outline current issues and offer strategies to manage the problem and links to relevant, reputable websites”.