Mental health: How medication might be the problem and not the solution.

by S.Abate on April 8, 2014 - 7:44pm

The issue in the news that I’ve been writing about and plan to do my essay on is the stigma around mental health, how drug-free treatment (such as counseling and group therapy) is more effective than pharmaceutical treatment, and how these two topics have a connection. Some of the news stories that I’ve summarized that really caught my attention and inspired me to dig deeper was the story of Alain Magloire, a mentally ill homeless man who was shot and killed by police as well as the story of the 20 year-old Sasha Menu Courey who was raped by three of her fellow classmates. Her school did not do enough investigating on her case, instead she was forced to be taken out of school, and she eventually committed suicide. The first academic discipline that I plan to find a journal article on is neuropsychology, which is the study of the structure and function of the brain while it relates to a certain behavior and psychological processes. It is a clinical and experimental field of psychology where the goal is to study, assess, understand and treat behaviors that relate directly to brain functioning. The second discipline is counseling psychology, which is a psychological specialty that researches and applies work in multiple domains like, counseling process and outcomes, on-going supervision and training, career development, as well as prevention and health. The third is medical psychology, which consists of applying psychological principles to the practice of medicine in both physical and mental disorders. I think these disciplines and finding journals that talk about them will help me get my point across in my essay because they are important elements that have a connection when it comes to mental illness, treatment, and medication. 

Comments

I am very interested in the topic of mental illness and stigma and am excited to learn more about this with you!

I am intrigued by your post and I would enjoy researching this topic more with you!

I really think this is a good start in discussing more on how other alternatives than medication can help mentally ill patients. I have a friend from high school who has been struggling nearly her whole life with mental depression because she was molested as a young girl. And because of it, she now resorts to numerous medications and pills after she tried to commit suicide. It’s shame to see people, especially those whom you care for and relate to know, suffer even though the medications are supposed to help them get better. I don’t understand how medications that are use to treat depression have a disclaimer stating that their side effects may “include thoughts of suicide”. I believe that with proper training, counseling should be more of a dominant use of treatment than resorting to medicine, depending on the person and their illness.

I am unsure what problem your title is referencing (i.e. “How Medication Might be the Problem), but the topic of mental health treatment modalities is certainly a timely and provocative one! I would be very interested to learn about Canadian access to mental health care. In the United States managed medical care has become the norm, relegating primary care physicians to serve as the gatekeepers and facilitators of mental health services. There may be some value in that, as mental health issues are often associated with somatic complaints (i.e. sleep and appetite disturbances, back pain, headaches, etc); more troubling is the fact that these general practitioners are often quick to dispense psychotropic medications despite the fact that they themselves have not chosen to specialize in mental health care. For patients with mild symptoms who are able to advocate for themselves, drug treatment via a G.P. may well be all that is necessary; indeed, drug treatment often relieves symptoms more quickly, though a patient may have to try more than one drug in order to find the 'right' one that relieves his/her symptomatology. Side effects can sometimes render the 'cure' worse than the condition it is attempting to treat. It is much more difficult for a patient experiencing severe mental health challenges to access, and remain, in care. For organic conditions and others there is no better treatment option available than psychotropic medications that, quite literally, rectify imbalances in brain chemistry. That doesn't mean that 'talk' therapies don't have value, however; in lesser cases, talk therapy is often just as effective as drug therapy, in more severe cases, talk therapy is invaluable in ensuring that the patient understands his/her condition and is assisted in improving his/her functioning to the highest degree possible.

In this country, we have deinstitutionalized the severely mentally ill without providing them adequate community support services. I saw this first hand throughout my childhood due to the fact that my grandmother incurred a closed brain injury when hit by a drunk driver in an 18-wheeler. The brain injury left her with short-term memory loss which meant, among other things, that she could not work thru her grief, caused by the death of my 5yo aunt and 8yo nephew, killed in the same crash. Thus, my grandmother required round-robin psychiatric inpatient treatment, during which we would invariably run into the same familiar faces again and again. These patients would be stabilized during the 30 days of inpatient treatment that Medicaid afforded them, then they'd be discharged to the streets, where they would forget/stop taking their medication once more. It is ever so sad that our country no longer has the beds necessary to continually provide services to people such as that, who are wrestling with severe, incapacitating mental illness. Does Canada do a better job, I wonder?

I encourage you and wish you well in your study of the many fascinating facets of psychology; if you are at all interested in reading more about weighing the benefits of psychotropic drugs versus talk therapy, Consumer Reports Health did a pertinent study encompassing 3079 responses that is well written and easy to understand. You may access the study at the following link: http://www.consumerreports.org/health/free-highlights/manage-your-health...

I always find psychology to be a very interesting topic. It comes into play in life a great deal, and so I’ve found it a fun topic to research. As usual, there’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental health. People don’t like the thought that someone could be okay with the idea of killing themselves, or hurting others, or anything. Because they have not been there, they believe it should be possible to pull oneself out of that place on willpower alone. Unfortunately, with mental illness, this is often easier said than done. I fully believe that it is the stigma of mental illness that prevents medications for these disorders from being supported by a vast majority of individuals. While things like therapy and exercise can help, there are oftentimes cases where medication is, in fact, necessary. However, because people tend to tout the idea that because this is something in your head, they consequently believe that it should be something you have control over and don’t need medication to fix. All in all, this is a fascinating topic to research—but there is perhaps a deeper dilemma going on behind the scenes that one must consider before fully understanding the issue.

Mental illness and it's treatments have interested me for a long time. I am currently taking an abnormal psychology class and it's crazy how many people are unaware that they have a disorder, never seek treatment, or do not receive successful treatment. Most psychologists seem to turn to medication as a first resort because it is often much cheaper than therapy or counseling. A lot of the time the therapy and counseling are not covered by insurance and this is extremely unfortunate because they tend work better than medications. People with disorders often receive awful stigmas so that no one wants to be around them or even try to help them. This makes me scared that there is someone in my life that needs help for a disorder that I do not know about. Because of the percentages of people that may have any psychological disorder, this is very possible. This can make the situation more dangerous because social interaction often helps people with psychological disorders and can keep them from self harming (if that is something they do). I definitely think that more research needs to be done on successful therapy and counseling methods since more successful treatments seem to be leaning that way.

Hi S. Abate, I think that the issue you’re talking about is something important. I wasn't aware of it until I've read your article, but I understand how this can be a problem in today’s society where most people have complete faith in the medication that they are prescribed by doctors. Also, I was really shocked by what ezeh1 said in the comments. I’m surprised that lot of people have a psychological disorder without even knowing it. I’ve found this website that presents how psychotherapy works and presents a few types of therapy that can help people with mental illnesses.
http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-psychotherapy

About the author