Are doctors pressured into prescribing anti-depressants?

Hannah Williams from Mind Matters told InTheMiddle why the over prescription of anti-depressants can be a problem in the mental health sector. Is it because of the lack of mental health budget?

The national budget available for the NHS’s mental health care sector is only set at 1.4%. This is desperately low. Mental health funding should be just as, if not, more important than physical health.

Currently only £40m is spent on safeguarding the public’s mental health, whereas almost double (£76m) is projected to be spent on increasing the public’s physical activity. Due to such a low budget, the amount of therapy and support available for people with mental health issues is comparatively low.

Through personal experience, I know that waiting 3 months just to get a telephone interview with the NHS, having first being referred to the Mental Health Team, is much too long, especially when you are seriously ill. So approaching the local GP and being prescribed anti-depressants or ‘happy pills’ is a far easier option for treating people. It means less funding is needed and the issue can be ‘swept under the carpet’ far more easily.

Another factor influencing a GP’s tendency to prescribe medication to patients is that GP’s have so little time with each patient. As a result it is extremely easy to prescribe medication, rather than exploring other options, which in my opinion could prove far more helpful. Other remedies, such as therapy, meditation, mindfulness and relaxation methods are less readily promoted.

If you were unaware of these other methods to help you overcome your illness, then seeing a GP that readily prescribed anti-depressants as an only solution, limits your awareness of the illness. It may also persuade you to believe that medication is the only long-lasting answer.

Many different methods to treat these complex illnesses are available, but with such limited resources they are hard to access. Medication is not the only answer to this problem. Other solutions are often suited to people more than medication. The brain is an incredibly complex organ that is not very well understood and mental health can still puzzle doctors.

Medication is only one way of treating the physiological factors associated with depression. Overprescribing anti-depressant medication can, and has been found to, worsen the mental health crisis in this country.

We need more resources for patients other than being treated by their monthly prescription. Other help needs to be more easily accessible, so that we can begin to make more progress on fighting such an intricate health issue.

Hannah Williams


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