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.

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