Mental health is a hot topic of late.
More people are speaking out of their experiences with mental health issues and lending their voice to try and reduce stigma associated with having a mental illness, but while the stigma of mental illness is being tackled and hopefully being somewhat reduced, there seems to be a new stigma that is now being thrown around, and that is taking medication for mental illness!
Currently one in four people are struggling with a mental health related issue. To put it in a different perspective, a rough estimate of 450 million people worldwide are struggling with mental illness, but struggling even more so, with the concern and fear of getting labelled things such as being a ‘hypochondriac’ or being told they are weak, all because of ignorance surrounding mental health. However, the biggest label of all comes when they decide to seek help for it and that ‘help’ comes in the form of medication.
The pharmaceutical industry is a billion dollar industry. In fact, in the UK in 2016, an increase of 3.7 million more types of anti - depressants were prescribed than what they were in 2015! However, this does beg a question or two: is this a bad thing because Doctors seem to be prescribing anti - depressants like candy, or is this a good thing in the sense that more people are getting the courage to seek help for their mental illnesses?
While your family doctor may be the first point of contact for your mental health related issues, and while most of the time, they do very often prescribe medication as a quick fix, many people think that medication should be a last resort, or, if actually, even considered at all. After all, we are talking about very potent scheduled drugs with nasty side effects which in all honesty shouldn’t be used for long term treatment.
The main argument is that while medication masks the symptoms that come along with mental illness, they only treat the surface of mental illness and don’t treat the core underlying issues - in other words they don’t treat the cause of the illness, often leaving major withdrawal symptoms after dosage decrease and sometimes leading back to square one.
However, on the other side of the coin, if you have ever suffered with a mental illness, you’ll know how you’d do almost anything to have just one day when you are not accompanied by an array of debilitating physical and mental symptoms. Some people are so in the grips of mental despair that they simply don’t have the energy or the strength to search other options, and would rather take this ‘quick fix’ just to try and ease their mental pain.
I am one of those people! I completely understand what it feels like to feel so hopeless! So, I do get a bit defensive when people shout out all the time as to how drugs don’t work, and they only make you feel worse, and my personal favourite ‘medication is not the answer’
Well, I beg to differ because in my case, medication actually was the answer and if it hadn’t been for that medication, I probably would not be sitting here writing this! However, this does not mean I am pushing the ‘medication’ route for everyone, nor do I favour medication in place of natural alternatives, because when it comes to all things natural and alternative – believe me, I am in, I am on your side, and I’m the first to the party! I am simply sharing with you what I did when I was in the midst of a crippling anxiety disorder.
You also have to remember that mental health awareness and social media were not very prominent back when I was at my worst. So, I have to ask myself, with all the experience and knowledge that I have gained throughout my 17 years of being a sufferer of anxiety, would I have changed anything looking back? Yes, probably, I would have. For starters, I would have been able to see that I was not alone in my struggle by seeing all the awareness for mental health that is being created through social media. I would have had the strength to research all my options, and I probably would’ve sought help a lot sooner before my anxiety disorder got so bad that I was contemplating suicide. Would I still have opted for the conventional medication route? Honestly, I don’t know, maybe so. However, with what I know now, and with all different therapies, treatments and remedies that we have at our disposal, who knows, maybe I wouldn't have.
Natural, alternative, conventional, complementary, traditional and integrative medicine all have their place in this world, and all deserve equal recognition and consideration. Some people are swearing by things like change in diet and lifestyle, some people praise therapies like CBT or alternative therapy like hypnotism. Some people swear by rescue remedy, and some people are happy with conventional medication and have no side effects.
I myself take a complementary approach to my recovery from anxiety disorder, meaning I make use of both conventional and natural medicine. I started on a heavy dosage of conventional medication (I was a really severe case) which got me going on the road to recovery- so to speak. I then ever so slowly withdrew and withdrew, and currently, remain on a small dosage at night. To date, I have withdrawn from about 80% of my medication and have completely stopped one of my medications.
As I got stronger, I was able to help myself more – to start looking into other forms of treatment, and from a natural and holistic side of things, I changed my diet and lifestyle and started taking rescue remedy as a substitute as I withdrew from the conventional medication. I do meditations regularly, which have helped me so much, and I also swear by Rhonda Byrnes teachings which have changed my life drastically – which in turn have had a very positive effect on my anxiety and my thought patterns.
Being a person who does favour the natural way, my goal is to one day be off all conventional medication, but for now I am doing very well on my current complementary treatment program, and I see no shame in that!
I don’t believe that conventional medication is a cure for mental illness, nor do I think it should be used for long term treatment, but I do believe that sometimes, depending on the person, the right medication can act as a valuable resource in getting the person onto the road to recovery, and bullying people if they opt for this route in treatment of mental illness needs to stop!
Sometimes when a person is so deep in the clutches of mental pain and exhaustion and they simply can’t help themselves, especially if they are suicidal, medication may be the thing that might just save their life - is that such a bad thing?!
Perhaps we need to start understanding that everyone is different and it comes back to the simple thing of ‘what works for one person may not necessarily work for the next’
Treatment of mental illness, provided that it is done in a controlled and supervised manner and under the care of a professional, whatever the route taken, should never be judged or mocked, but rather a celebration of the fact that another person has decided that they want to get better and live their life free of mental illness!
NHS prescribed record number of antidepressants last year