GP dismissed student’s suicidal thoughts because of clean clothes

Gemma welsh (9) web

Bad attitudes from health professionals are one of the reasons too many Scots fear talking about their mental health says See Me 

Susan Smith's photo

5th January 2016 by Susan Smith 1 Comment

A young woman whose GP told her she couldn't be depressed because her hair and clothes were clean is backing a national campaign to encourage people to open up about mental health.

24-year-old Gemma Welsh from Kirkintilloch, had isolated herself from everyone and doubted how she was feeling, questioning if she was actually unwell. It took a friend asking her how she was, saying that she could see something was wrong and encouraging her to get help, for her to reach out.

The young woman, who is now a Labour Party councillor, is fronting the latest See Me anti-stigma campaign.

She said: “I was away from home at university and I went to the doctor because my friend convinced me to go. She recognised I wasn’t doing well and asked me what was wrong. I felt like I could open up to her.

“The step to going to the doctors was daunting. I told her I was having suicidal thoughts and had depression. I told her I had it before and recognised how I was feeling.

“The GP spent five minutes listening to me and my concerns. After this she sat back and said, ‘you’ve got clean hair, you’re wearing clean clothes, I really don’t think you are depressed.’

When you’re suicidal you feel nothing will change or get better. To have a doctor confirm that makes it worse

“When you’re suicidal you feel nothing will change or get better. To have a doctor confirm that makes it worse.”

After returning home Welsh’s friend asked how she was, and encouraged her to go back to see a different doctor, eventually getting the help she needed.

She said: “If it wasn’t for my friend asking if I was okay, and really listening, then I wouldn’t have got help.

“One thing I struggled with is how isolating depression can be, I completely removed myself. When someone broke through that, and really wanted to know if I was okay that really helped me to get better.”

Judith Robertson, See Me programme director, said: “Gemma’s story shows that you don’t have to be an expert to speak about mental health, just asking someone if they are okay can be a powerful thing.

“This year, if you see someone is struggling or you’re worried about their mental health, ask them if they are okay, and really listen to them.”

See Me is Scotland's programme to tackle mental health discrimination. It will spend 2016 focusing on making positive changes to attitudes in workplaces, health and social care settings and amongst children and young people.


12th January 2016 by Sally Jackson

Thank you!! My psychiatrist in Minnesota continued to tell me that I 'didn't present as a depressed person' and thought I was just there to get out of going to work.