Looking after my mental health

'I'm here about my mental health,' he said.

'No, seriously,' I said.

'Seriously,' he said, 'I'm here about my mental health.'

There was a long silence (I'm good at these, I usually close my eyes, maybe grab a quick nap) while I waited for elaboration.

Eventually; 'There was an ad on TV last night, all these people saying how important your mental health was and how you had to look after it, and then at the end it said you were to go and see your doctor and all.' Another long silence.

Eagerly he asked: 'So what are you going to do about it?'

My screen is deliberately out of the eye-line of my patients, because lay people wouldn't understand the complicated information (such as Med3 x 4/52, LBP; you need years of study and heaps of letters after your name to understand that). And it would distract them. I want them to be free to concentrate fully on my non-verbal cues; folded arms, impatient tapping of feet, irritated glances at the clock, yawns and vast and almost elephantine borborygmi. With the ever-growing numbers of immigrants, universal body language has assumed greater importance.

So, comfortably out of sight, I googled 'mental health'.

'Try and find the courage to change the things you can and the serenity to accept the things you can't, and the wisdom to know the difference,' I began.

He seemed impressed, my TV experience of reading an autocue while making it seem like spontaneous and inane chatter came in handy.

I was getting into my stride now.

'Yea, though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, on second thoughts, don't walk, run, as you get through the valley quicker that way; and the lion shall lay down with the lamb, though only the lion will get up the next morning; and now is the winter of your discontent made summer by the glorious ... glorious good weather we've been having lately; and always look on the bright side, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get next; and you can't always get what you want, uh-huh, uh-huh, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.'

'Thanks doc,' he said, getting up, an enlightened look on his face, as if he just visited the biggest buddha in the world. 'You've certainly given me a lot to think about.'

'Live long and prosper, Spock,' I said.

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

UK Houses of Parliament

Scrapping partnership model will not solve crisis in general practice, say NHS leaders

Scrapping the partnership model and moving to a salaried service will not solve the...

Dr Jackie Applebee

Doctors tell BMA to pull GP practices out of PCNs by 2023

The BMA has been told to organise the withdrawal of GP practices from PCNs by 2023...

GP consultation

3 in 10 doctors fear being blamed or facing legal action after admitting mistakes

Three in 10 doctors are worried about the repercussions of admitting to clinical...

BMA House entrance

Only 55% of Romney review recommendations on BMA sexism fully implemented

Only just over half of recommendations from the 2019 Romney review into sexism in...

BMA House entrance

GPs face pension tax penalties worth 'half their post-tax income'

Rapid swings in inflation could leave GPs facing pension tax penalties worth 'half...


BMA to demand significant pay rises to combat 15 years of real-term cuts

The BMA is set to demand significant pay rises for all doctors to undo over a decade...