Every GP should have a counsellor based in their practice - one woman's positive experience of getting help from her GP


I have sadly lost two family members to suicide in the past year. I went to my GP because I knew I was struggling with the impact of those bereavements, as well as the death of my brother. My GP offered to refer me to counselling, an offer I took up. It was provided by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust in another part of Belfast to where I live.  I was given an appointment within 2 weeks of being referred. There was no limit on the number of sessions provided – it was just as long as it took. Following that block of counselling I asked to be provided with support closer to where I live and I was referred to a support group for families bereaved by suicide.

 I was very pleased with my treatment from my GP. Initially I found it difficult to open up to my GP about how I was really feeling. However, because of the good relationship I have with him, and because he has been our family doctor for a long time, I have a good relationship with him and trust him, which I think made it easier than it might have been otherwise.


He offered me medication on my initial visit but also referred me to counselling.  I can get an appointment any time I need one. My GP practice does not impose a ‘one ailment per appointment’ rule. My GP is ‘old school’ – by that I mean that he listens, he doesn’t rush me in and out, he doesn’t just hand out tablets, he offers other things before medication. The GP practice is based in a Healthy Living Centre which I think is good because you can access other supports and services such as the gym. 

I think every GP practice should have a counsellor based in the practice. I think it is more intimate if it is provided in this familiar setting, through your own GP. It also means that people who don’t have their own transport or money to pay for transport can access it.

I also think that every GP practice should have a mental health worker based in the practice, and that trainee GPs should have to do mental health and suicide prevention training as part of their training.