Havering Mind volunteers about to set out to deliver posters and leaflets to local GP surgeries.
Talking to a GP about mental wellbeing can be a daunting experience but doctors remain the first point of contact for the majority of people experiencing a mental issue.
But mental health charity Havering Mind is calling on GPs across the borough to ensure they have appropriate training on mental health and have invited them to come and see first hand the work they do.
This comes after the charity’s annual report shows that from the 410 new people being referred to its services during the last financial year, only 8.7per cent came from local GPs.
Chief executive of Havering Mind Vanessa Bennett told the Recorder: “This is a very low figure and one in which we are extremely keen to improve on.
“When discussing a person’s mental health, the conversation usually ends with a directive to ‘speak to your GP’ about the issue. A persons’ GP is a sign poster, and often it is a patient’ access to a service that is going to help their mental wellbeing.”
Statistics seem even lower when considering one in three GP appointments across the UK are related to mental health, according to a report by Mind.
It should also be noted that routine checks at a surgery are usually no longer than 10 minutes, a short time to speak about sensitive issues such as mental wellbeing.
To help make GPs and patients more aware of the services Havering Mind has to offer, a group of 10 volunteers visited a total of 44 surgeries – or about half of the borough’s practices – last week to distribute information packs and leaflets about the charity.
“In GP surgeries, you always see information about physical illnesses such as cancer, heart problems and others, but rarely information regarding a person’s mental wellbeing,” added Vanessa.
A spokeswoman from Havering CCG, which is made up all of the borough’s GP practices and commissions community care and mental health services, said: “We have a strong commitment to mental health, which we recognise is every bit as important as physical health.”
She added the CCG had been investing in talking therapies in the borough this year and has seen referrals rising significantly while it continues to commission an employment and volunteering scheme for people in recovery.
But data compiled by Mind also shows that across England, less than half of trainee GPs undertook a training placement in a mental health setting.
The Recorder has tried to speak to the GP mental health lead in the borough, but we received no reply to our interview request.
The CCG said training was taken “very seriously” and that it “supports and encourages” GPs to keep it up to date.
It added the GP mental health lead was visiting every practice in the borough to provide guidance on how to recognise mental health needs, diagnose dementia and provide information on where to refer patients experiencing depression or psychosis for the first time.