Medication Monday: Stigma

Another week brings with it another Medication Monday. For those who are new to the series, Medication Monday is the weekly series that examines mental health medications. It is not a substitute for medical advice, but rather it is a brief informative introduction to mental health medications. Last week and this week we are talking not about specific medications, but instead, about some of the issues that people might have getting medications. Last week, we talked about the difficulty of getting an appointment with a psychiatrist. This week, we are talking about the stigma associated with mental health medications.

This is something I definitely struggled with when I started my medication. Because while there is certainly a stigma surrounding mental health issues generally, the stigma surrounding the use of mental health medication is another level up. Just as some people dismiss things like depression as mere sadness or laziness (it is not, but if you are reading this page regularly I am guessing you know that), some dismiss the use of medication as turning to a crutch to fix something you should fix yourself. ‘Everyone has problems,’ these people will say, ‘you shouldn’t need drugs to fix those problems.’

Yet anyone with a regular illness uses drugs to fix their problem. We don’t tell people with infections to simply decide that they want to fight the infection, we give them antibiotics. And just as we have no control over our immune responses, we sometimes have little control over how our minds manage their serotonin.

And even within the mental health community, there is stigma. Some people manage their mental illness just fine with faith, or therapy, or journaling, or whatever, and that is wonderful for them. Some people need a little extra help and that is no one’s fault.

Lastly, there is the stigma that some feel surrounding the challenges and side effects that mental health medications often come with. It is true, these side effects are a not so awesome aspect of dealing with mental health medication. Sometimes you need to try and fail with several medications before you find the right one. Sometimes you need to find the right dose to balance the side effects with the benefits. And sometimes the side effects suck but the medication really does help, and you are forced to try to figure out how to balance those realities yourself.

Yet whatever the reason for the stigma, the fact is that being on medication helps me. Maybe not as much as I would like, but that is something I hope to address in the coming months. Indeed, mental health medication seems to help millions live more productive lives, and if your doctor prescribes it for you, they likely believe these medications can help you too. And the more we talk openly and honestly about these medications, the more likely we are to see these stigmas shrink, and maybe one day disappear altogether.

And wouldn’t that be lovely?

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