I have a friend, a work friend, who hasn’t been feeling too crash hot. Mentally that is. She went and saw a GP at her local clinic. She wanted his advice on what she could do about these feelings. The appointment went as follows-
Doc: how can I help?
Friend: I need to get my prescription for the pill renewed and I would like to talk about something else also.
*insert 5 minutes of interrogation about said pill before handing over the script anyway*
Doc: is there anything else?
Friend: yes, I haven’t been feeling very good lately, I think it might be depression but I’m not sure. I’m flat and I haven’t had to deal with this before so I wasn’t sure what I can do.
Doc: well you’ve used your 6 minutes so you’ll have to make another appointment and come back another day.
It was World Mental Health Day yesterday and still is National Mental Health Week, but I don’t need a week to talk about mental health. I’m always banging on about how important it is to talk. Talk about anything. Everything. Your pets, your garden, your housemates. It’s that kind of chat that leads to being more comfortable talking about your health, physical and mental. It allows you to speak up if you’re feeling different to your usual self. People think small talk is a waste of time, but I believe the small talk is what leads to the more important stuff. And starting this general chat with friends and co-workers helps us all notice changes in others. In short, it allows us to be more mindful of what’s going on around us.
That conversation was no joke. It actually happened. My friend isn’t suicidal. She goes to work and takes care of herself daily. She isn’t about to collapse in a heap. But he didn’t know any of that. Because he dismissed her before she had a chance to say anything.
Now, I get how bulk billing doctors work. However I also know they have a duty of care to not just palm off someone who could be on the brink of a fucking meltdown. I have also seen enough to know they go over time on appointments, all the time. I myself see a bulk billing GP, and he is hands down the best doctor I’ve seen in my 13 years on Brisbane (Dr Tim Bresseleers if anyone was wondering!) and I’ve seen a lot, for everything imaginable. Including the ones that charge $80 just to get a doctors certificate. None compare. So I know that the bulk billing tag is no excuse for what this guy did to her.
Unfortunately so many people find it near on impossible to seek help when they’re not feeling quite right. Whether they’ve got funky smelling pee or they’re hearing voices, nobody likes to feel judged or put under the microscope. And a doctors office can feel so intimidating, especially when you go in alone. What he did to her is the exact reason I went untreated for so long. I was afraid of being overlooked, of having a professional tell me I wasn’t worth their time, of being labelled a hypochondriac. Since then I’ve had my entire body and mind paraded through so many doctors offices I’ve lost count, so it no longer bothers me ask for help, mental or otherwise. But for those who have not been down that road, potentially facing someone like my friend’s asshat doctor might be the thing that stops them.
She is resilient, strong and outspoken so she already knows he was a dick and she wants to see someone else. But imagine if she wasn’t. Imagine she was shy, without a strong network of friends, without wonderful parents, without a supportive ear to hear that story. That right there is an absolute disaster in the making, and there are a LOT of people around who fit that description.
So today is Friday, the last day of the regular working week. If you’re standing around the water cooler, or out at end-of-week drinks, I challenge you to chat to someone about something you normally wouldn’t. What are you up to over the weekend? Did your work week go smoothly? And if you have trouble starting with a question, you can always start with something about you. The weather is nice I might go for a swim, do you like to swim? I’m glad the week’s over but now I have a weekend of study, are you studying also? It’s so easy to make that small talk. And starting off doesn’t take any longer than 6 minutes.