Not being heard?

When it comes to mental health issues and accessing services, it can be difficult to make yourself heard. This section aims to help you to get heard.

Advocacy explained film.

Two cartoon strips to help you through some common issues

(Click to enlarge)

  • My CAHMS Review

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  • Changing my medication

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Should I get a second opinion?

If you're wondering about whether or not to get a second opinion, follow these steps to help you to decide what's right for you.

1. Think about why you want it. Is it because the treatment isn’t working, you don’t get on with your doctor, you are worried that things that you think are causing the problems are not being taken into account, the clinic is too far away and there are practical problems in getting there, or any other possible reasons?

2. Talk to the person you are seeing. Explain what your worries are and why you think it isn’t working as well as it could. Ask them if you could agree some changes to the current treatment plan. Most clinicians won’t mind being asked as long as you explain your worries clearly; give a reason as to why. You might find it useful to make notes and take them with you, to make sure you remember all of the points you want to make.

3. If this doesn’t work, you are entitled to ask for a second opinion. You can explain that this is what you want to your clinician and them to suggest someone. They may have a better idea of what is available than your GP, but if this is awkward you can go to your GP.

4. The person you are seeing may offer you the chance to talk to someone else in the local service – you should think about whether this would be OK or if you want to see someone else altogether, but another local person is often the most helpful first step.

5. You should be aware though that the person you see to get a second opinion will probably only be able to offer you an assessment, they won’t provide the rest of your treatment. Your second opinion will probably also want to talk to your current clinician. 

 What if I don’t want to take my medication?

1. Think about why you don’t want to take your medication. Is it because you would like to try alternatives, are you worried about the side effects, are the side effects really affecting your life, or are there any other possible reasons?

2. Talk to the person who prescribed your medication. There may be options to change to a different medication, have a different dose or a change in when you take the medication, or a chance to discuss alternatives to medication.

3. If you aren’t happy with this, you can speak to your GP. No one can make you take medication. But if you aren’t going to take it make sure you tell someone. There can be some nasty side effects if you stop taking your medication suddenly; if you tell your doctor you can phase it out gradually.

Take some notes in with you when you are talking to your doctor - it will make sure you don’t forget anything. 

Questions for your doctor

When you're talking to your doctor about your treatment, it's sometimes difficult to think on the spot about what you should be asking them.

Here is a list of questions you might want to ask, when you speak to your doctor:

  • Is this the only treatment available for me?
  • Are there local support groups or meeting groups for children and young people having the same treatment that I can join?
  • Where can I find more information?
  • Is it a common for people my age?
  • If receiving a talking therapy- how many sessions will I get?
  • Will it make me feel upset to start with?
  • If I do start to feel upset what should I do?
  • How will the treatment make me feel?
  • What are the side effects of the medication?
  • How long will it take to make me feel better?
  • Will I have to take it forever?
  • How long will I have to wait to receive treatment?
  • Can I stop this treatment at any point?
  • What do I do if I start feeling worse?
  • Will the treatment cure me?
  • Do I have to tell my teachers, friends, family?
  • Are there things I can do to help myself?
  • Are there things that I cant do because I am receiving this treatment?
  • When I’m older will I have to say I have this problem when asked on an application form or at work?
  • Will I receive regular checkups?

Your rights in A psychiatric unit

The Headspace Toolkit is a self-advocacy and rights toolkit for young people in psychiatric units. It provides basic information about being an inpatient, what the law says, your rights, who you can talk to, how to speak up (self-advocate) and get others to listen, what to do if you are not happy with your service and other information. There is information about the law and your rights if you are detained under the Mental Health Act, but it is worth remembering that the majority of young people admitted to hospital are there because they have agreed to it and not because they have been forced.