Within the twelve months prior to being interviewed, five participants described seeking help from healthcare services, in the form of consulting a GP, for their mood problems. Although some participants described their distress as temporary (see Section 5.3), a few participants described taking the decision to consult a GP due to persistent experiences of distress:
“It is this niggle, chip, chip, chip and in the end I thought, I don't feel very well and I went to the doctors.”
(Owen) Diane further illustrated that persistent experiences of distress resulted in her seeking help from a GP:
Interviewer: “What do you think about going to the doctors [about] mental health problems?”
Diane: “Yeah, I tried to do it on my own until I realised I was getting churned up and I thought, I need some help.”
Diane reported reaching a point where she could not manage her distress alone as this was not alleviating her mood problems. By reporting “I need some help”, Diane is gaining a sense of control over her mood problems by consulting a GP.
Only one participant, Helen, reported seeking help from healthcare services in the distant past for mood problems. Helen described having a history of mental health problems dating back to when her first child was born:
“I first went to the doctors when I had depression after having my son, yeah I did, we were living abroad we had no back up.”
(Helen) Helen also described recently seeking help from a GP when experiencing distress in the following way:
“I had to go to the doctor and she knew that my husband had been ill like that and I said I'm just so low … I would encourage anyone to go and have something done about it from the doctor, there is too much to enjoy in life.”
(Helen) Helen’s history of mental health problems could have supported her logic to consult a GP when recently experiencing distress.
Within this section I have illustrated that participants who took the decision to consult a GP reported persistent experiences of distress, described needing help as managing alone had not alleviated their mood problems, or had a history of mental health problems.
5.5.1 Relationship with GPs
Participants’ reported relationship with a GP affected their decision to seek help from healthcare services. Participants who had received a label of a mental health problem described existing positive relationships with GPs:
“My doctors are very good they are yeah, so I feel as though I can speak to them and I've seen how they are with my husband when they've come out to him when he's been really poorly.”
(Helen) Participants who took the decision to seek help from healthcare services when experiencing distress reported that they could discuss their problems with a GP.
When asked if they had sought help from healthcare services when experiencing distress within the twelve months prior to the interview, thirteen participants disclosed that they had not consulted a GP. Reasons for this included a lack in continuity of care:
“I don't bother with the GP if I'm honest at all, having the same GP is important and seeing a different one all the time well that stops me from saying I need something, seeing a familiar face would be important.”
(Kathleen) Continuity with the same GP was required before some participants would decide to seek help from healthcare services when experiencing distress. Other participants reflected upon
previous encounters with a GP which affected their decisions to seek help:
“My brother rang one-one-one and they said ‘go and see the doctor the next day’ and erm ... so I did ... I rang down but I could only get in to see a nurse practitioner, erm she examined me and then she went out and I heard her say to the doctor, because I know this doctor, erm ‘do you think we should send her for an x-ray?’ and he said ‘oh no, I think it’ll be alright’ and he hadn’t even examined me! So, but erm, I got over it but erm I won’t see a doctor … I’ll never go to him again because I don’t trust him anymore … well I haven’t got any confidence in him.”
(Elizabeth) Some participants reported that negative previous encounters resulted in them losing a sense of trust in GPs.
This section has identified that the participants’ perceived relationships with a GP affected their decision to seek help from healthcare services. Participants who consulted a GP described positive relationships with such healthcare professionals. A lack in continuity of care, or
negative past encounters with GPs, prevented other participants from seeking help from healthcare services when experiencing distress.
Along with negative past experiences and a lack of continuity to care, stigma also impacted some participants’ decisions to seek help from healthcare services. Participants who had not consulted a GP when experiencing distress discussed the negative perceptions associated with mental health problems:
“Hm, yeah, I think, well with depression and that, I don’t want to be seen as having stuff like that, do I? Its frowned upon and you shut up and shut shop and you find people say ‘no that doesn’t happen to me or in my family’.”
(Elizabeth) Some participants themselves held stigmatised attitudes towards mental health problems and did not wish to be labelled as having such problems, this perhaps prevented them from consulting a GP. The concern regarding stigma may have driven participants to assert that they were not experiencing a mental health problem:
“I think most older adults would be in denial of stuff like that, I wouldn't see myself as having a problem like anxiety or stuff, they don't think that they'd have a problem so they'd just get on with life.”
(Leslie) The assertion that they were not experiencing a mental health problem, and the preference to self-manage their mood, prevented some participants from consulting a GP.
Within this section I have presented data in relation to help-seeking from healthcare services with a particular focus on stigma and the perceived relationships that participants had with GPs. The next section will describe participants’ perceptions of treatments offered in primary care.