Understanding how to help
Finding a good GP for a young person
Family members can be a great support in assisting young people to access a good GP.
Often when a young person is looking for help a GP can be the first place to go. Finding a good GP however is a lot easier said than done. It can be difficult for young people to establish a relationship with someone they’ve just met. Asking for a long consultation for their first visit will give the DR a chance to complete a really thorough assessment and provide them with the best care.
What kind of service do they want?
It’s important if young people have a specific concern to ask whether GPs at the practice will be able to support them. For example:
- Do they need support for their mental health? Do they have psychologists or psychiatrists at the clinic too?
- Are they looking for a male or female GP?
- Do they need a doctor who can prescribe them pharmacotherapy (the prescribing of medication to substitute for illicit substances)?
- Are they available for after-hours consultation?
- Do they have any areas of speciality?
- Do they need a test? Can they perform the test there or will they need to go somewhere else?
What do they specialise in?
Many GPs on top of their basic qualification have a specialist qualification. You can ask what doctors in the clinic might specialise in. For example there are youth specific clinics and sexual health clinics.
What should a good GP ask a young person?
A good GP should ask a range of questions to young people in order to get a really clear picture of what’s going on. Questions like the ones below will give a GP an idea of how young people are faring both physically and mentally in order to support them in the best possible way. Doctors are busy though so it can be important for young people to provide them with accurate information if for someone reason they don’t ask.
Expect them to ask:
- What’s your home life like?
- What’s school or work like? What would you like to do?
- How’s your diet? What’s your sleep like?
- Do you have good mates? What do you enjoy?
- Do you use drugs and Alcohol? Do you smoke cigarettes?
- Questions about sex and sexuality
- How would you rate your mood? Are you suicidal?
- Are you safe?
Seeing a GP for your Mental Health?
All GPs can create a mental health care plan with young people which will entitle them to 6 bulk billed sessions with a psychologist, there’s then the option of four more should they need it which entitles them to ten in a year.
It’s really important if they have a prescription to check in with their doctor regularly around how the medication is going. It can be a great idea to schedule a review every few months and see how they’re going.
How to maximise time with the GP?
If it’s a complex problem, ask for a longer consult. If the clinic is bulk billed this will be of no extra cost. Accessing a GP for a mental health care plan or something like withdrawal may need a longer visit for a young person.
Who should go with a young person to the GP?
It might be good for a young person to go to the GP on their own. They may feel more comfortable sharing information without family or friends there.
Alternatively a young person might want to take a family member, worker or friend if they feel they need support. It’s important to reassure a young person that they should feel comfortable to share everything with the GP and if your presence is inhibiting this then it might be best if you don’t attend.
What to expect to pay?
A lot of clinics bulk bill, those who don’t will often bulk bill to concession card holders. Encourage young people when they ring to make an appointment to check whether the service bulk bills.
It’s important to remember that different GPs work for different people. It might be worth asking a friend, a worker or someone you trust if they know of a GP that might be suitable for a young person. Also remember if you feel like it’s not the right ‘fit’ try another!