What is a psychiatrist?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialist training in mental health issues.
Psychiatrists have medical training, so they are qualified to prescribe medication if they think it will help you.
Making an appointment with a psychiatrist
If your GP thinks that it would be helpful to see a psychiatrist, they can refer you to one. Psychiatrists work in clinics and hospitals as well as in private practice.
Regardless of the setting, you will probably have to make an appointment. In an emergency an immediate appointment can be arranged through an accident and emergency department of a hospital.
If you are attending as a public patient you will be referred to the psychiatrist who works in the area where you live (catchment area).
Everyone is entitled to a second opinion so you can ask for another referral if you are not satisfied with the support you are receiving from your psychiatrist.
If they’re busy, you may have to wait a while before your first appointment. If you think that you should be seen earlier, you can contact the clinic and/or go back to the person who referred you and your appointment may be brought forward if they think it is urgent.
If you want to talk to someone now, particularly if you feel you are in crisis or have thoughts of suicide, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123.
What to expect
Your psychiatrist will talk to you about how you feel. If you’re under 18 years-old, you can only be seen if your parents/guardians consent. Otherwise, you can be seen with a friend or family member or on your own. You can be seen either with someone else or on your own.
Sometimes a psychiatrist works with a psychologist or other mental health professional.
In these cases, the psychiatrist might handle the medical/ medication aspect of treatment, if that is considered to be helpful, with the other mental health professional providing other supports like counselling or advising you on your rights, which might be done by a social worker.
If you think your psychiatrist does not understand you properly, then you can go back to your GP and ask to see a different one. Like anyone else you talk to, you may not feel comfortable with the first psychiatrist you see.
Try not to give up. It can be hard to deal with your feelings and finding someone to talk to, but it’s worth it in the end.
Sometimes just talking to someone can be enough to help you through. Other times medication may help you to feel better. If a psychiatrist suggests you take medication, make sure you understand the effects and the possible side effects of the medicine.
Some people find it useful to get a second opinion about their treatment including any medications that might be involved.
You need to be clear about the information. You’re the one who needs to make any decisions so feel free to ask questions.
The psychiatrist will try to keep what you say private but, if you say something that makes them think someone is at risk, for example, if you say someone could be hurting a child, they may have to share the information with someone else.
Discuss these privacy issues with the psychiatrist early on. This is generally something your psychiatrist will bring up in your first session, but if they don’t, make sure you to ask. Read confidentiality for more information.
Paying for treatment
You have the same entitlement to public health services for mental health problems as for any other health problems and it’s free to see a psychiatrist who works for the HSE in a hospital or a health centre.
Other psychiatrists work privately. They may ask for money up front for each visit. You will have to pay for maintenance and treatment in private psychiatric hospitals.
Public mental health in-patient and out-patient services are provided free of charge. If you go to the accident and emergency department of a public hospital without being referred there by your GP, you may be charged €100.