We live in a society that is quick to reach for a pill. We use pills to treat headaches, Alzheimer’s, depression, pain, AIDs, and just about any other ailment you can imagine. It’s just the way this generation has come to think, but when it comes to mental health are we doing more harm than good?
George H.W. Bush was one of the first Presidents to realize the importance of mental health. Since then we have come a long way to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, especially depression. According to Mental Health America, 50 percent of all Americans will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives. Most forms of depression are temporary; caused by the death of a close friend or family member, job loss, added stress, or even just the weather. These are all diagnosable as depression. However, the question still remains about the ethical use of medicating people who may just be sad or a little anxious rather than actually ill.
It may sound like I am criticizing medication, which is not the case. When it comes to conditions like chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia; medication is clearly the best option. In many cases the medication can make the difference between survival and suicide. It seems to be especially useful when combined with talk therapy.
Speaking of talk therapy, it is an often overlooked resource. In addition to its benefits of helping patients on medication, it can also be helpful with people suffering from short term depression.
On any bottle of antidepressants or antipsychotics it has a very clear warning that it may cause increased risk of suicide. This is one of those times that I believe talk therapy should be used as the first form of treatment, not medication. In some cases if the child is already suicidal the medications may be necessary for their own safety. One major drawback to putting young teens on antidepressants is the identity crises they may develop later. By altering their brain chemistry at an age when they are trying to figure out who they are it can leave them with feelings of confusion regarding their identity as they get older. Often wondering if they grew up to be the person they were meant to be.
So why do people tend to reach for a pill rather than a talk therapist? There seem to be two major reasons. The first is time, with everyone in such a hurry to get from point A to point B the thought of sitting and talking once a week for 50 minutes just seems unimaginable. The second, and more concerning issue, is that insurance companies often times do not cover therapy, or only a few sessions. Considering the price of out of pocket costs for therapy when the insurance will cover the cost of the drug makes the choice a no brainer for most.
So what can be done? The most important thing is to realize the four causes of mental illness; genes, biology, environment, and lifestyle. This means that while you can’t control your genes or biology you are not powerless. If you are in a stressful living environment, bad relationship or a job that makes you miserable than make a change. Also, eating healthy, regular exercise, and getting plenty of sleep are extremely important. These are some of the most important factors in controlling mental stability.
Remember to smile,