Medicating for a Mental Illness – The Why, What, and How
Written by Sanjana Lokur
Today, let’s focus on something that’s even less talked about than any general mentions of mental health – medication. Yes, we mean anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills, and any medicines that help one keep calm, reduce panic attacks, sleep better, or simply keep emotions stable enough to have normal days.
In this issue, we’re going to address the Whys (why a person needs a certain medication), the Whats (understanding the use of medication), and the Hows (how stigma and other factors affect a person who needs medication).
The Different Kinds of Medications A Person Might Need
- Antidepressants are used to treat depression.
- Anti-anxiety medications help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks, or extreme fear and worry.
- Mood stabilizers are used to treat bipolar disorder, mood swings associated with other mental disorders, and in some cases, to augment the effect of other medications used to treat depression.
- Antipsychotic medicines are used to manage psychosis, a word that describes conditions that affect the mind, in which there has been some loss of contact with reality, often including delusions or hallucinations.
It can also be a symptom of excessive substance use, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or very severe depression (also known as “psychotic depression”).
Understanding How to Use Medication
- Tell the doctor about any medications and vitamin supplements you may be already taking.
- Tell your doctor about any allergies and problems you may have had with medicines.
- Understand how to take the medicine before you start using it, and take your medicine as instructed.
- Don’t take medicines prescribed for another person, or give yours to someone else.
- Call your doctor immediately if you have any problems with your medicine, or if you are worried that it might be doing more harm than good. Your doctor may be able to adjust the dose or prescribe different medicine that may work better for you.
The Different Factors That Affect Someone Taking Medication
- “I’m fine.”
Because starting on medication can be a realisation that they can’t ‘handle’ their mental illness on their own, a person can abruptly stop taking their medication.
- “Is there something wrong with me?”
Because taking medication is a continual reminder that they need to be ‘treated’ for something, a person can experience feelings of shame, self-doubt and low self-esteem, which can exacerbate their mental illness. This could counter the effects of the medicine, or make them stop their dosage.
- “I don’t need meds anymore.”
Because medication reduces the symptoms of their illness, a person might think that they’re ‘cured’ and don’t need to continue with their dosage. However, people with severe mental illnesses need to stick to their prescribed dosage, or their symptoms will occur again.
- “I don’t want to go through pill shaming.”
Pill shaming occurs when someone expresses negative opinions (disbelief, disdain, condescension) about a person taking medication for their mental health. Because pill shaming comes with the assumption of weakness of character and mind, a person may not want to start on the medication they need because they don’t want to face the stigma of it all.
If you or your doctor thinks that you need some medication to help you take care of your mental health issues, but you are doubtful about it, here’s what you can do to ease your worries:
Read up on medication for mental health (use the resources we’ve provided!), conduct your own research, and talk to someone about it who’s either on medication themselves, or knows a lot about it.
On the other hand, if you know someone who is on medication, make a conscious effort to be supportive and educated about their decision and choice.
Let’s keep the dialogue going! Reach out, talk it out, and know that there is absolutely no judgement in wanting to seek professional help.
If you have a story you’d like to share, we would love to hear from you!
To your wellness,
Reach Out Together
Written and compiled by:
Reach Out Together Foundation