I was at a training event in Bristol and at breakfast the following morning, my host asked me what I thought about medication for a mental health diagnosis. He said that some group leaders found the mention of medication set off alarm bells as they weren't sure about if that was right. So, here's a little bit about medication for mental health and why for some people it can be a real benefit.
There are 4 main types of medication which could be prescribed based on your diagnosis, the symptoms you experience and how much they affect you.
- Antidepressants are mostly for depression, but can help those with Anxiety, OCD, eating difficulties of have more complex needs
- Antipsychotics help with symptoms of psychosis, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and sometimes severe anxiety
- Sleeping pills and minor tranquilisers help with sleep difficulties and anxiety
- Mood stabilisers can help for those who experience extreme mood swings or severe depression
The main reason for prescribing medication is to help reduce the symptoms an individual is experiencing. This can then help with accessing further treatment, such as talking therapies, and getting the right support and coping strategies in place. For some, there is a physical cause to mental health difficulties, such as chemical or hormonal imbalance, which may be best treated by medication.
Medication can only be prescribed by a GP or qualified mental health practitioner (psychiatrist), and should be reviewed regularly. As with all medication, they will come with side effects and may not help reduce the main symptoms which affect an individual. It may be that a combination of drugs and other treatment options are what help rather than just one thing.
You are able to ask for second opinions from a GP or psychiatrist, or change your mind, but I would recommend this as part of an ongoing conversation with your main GP or psychiatrist. You can also refuse medication and ask for alternative treatments such as talking therapies (with a few exceptions).
It might be that you have made the decision to stop taking medication. Whatever the reasons for doing this, make sure you have as much information and support as possible. Talking through the process with your GP or psychiatrist will help plan for withdrawal effects and manage any other potential health concerns. Suddenly coming off medication can pose a danger to your health - especially if you have other health issues. Even if you know of someone who was fine, that doesn't mean you will be as well. Some drugs, such as tranquilisers, will need weaning off, so will need to be gradually lowered and monitored by a GP. Therefore, talk to your support system and GP before coming off medication so you can do it the safest way possible.
For physical illness and difficulties we would encourage people to seek the right medical treatment alongside prayer and a healthy lifestyle.
It should be the same for mental health.
Medication may not be right for everyone, or all of the time, but it should be considered as something that can help manage symptoms and help people live the lives that they want to.