Is medication the be all and end all of mental health treatment? Are doctors too quick to whip out that prescription pad? The overwhelming answer seems to be yes and I find myself agreeing with this statement.
I have written about the anti-medication movement and I do believe that the ease with which people can get a prescription for an antidepressant from their GP is to blame for this line of thinking. I don’t think that medication, which is predominantly used for mental health issues should be prescribed, at least initially, without the input of a psychiatrist or therapy to accompany it.
Medication is not the answer to long term management of depression and anxiety in my opinion, at least not on its own. It does not magically fix the issues which drove you to the point of asking for help. It doesn’t magically fix the irrational thinking which can cause a panic attack and eventually the medication might stop working.
In my experience, medication gives me the boost I need to be able to participate in therapy. It doesn’t have me bouncing around like I am on cloud 9 but, as I often say to my psychologist it takes me from meh to blah. It’s not a miracle maker.
Sometimes you are lucky, you have a GP who has an understanding of mental illness and the medications that are used to treat it. However this can be a bit of hit and miss, often the GP will write you a prescription and you’d be on your way. No follow up, no referrals to someone who can help you deal with your depression or anxiety and no time to delve into those issues too deeply.
Many people are unaware of how to access treatment with a psychologist, (I’ll be covering that in future posts) or they believe that they aren’t ‘sick’ enough to visit a psychologist. I believe that everyone can benefit from a few sessions with a psychologist, even if it’s to check in with how you are doing.
A psychologist can help you to learn how to deal with your issues in a more healthy way, and in some cases this means that long term treatment with medication isn’t needed. It can also mean that instead of entering into a band aid approach to treatment, you may be able to move on to a mentally healthier place sooner.
Medication isn’t for everyone, in fact many people are unable to take it due to unbearable side effects and I think that the importance of talk therapy isn’t talked about enough. I absolutely think that medication shouldn’t be easy to obtain, it shouldn’t be handed out without a clear plan for treatment in place and it definitely shouldn’t be handed out without ensuring that other avenues of treatment have been tried.
Do you believe that it’s too easy for people to access antidepressant medication?
I do believe that medication is handed out far too easily. I feel that you should have to see both a doctor and a psychologist or mental health clinician before medication is prescribed. I also think the benefits of talk therapy are underestimated, but that it needs to be emphasised that it can take a couple of try’s to get the right fit between client and therapist, so you do need to persevere with talk therapy in order to get it right. Medication (when tolerated) in conjunction with talk therapy is one of the best approaches.
I think it’s handed out too quickly, but I don’t think it should be more restricted. Just have GPs better trained to make sure it comes with a psychology referral too and be reviewed regularly initially.
I reckon access to a psychiatrist – who is, after all a medical doctor too – should be easy and also free for people with mental health issues. Even if it’s just one initial bulk billed session to let the psychiatrist decide if the person actually requires medication, or instead needs psychological counselling or perhaps admission to one of the few mental health facilities we have. GPs simply aren’t trained in mental heatlh issues, it’s a very specialised field. We wouldn’t expect them to be obstetricians as well as GPs. And many of them, frankly, have a bad attitude towards the concept of mental health issues. Let them make a referral to a psychiatrist if they believe the patient requires medication, who can then decide what happens next. Of course, that’s just a dream. The government has already reduced bulk billed psychology sessions from 12 in 12 months to 10, and we’ll be lucky to hold onto that.
I was definitely surprised how easy it was to get a prescription from my GP but at the same time, she’s not one of these GP’s who usually just prescribes anti-depressants easily. I think she understood my situation. She also encouraged therapy along with the medication.
It took me a couple of months to make the decision to take medication and I’m glad I took that time. In fact, I’m really grateful how it all worked out – my GP and psychologists’ support was integral in getting me out of those dark days.