Mental Health Matters

Normalising Medication

Post by: Lucy Walder  |  January 10, 2022

In November there was a trend going around on social media to post a picture of an individuals hand with the medication they take that supports their mental health in a bid to ‘normalise medication.’ It was started by Dr Alex George and I applaud him for speaking out about his own mental health. That takes courage. None of us, no matter what our profession or status are immune to mental health problems. However, I for one, will not be showing a picture of any medication I may or may not take as I do not want to ‘normalise’ medication for mental health.

I don’t know Dr George’s story but I wonder what his journey to medication looked like? I wonder how long he put up with symptoms of anxiety and unease before he sought help? I wonder how many nights sleep he lost, feeling very alone at 3 am in the morning wondering how much longer he could continue this? I wonder if he then went to work the next day, exhausted, debating whether to have a coffee to feel more alert but weighing this up against the worst of his anxiety. I wonder if he smiled to everyone at work, doing the best he could for them before coming home spent and craving a night of blissful oblivion but aware it was unlikely to come. I wonder at what point he decided he couldn’t continue like this and plucked up the courage to see his GP, telling himself he wouldn’t cry in the surgery but then doing the exact opposite as the relief of being listened to and the prospect of help sank in. I wonder then if the GP went through the options of ‘ talking therapy (you can self refer but there may be a wait unless you go private when you will be seen more quickly) or medication or a combination of both? And then opting for medication for whatever reason ( the wait being too long, can’t take time off work for talking, not liking to talk about things, wanting a quick fix).

I don’t know if Dr Alex’s story looked anything like this but I do know that is the story of a lot of people I see in a GP surgery including young people. And I don’t want to normalise this.

What I do want to normalise is:

  • early years support for parents to promote healthy attachment and the development of the parts of the brain that will provide resilience to stress and anxiety
  • education from a young age about emotions and how to self regulate
  • normalisation of anxiety in the appropriate context ( eg exams, meeting new people etc)
  • access to emotional wellbeing support as prevention for further mental health problems
  • access to a whole range of therapies that have been proven to work for mild to moderate depression and anxiety such as walking in nature, exercise, art, music etc based on what a person is interested in
  • proper supervised support for those coming off medication ( GPs are very good at putting people on medication but not so good at supervising them coming off it)
  • reducing the stigma of ALL mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, binge eating disorder and not just anxiety and depression

Medication of course has a role and can be lifesaving for some (it doesn’t work for all) but I would really like to normalise a world in which it is one of many options that people can use to support their mental health. Let’s hope we can see it to start happening in 2022!

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