People are sharing the useless mental health advice from their GPs and wow, it’s bad

‘A GP told me I can solve my issues with anxiety by tearing paper’

TW: Depression and suicide

Approaching your GP to tell them about your mental health is a really brave thing to do. But it can also be difficult, terrifying and sometimes incredibly unhelpful.

Earlier this week Twitter user Harry Jones highlighted this perfectly when he tweeted to say he had told his GP about his suicidal feelings and she told him to try using Headspace.

He wrote: “I remember going to my GP a couple of years ago and telling her that I wanted to throw myself off a bridge and she asked me if I had tried Headspace x”.

Harry’s tweet was quickly inundated with thousands of others who shared their experiences of useless advice from their GPs to help their mental health. The many stories included suggestions of listening to a podcast, colouring, breathing exercises and filling out worksheets.

All these suggestions are perfectly valid for when you’re feeling a little blue, but when patients are approaching their doctors to tell them they’re suicidal the advice of going for a walk and a better mind set is not good enough.

A few of the people retweeting Harry’s original tweet argued the stories highlighted a lack of funding and resources for NHS staff to provide adequate mental health support.

The Tab spoke to a number of students who had experienced similar stories of being given useless advice when they were struggling with their mental health. From being told to try HIIT to tearing up paper, these are their stories:

I’d been struggling with depression the GP told me I should try HIIT

I’d been struggling with depression and anxiety for a while and when I was 18 I went to see the GP about it and he was useless. He told me that I should try HIIT because the interval training is particularly good for releasing endorphins.

When that (obviously) didn’t work he put me on antidepressants which I was on for two and a half years and in that time my depression got far worse. I spoke to a psychiatrist and he told me that people under the age of 25 shouldn’t be on that particular medication because it’s not suitable until a person’s brain is fully developed.


She told me to Google some YouTube videos

I went to the doctor at university last year because I was having trouble with sleeping and concentration and she told me to try meditating. She told me to Google some YouTube videos on how to do it which I thought wasn’t great advice.


He literally just went ‘what do you want to do?’

I went to the doctor feeling really suicidal, I wasn’t going to school, I just stayed in bed all the time. I was terrified to go to the doctor but had heard good things from friends so thought I’d give it a go. It was an older male doctor and I just felt a vibe that I was wasting his time. I had a note of how I was feeling so I didn’t have to explain it out loud, and he just read it and emotionlessly nodded and went “Okay. Have you been exercising? It’s really important to do”.

Obviously I hadn’t because I could barely get out of bed. He wrote down on a piece of paper a website with resources on it (I can’t remember which; just those online self-help websites) and put a prescription of 30 minutes of exercise and sent me on my way.

I did understand that they weren’t immediately going to give me medication or anything without trying other stuff first, and I know there’s waitlists for therapies but it was so like emotionally out of touch and felt so trivialised! He just really didn’t want to give me the time of day to talk through my options! I had to find out myself that you could self-refer for counselling when it could’ve been so easy for him to quickly talk through AS WELL as suggesting exercise if he really thought that would cure me.

Then I went to the doctor while I was at university so a few years later. I was aware that I struggled with my mental health but there were so many strange and scary symptoms I’d never experienced before. Like numbness, mega bad headaches, pins and needles, really bad dizziness, I was permanently tired etc.

He literally just went “what do you want to do?” and I was like “huh? What do you mean?” and he just said “out of the options you have what do you want to do?”. I can’t fully remember the conversation but I was clearly so uncomfortable and awkward and on the verge of tears and I was just kind of like “I don’t know?” – it was his job to tell ME what to do?? And he just kind of half sighed and I think he just gave me more resources.


The mental health nurse said ‘have you tried going on a walk?’

I went to my GP about two weeks ago and said I was struggling and the mental health nurse said “have you tried going on a walk?” as a way to help my mental health.

I asked if there was anything else and she told me that she has 10 plus years experience in this situation and she knows best.


A GP told me that I can solve my issues with anxiety by tearing paper

Once a GP told me that I can solve my issues with anxiety by tearing paper. Another time, I was suffering with a specific form of anxiety called health anxiety, which included like repeatedly checking my pulse and stuff, and my GP asked me if it was because I’m overweight and people look at me, and maybe I’d feel better about my health if I lost some weight. I didn’t mention anything to him about being anxious about my weight.


They told me just to come off medication because university will be such a good experience

Just before I went to university I was on antidepressants that gave me horrible side effects and I went to my doctor about it and they told me just to come off medication altogether because university will be such a good experience I won’t need them anymore. It was literally surreal.


Featured image credit before edits: Viacheslav Lopatin/ Shutterstock licence

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