How dangerous can negative portrays of mental illness and antidepressants in the media be?

Negative depictions of antidepressants and mental illness in the media isn’t a new problem, in fact for as long as I can remember there are questionable comments made about mental illness or medication and its something I felt I had to accept. Now it’s becoming something I challenge as I feel I read a stigmitising sentences regarding mental illness at least weekly, making me question if I’m becoming too sensitive towards the subject, or is it continuing at a ridiculous rate?

 

Yesterday the BBC aired a programme called ‘Panorama – A prescription for murder?’ ¬†which focused on the apparent links between SSRI antidepressants and homicide. Yes, you read right. The filmmakers defended this distasteful programme by claiming that campaigners wanted information regarding possible side effects more readily available for patients. I have nothing against informing patients of possible side effects, however that is not what the build up to this show has done, and in my view it is not something that a patient should be worried about.

 

NHS digital state that in 2016 there was an all time high in the amount of antidepressants prescribed in the UK. This figure doesn’t surprise me and on a personal level I have been on antidepressants for ten years, some of which didn’t suit my body, some of which did but not a single one gave me homicidal intentions, yet the fact I even have to state that is ridiculous. I feel it is important to state that medication is not for everyone, just as medication for other medical conditions isn’t for everyone and I cannot stress deeply enough how important it is to visit your GP before you make any changes to your medication.¬†

 

Whilst we’re on the subject of side effects, let me be honest. I have been on about 5/6 antidepressant medications in my life, all of which i have taken for at least a year before discussing a change with my doctor. Some medications did give me side effects such as nausea, trembles, lack of sleep or loss of appetite, some medications made me feel awfully poorly but with advice and support from my GP I was able to use a trial and error type system to find the medication that best suited my body in a safe environment. Whilst some medications made me feel physically unwell let me be clear that these medications have saved my life. Literally saved my life and with my doctors support I am now on an antidepressant that gives me no side effects whatsoever, yet keeps me able to function and gives me a quality of life back.

 

In my personal experience, a combination of medication and therapy has given me back my independence and hope for a better future. These are my experiences and yours may be different, after all our bodies, minds and experiences are all differing so find what works for you. Like I said medication may not be for everyone, and thats okay, but please do not let programmes such as this one scare you into thinking medication isn’t even an option. The stigma towards medication for your mental health certainly exists and if we don’t speak up then it will never get better, after all would you judge someone for taking medication for their diabetes or epilepsy? Of course not, so why is this any different.

 

The way this show has been advertised on social media has done so much damage before the actual content of the programme has been shown. Links and insinuations between those with a mental health condition and violence continues, as do images of a women clutching her head whilst sat in the corner. These negative depictions are exactly what I am campaigning to change, alongside charities such as Time to Change and Mind. It is about time we stop treating mental illness as some sort of taboo and start embracing the fact we all have a mental health, and how we treat each other certainly affects that.

 

The BBC should never of allowed this programme to of aired or be advertised in the damaging way it has. Rather than informing patients of possible side effects, it has scared a vulnerable group of people into possibly not seeking help and I think that is unacceptable. Please know that there are so many campaigners out there that do not endorse the message this programme has given, there is so much support out there for those struggling with their mental health and that there is so much hope for a better future. Please know that any worries you may have in regards to medication or treatment, your GP can advise you on, you’re not alone.

 

As always remember its okay to talk,

 

xx

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