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Self Harm: Visiting Your GP

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
Hi All

I am writing a couple of features for TheSite.org relating to the health service and self harm/ self injury and I would like your help.

I want to know what your experiences have been like (good or bad) when visiting your GP to seek help relating to self harm/ self injury:

Were they helpful, lovely, understanding, mean, or uninformed?

How did you feel about going?

What happened when you were there, and next? Were you referred?

Did they examine your cuts/ injuries?

Were you glad you went?

And, in more general terms, what do you expect from your health service relating to issues of self harm? What would you like to see happen?

I am also looking for case studies for people who self harm and their friends/ family/ lovers ... all aged 16-25.

Thanks all and take care,

Happy Halloween

Susie Q

Comments

  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    For the most part they were really good about it, but I only ever went specifically about my harming (as opposed to about the underlying issues) after I stopped bothering to tell my mum since every time I went about depression etc they made me bring her in too. But since I've just been going about getting treatment for injuries they were excellent, they asked questions but understood when I said that I only do it very rarely now and that I don't think any pills or anything would help, and they gave me creams and whatnot to help heal them. They were very understanding and they listened to what I wanted but only really after I turned 18.

    When my fingers aren't so stiff from cold I'll reply more, but that was gonna be my main point.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I never saw a GP about my self-harming for reasons similar to xsazx. With retrospect and knowing all of the information, I would have gone if the GP had experience in psychiatry, there's quite a bit of difference between the GPs who have and those who haven't.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    i went to the doctor after i started doing it when stuff got really bad with my ex, but because i wasn't cutting i was biting and doing exercise to the point my feet bled. she was very helpful, and gave me loads of help with the recovery from it (she gave me the same advice as to those who were doing army or marathon training on how to get back into not aching like a motherfucker and not being able to walk the next day...) she looked at it on a very physical level and she did get conserned when my hands were pretty badly bitten but she only said that i should just keep the wounds clean and do washing up with marigolds...

    the once i cut myself when i nearly smashed up my flat she got nearly upset and asked me to talk to my psycotherapist about it and was very blunt about it...i think she could jsut see i was deteriating and was a bit worried...
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Very long! And I shortened it ;P

    The very first time I went to the GP for self harm I was 16 and absolutely terrified of what was going to happen and of telling anyone. My mum came with me and told the doctor I had started self harming (I was also extremely depressed but she completely ignored that) and she wasn't very helpful or sensitive at all. At the time, this was a huge deal for me and I was taking it very seriously (as anyone should) but what with the reaction I got I decided that it wasn't as serious as I thought which later lead to much worse problems.

    On a safety level there was no concern at all. GP's are purely medical doctors and they see much worse, so I was probably advised to not cut around the wrist area but that was it. I was actually referred to CAMS but it took about 6 weeks by which time I was much worse and unfortunately they were not helpful at all either.

    I have since seen, it must be dozens, of GP's about mental health problems and often self harm. The response is mixed and it completely depends on the knowledge that the GP has of self harm. Doctors themselves are mostly clueless about the motivations for someone self harming and why it might be a problem and why someone can't stop. They are concerned for your safety but that's about it. If you get a good GP it's because they have done the work themselves or are partucaly experienced in those areas.

    There are a few standard things they would go through;

    screening you for depression (how’s your mood/appetite/sleep/weight change/concentration/motivation levels/how much exercise are you doing/suicidal thoughts - but they would not normally ask you outright about it they would ask you if you feel like 'life is worth living' or something like that)
    briefly about what's going on in your life and if things have got worse recently.
    they would ask you about your actual self harm; where, how often, how badly, what type and sometimes ask to see. they would talk about treating yourself (assuming this was cutting) and making sure you use clean blades, don’t cut too deeply and keep away from your wrists.

    A lot of what you get offered depends on what is available in your area and what the GP has in terms of what they can refer you to. It's not often that adults would get referred to mental health teams unless the self harm was physically serious (i.e. overdosing or cutting an artery, or suicidal tendcies), with young people (under 18) it's taken a bit more seriously and you have a higher chance of being referred. There are often young peoples counselling services which are free and not linking to the NHS which you might get numbers for. Hopefully you would be given some self help advice and emergency numbers (local A&E, Samaritans). They would normally say come back if it get's worse. They might offer you anti depressants which you can take or not, but you would have to fit the symptoms for depression as well.

    I’ve come across doctors who think that the severity of self harm (physically speaking) directly relates to the amount of distress you are in, which is not the case at all. I've got friends who have been out rightly told that self harm is very common and not a problem at all :O Don’t be surprised if you get a reaction like this, it’s nothing personal it’s just because doctors are not taught about why someone would self harm and they are only human. Try and have patience in explaining what’s it’s like for you and that it shows that you are unhappy.

    I’ve never been told by a GP that I should ‘just stop’ or that I was only doing it for attention.

    I think that for people who have just started self harming or who have made the decision to go to the doctors, it is a huge deal because they are in huge amounts of distress and very concerned about how they are going to be received. unfortunately doctors look at you from a medical perspective and in terms of symptoms and risk rather than emotional angst. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go or that they are not capable of understanding but it might require some patience in explaining yourself. Yes they are the doctors but they are not you and can’t read minds. GP’s are medical doctors not counsellors and that if they approach you without much sensitivity it’s just because they are not aware of unhappy you are.

    You are completely within your rights to refuse to answer any questions you are not comfortable with or feel are too personal and do not have to give a reason, no matter how much they ask or how judgemental they may be coming across. You do not have to show them anything if you are not comfortable with it, just say that, even if they ask.

    I would advise not expecting much and being prepared to explain yourself. If you are not happy with how you have been received go back and see another GP and keep going until you find one that you are happy with. Failing that, go to another GP surgery all together; there are good ones out there! Often it's nothing personal if they don't offer you anything, it's just because there is nothing to refer you to, so don’t think that it’s because they aren’t taking you seriously or think you are attention seeking.

    It’s still worth going, it’s a huge and extremely positive step towards getting help and dealing with the issues behind self harm but just be aware that you might have to try a few GP’s before you find the right one. Don’t be disheartened about this, you are completely within your right to keep going back again and again until you feel you have been listened to and got what you need. Just be patient and keeping pushing for what you need because your health is worth it.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Since I started self-harming (when I was 15, I'm 22 now) I've seen several GPs about it and I'm always very scared. None have been uninformed but quite a lot are dismissive or unhelpful.

    I have been referred on for mental health support and followed up referrals.

    Often the injuries have been examined but only cursorily as though making sure it's "not that bad" (to quote a locum I saw in July) rather than to check for infection, etc.

    I suppose, as with my eating problems, I feel like I could do with a bit more sensitivity. It's been a while since I felt anyone was actually helpful. My GP at my parents' used to be brilliant but he's moved on now and the support at the surgery at Uni is inconsistent.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Susie wrote: »
    Hi All

    Were they helpful, lovely, understanding, mean, or uninformed?

    How did you feel about going?

    What happened when you were there, and next? Were you referred?

    Did they examine your cuts/ injuries?

    Were you glad you went?

    And, in more general terms, what do you expect from your health service relating to issues of self harm? What would you like to see happen?

    First time I went to a GP I was 17 I'd been cutting for nearly 3 years and my friends encouraged me to go. I was terrified. The doctor laughed at me and told me I didn't look like a self-harmer but he'd prescribe me something anyway. He was very uninformed and uncomfortable, he wasn't malicious he just didn't really know what to do. He didn't examine my cuts or ask to see them.

    I was pretty mortified, took the pills (Effexor- high starting dose, sent me mental) for a month then spiralled a bit more, refusing to go back after previously mentioned horrifying experience.

    About 4 months after, my friends were at their wits end and I went to see a different doctor at the practice and she was amazing. She really listened to what I had to say and helped me organise counselling and helped me find pills which worked for me. She never examined my cuts either, in fact with the exception of the one time I needed stitches no one has ever examined them.

    It taken me *such* a long time to feel comfortable with my self harm and doctors, I just think it needs to be much less of a taboo, and mental health problems need to be recognized, it's really quite soul destroying when you're crying for help and someone laughs in your face.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Ive had a positive experience.
    i first went when i was 20, a few months after id started feeling quite depressed and self-harming. Was started on low-dose anti-d's. When i went back i saw a different gp because i didnt feel comfortable talking to the other one.
    She's been my lifeline for the 4 yrs that ive seen her.
    She goes out of her way to do all she can for me and has literally saved my life. she handles my medication without carelessly just dishing out any old drug. And looks after my cuts and injuries with more care than i feel i deserve.
    referreals to psychological services have been rubbish. the first time was useless and made things worse. the second time they refused to help because i was under the eating disorders team (who have also been excellent) but now, after my gp insisting that they help, they have agreed to assess me for DBT therapy.

    Emergency psych services in hospital are shit though and make u feel like a prize idiot.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Were they helpful, lovely, understanding, mean, or uninformed? Effing useless locum, thought I couldnt be depresed because I was smiling at him.

    How did you feel about going? I went becasue I wanted help, but they made me a lot worse about things.

    What happened when you were there, and next? Were you referred? He sort of listened to my problems gave me prozac and asked me to go back and see him in a couple of weeks (no chance)

    Did they examine your cuts/ injuries? No.

    Were you glad you went? No.

    And, in more general terms, what do you expect from your health service relating to issues of self harm? What would you like to see happen?
    More understanding, better support and not being made to feel like an idiot when you need help.
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