The stigma surrounding anti-depressants has been ongoing for quite some time. Both in taking them and not taking them. We have unknowingly built up a lot of shame surrounding medication for the mind yet we wouldn’t think twice about taking morphine to ease the pain of a broken arm.
Since the age of 17, I have been on and off antidepressants (mostly on), first fluoxetine and since then sertraline. My dosage has both lowered and increased, but my stance on taking them has changed for the better. I’m not afraid to whip out my tablet box each night, no matter who I’m around.
But only through the perception of the wonderful people around me has my stance bettered. The shame many people feel on taking medicine to help mental health often stems from the notion of being weak for needing help. Yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. Antidepressants do not equate to weakness OR shame. This old-fashioned perception may have improved slightly in the last couple of years but how we view treating mental health versus physical health significantly differs.
An aiding factor
7.3 million people, that’s 17% of the UK adult population are on antidepressants. And the more we talk about them, the more we open up the conversations, the harsher we can tear down the stigma. As somebody who has battled social anxiety for a while, antidepressants remain an aiding factor amongst tools and resources that help me get by. Granted, so far I’ve seen through the worst of it, but like anybody I still have my days and moments.
Mind describes antidepressants as “psychiatric drugs which are available on prescription… license to treat depression”. For some they may be a crutch for the time being and for others they may be what keeps them functioning. It doesn’t matter what use a person has for medication, so long as it is benefiting their health. Regardless of their purpose for you, they aren’t a defining part of you.
Whilst your personal health is your own business, feeling as though there has to be secrecy regarding taking medication is still prevalent in 2020. Whether it’s taking your medication away from the eyes of a new partner or your friends and loved ones, it can be tiresome to carry what can feel like a heavy weight on your shoulders. Equally, there’s no pressure to tell everybody about the ins and outs of your life – but trust that the right people will love and accept you no matter what’s going on for you.
What works for you
Some people get on with antidepressants and some don’t and that is normal. There are alternative options to taking antidepressants such as talking treatments, mindfulness, exercising, and more. A variety of these are beneficial to many who are facing mental health struggles.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking treatment which helps you understand how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour, and teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems.
Electroconvulsive therapy is a treatment that involves an electric current being sent through your brain which causes a brief surge of electrical activity within your brain. The aim of the treatment is to relieve the symptoms of some mental health problems. ECT is given under a general anaesthetic, so you aren’t awake during the treatment.
Arts and Creative Therapies
Arts and creative therapies involve using art-based activities such as music therapy, drama therapy, and visual art therapy in a therapeutic environment with support from a trained professional. You don’t need to have done these activities before, or have any particular skills or knowledge.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Complementary and alternative therapies tend to take a holistic approach to your physical and mental health. They consider all aspects of your physical and emotional wellbeing as a whole, rather than treating particular symptoms separately. For example, some complementary therapies focus on the mind, body and spirit or on the flow of energy through your body.
Sometimes it’s a case of trying different medication, lowering or upping your dosage. Your GP is there to help you whenever you require advice or would like to discuss your options. Nobody’s mental health is the same, and nobody’s mental health reacts the same to antidepressants. Give yourself time. Stop any judgemental thoughts your mind conjures up. And give yourself permission to seek help without it meaning weakness.
Additional Tips from Gwen
- Invest in a weekly, fortnightly or monthly pill pot to manage your medication.
- Establishing what time of the day works best for taking your medication (your GP can advise on this too).
- Pencil in your diary when you will need to order your prescription to avoid running out.
- Keep a journal to monitor your experiences for future reference and establish what is and isn’t working for you.
To find out more about Bath Mind and the services they provide, click here.
Ciao for now x