Fellow blogger Clive over at Take it Easy reminded me that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW).

I’d like to dedicate this blog to our overworked GPs. When at work this morning I heard that a GP in our local area had committed suicide, due to stress. He was only in his forties, not much older than my son, but he had been found dead at home. This is not new, as back in the 1970s a GP in the practice I attended as a teenager took her own life. Her husband, also a GP in the same practice, suffered from alcoholism.

There is a shortage of GPs here in England. The doctors who have not taken early retirement are left having to see an increasing number of patients, many with complicated diagnoses that might take more than the allotted ten minutes to deal with. This causes the waiting room to fill up with frustrated and angry patients, who might not be in the best frame of mind when their turn eventually comes around.

In my own GP practice it is very difficult to obtain an appointment; patients can spend much time on the phone trying to get through to the receptionist, which can only exacerbate any mental health problems they might already suffer from. Luckily I haven’t needed to see a GP for some time now, but if I did need an appointment and wasn’t on my deathbed, I’d jettison the phone and instead drive to the surgery early in the morning then stand outside and wait for the doors to open.

Yes, some patients’ problems can be caused by smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, overeating and other bad lifestyle choices, and an unwillingness to help themselves. However, GPs cannot just prescribe a pill to take it all away. Some patients will return multiple times to their GP, when in reality all they need to do is lose weight, exercise, drink less alcohol, and eat a healthy diet. Others feel lonely and unloved and need their GP as a source of comfort. Some want antibiotics for a virus (which will have no effect), and others want sick notes to try and get another week or two off work. All these take up appointments which genuinely sick people need, but GPs see everyone who comes to them and are not allowed to discriminate.

So… here’s to the stressed-out GPs. I know how hard you all have to work. As a teenager I always wanted to be a doctor, but now I’m rather glad I’m not!