A-Z

Antidepressants

Antidepressant use and hospital care

We talked to some people who had been treated in hospital, either being admitted or attending as a day patient. Some accessed private hospitals or clinics through medical insurance schemes. Being referred to the ‘Crisis Team’, which is part of the Community Mental Health Service (CAMS), had sometimes averted the need for a hospital admission.
 
In hospital prescribing medicines is the responsibility of a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist might make a new diagnosis such as psychotic depression, bipolar disorder or personality disorder.
 
There were mixed experiences of hospital treatment depending on circumstances. Roisin admitted herself to a private hospital through a workplace insurance scheme because she felt desperate for help and that over several years she had not been taken seriously by GPs, and not been given the help she needed. Others had wanted to avoid being admitted to hospital. It could be a relief for some people to be looked after in hospital, and to have an opportunity to be let go of responsibilities at home or work for a time. In hospital some said they had benefited from a range of treatments including being prescribed antidepressants or other medicines or talking therapies, it could also be helpful to be with others’ who were going through similar experiences (see also Experiences with health professionals – ‘Psychiatrist’ and ‘Community Mental Health Teams’).
 

The first time Catherine was prescribed an antidepressant...

The first time Catherine was prescribed an antidepressant...

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 14
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
After six weeks I got placed in the young people’s unit, during that six weeks I suppose nothing really happened at that point, there was no real services for me to access, there was no, they didn’t, I wasn’t put on any medication because they didn’t know really what they should be doing, and there was a bit of sort of drama therapy and art therapy but nothing, anything very significant. So I went to the young people’s unit and there I spent seven months as an inpatient and it was then that we had all these questionnaires that, that you have in sort of blocks of paper, a lot of questions about how you’ve been feeling a lot about writing about your experiences and by that very kind of thorough assessment of more specialised services they were able to pretty much say after about four weeks that they felt I’d been experiencing significant depression for probably the last few years anyway if not before.
 
So in many ways that was quite a relief to be actually sort of, to have that validated, that there, there was something and in other ways I still obviously had a lot of struggles to contend with. But that was the first experience of medication and I was put on antidepressants for the first time and I’d never experienced, you know, taking or knew anything about antidepressants or medication so, but I suppose the good thing was I was actually in the unit being observed and being supported, so actually it wasn’t as scary as it might be at home and being given a prescription and having to go away and take something. So I started on medication then and it did lift my mood which was, which was really encouraging, I suppose the only kind of residual part that was left was the medication was there to take the edge off things but I still had a lot of work to do.
 
What was the medication that you were given.
 
It was imipramine I can’t remember what dose I went up to but it actually worked out really, really well and after I’d going through sort of therapy and all the services that, that the young people’s unit provides; psychotherapy, weekly meetings all that kind of thing and the medication. Eventually I was discharged and went to share a flat with another young girl from the unit. But I attended as an outpatient but I think I, I was still in many ways, week by week there was, there was, I was still struggling and I didn’t maintain a level, continue to maintain a level on the medication so it was changed to a lesser sedating antidepressant called lofepramine, in the same group.
 
Is these tricyclics?
 
Yeah tricyclics and I think that’s one of the ones that doesn't have the, has the least sedation because I did, I did struggle a great deal with, with lethargy and apathy and very, you know, so although I had maybe sort of mild anxiety it certainly wasn’t something, I didn’t need the actually sleepy addition to it. That worked actually better and I was on that for probably about a year and a half whilst still attending services.
 

Max was a day patient at a private hospital for a few weeks...

Max was a day patient at a private hospital for a few weeks...

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 25
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So I’m not entirely sure when I first felt that I needed help exactly but I first received help in 2002 and I would have been 25, yes I would have been 25, bit of maths there. So I would have been 25 and the way I got help really was I obviously wasn’t myself for whatever reason... obvious to my mother... and I was living on my own and one car journey I think she just said something along the lines of ‘This isn’t on,’ or something to that effect and she railroaded me to the GP. And the GP, I don’t know, I don’t know whether he was really interested or not interested but he immediately said ‘Well you’ve got private health care so why don’t you just go to the clinic?’ So I went to [clinic name] met a psychiatrist there and did a test and he said ‘Yes you need to be off work right away.’ and I was then admitted as a day patient there. That very day the topic of antidepressants did come up funnily enough and I was then a day patient at [clinic name], wasn’t taking any antidepressants and was going through CBT and a host of other courses as well, probably was there for.
 
I could have the accuracy wrong but it might have been three weeks, it might have been four weeks I had a bit of extra time off then I returned to work. All through that time I didn’t really believe I had a problem so I was at work for a little bit thereafter and then completely had a breakdown thereafter and was admitted into [clinic name] as a full time, an overnight patient and I believe that might be when I was out on some drugs, a variety of different drugs, I could be wrong though, I could have been out, I might have been put on drugs beforehand. I definitely kind of regard the second [name of private hospital] session as the one that made a difference that I might have reconciled myself to the fact that I did have a bit of a problem and needed, needed some help. And then yes that was, so I was in [clinic name] for a second time, so it went from being a full time patient to just a day patient to then, you know, I suppose being ‘recovered’ for want of a better expression, to be back in society or as I like to refer to it as being a ‘functioning depressive’. 
When Flora attended a psychiatric hospital as a day patient it helped her ‘to feel connected again’ as she had felt isolated at home on her own. On another occasion she became more unwell and was admitted to hospital, which she described as ‘sometimes disturbing’, but she also felt ‘safe and contained’ and it provided an opportunity for her medicines to be reviewed and changed. In hospital Flora was able to start taking tranylcypromine, a MAOI antidepressant, which turned out to be the medicine that has helped most in her recovery (see also ‘Using antidepressants: SNRIs, Mirtazapine and MAOIs’, ‘Changing antidepressants’, ‘Antidepressant use and recovery from depression’ and Feelings about using an antidepressant’). Being in hospital whilst she started to take this antidepressant meant she could be monitored and looked after during the initial stages whilst she adjusted to it. Max was admitted to a private hospital because he had medical insurance. He found it difficult to remember exactly what medication he was given whilst he was there.
 

Flora spent time in hospital and tried an MAOI antidepressant...

Flora spent time in hospital and tried an MAOI antidepressant...

Age at interview: 43
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 21
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
In some ways it was very good that I was in hospital; because I was very contained and there were some very severe side effects which they did warn me about with the MAOI and also the fact that I was on nothing for a while and I also was able to be, I was given regular and a much higher dose, I wouldn’t say a higher dose but a more effective sleeping tablet so I kind of felt that I had more support to get the kind of rest that I needed.
 
How did you feel when you actually come off the citalopram, because you felt pretty lousy on it?
 
Yes.
 
How did you feel in that interim period when you weren’t on anything?
 
Very, very depressed and not anxious at all I lost the anxiety really I was just an extremely depressed extremely an extremely black dark place and the only thing that I felt hopeful about was the fact that I was being contained and also there were no pressures on me, suddenly I didn’t have to pretend to cope, I didn’t have my son to look after, I didn’t have to wash up, cook, try and maintain house sort of act normal to neighbours and that was a relief. but also not having to do that meant that I, it was much easier to fall into an even darker place because, you know, to some extent having to do these things kind of keeps you going in some respect.
 
So then you started on the new drug?
 
Yes.
 
And did that build up slowly or?
 
Yes very, very slowly they gradually tried, gave the dose and then increased the dosage and the immediate side effects really were quite, they were quite obvious and that was like my blood pressure dropped considerably a lot and I would faint quite a lot and it would be quite overwhelming and they said that was one of the side effects something to do with how fast the blood could get to the brain and. And so that was difficult and that was difficult because sometimes I was trying to access something, a service within the hospital to do an activity and someone would always have to be with me and I felt, you know, I found that difficult . And so apart from the, that physical time and that took about two or three weeks and they were monitoring it quite closely and they, there’s a certain period of time frame that if it didn’t improve they would stop me using it because I always did tend to have low blood pressure anyway and it was obviously causing me, you know, I was hanging onto the wall when I was walking, it was quite bad and sometimes I had no inclination it was coming so next minute I would find myself on the floor.
 
You couldn’t really take that outside the hospital environment then could you, quite unsafe.
 
No, no exactly so it needed somebody to be around or it is in a safe place sitting mostly. But after a while I continued to take it and that passed and… something eventually changed for me, shifted for me.
 

Roisin felt ‘an overwhelming sense of relief’ when she admitted...

Roisin felt ‘an overwhelming sense of relief’ when she admitted...

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
An overwhelming feeling of relief more than anything else, I actually felt safe for the first time in years when I got there, I just thought oh God like, you know I’m actually safe here now and you know it was like I felt like nothing bad could happen to me anymore, more that I was safe from myself if anything else, you know, I was hoping finally something was going to be done about this, something finally, I don’t know what I wanted them to do but it was just thankfully, you know, somebody’s taking me seriously, you know? They weren’t really it’s just because they were getting money from the insurance company but whatever... that doesn’t really matter, I don’t really care about the motivation.
 
Yes so it was like, you know obviously just sort of starting off on what’s brought you here and the whole history of it and everything and what you’re doing, what you’re taking, you know yes it was just that whole thing. And the first couple of days, you know it was just sort of, I was just sort of spent trying to catch up with sleep and, you know matching me up with the psychotherapist and thinking about what groups I might want to be in and stuff and just and trying to get a medication that worked for me and of course like keeping me away from the booze.
 
So you were de-toxing at the same time?
 
Yes.
 
Did they help you with that?
 
Yes, yes I didn’t get any physical, apart from sweating; I didn’t get any sort of nasty physical symptoms.
 
What were you drinking and how much?
 
Mainly vodka, wine you know anything I could get my hands on basically, out of the bottle as well, it weren’t social drinking.
 
Did you drink on your own?
 
Oh God yes, yes.
 
So then they put you on the antidepressants?
 
Yes.
 
And how long did it take for it to start to work?
 
I was already on something I can’t remember what it was when the psychiatrist I saw said no don’t take that anymore take this and that was the venlafaxine.
 

Janet felt safe in hospital...

Janet felt safe in hospital...

Age at interview: 71
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 28
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Between having my daughter and going into hospital I did do some rather, you know, I’d take the car out and drive erratically and my husband took the keys away from me I couldn’t stand my daughter screaming one day and I put her out into the road I don’t know, that was a terrible thing to have done, I mean the traffic didn’t go as fast then but then when I went into hospital I just rushed out of the house and caught a bus and went to the doctors surgery and one of the doctors who had seen me before said ‘well she needs some proper treatment’ and I went to hospital, but I was quite.
 
What was your experience like of being in hospital was it a psychiatric ward?
 
Yes it was the [name] hospital it no longer exists but...
 
Did you go in as a voluntary patient?
 
Yes, yes actually I was there for six weeks and I enjoyed that, I enjoyed it because there were no responsibilities and it was nice being among the other people so for the first six weeks but then when I took the overdose it was different, I went to a different ward and I hated it.
 
What was the difference? Between the times when you thought it was good and the other time?
 
Well I think that I felt terribly ashamed of what I’d done; I think that made a difference.
 
Did you take an overdose of tablets?
 
Yes.
 
The ones that you’d been prescribed?
 
Yes and so I think that had a lot to do with it.
Whilst some people had been admitted to hospital voluntarily, a few had been ‘sectioned’ under the Mental Health Act. This can happen if someone is considered to be very ill, or a danger to themselves. The Mental Health Act 1983 is the law in England and Wales that allows people with a ‘mental disorder’ to be admitted to hospital, detained and treated without their consent – either for their own health and safety, or for the protection of other people. People can be admitted under different sections of the Mental Health Act, depending on the circumstances, which is why the term ‘sectioned’ is used to describe a compulsory admission to hospital.
 
Olivia X (below) did not agree with the psychiatrist’s diagnosis and refused to take the mood stabilising medicines he prescribed, which set of a chain of events that led to her being ‘sectioned’ for assessment. This affected her family life to the extent that her ex-husband gained custody of their children, and she was ordered by a judge to take Seroquel (quetiapine) for almost a year before they could return to live with her. When Thomas (below) became increasingly unwell a psychiatrist suggested that he could be ‘sectioned’ and he feared the effect this could have on his life as he was studying for a PhD at the time. ‘I was very, very worried at the time, that if my functioning got any worse that my studentship would be withdrawn and I would lose my income. I’d lose my means to live.’ He avoided being admitted to hospital but was treated as a day patient in a psychiatric hospital and was prescribed antipsychotic medicines as well as antidepressants. However, after a time he stopped taking them without telling his doctor. Hannah (below) was admitted to hospital because of serious concerns about her safety. ‘The Crisis Team were worried that I was at risk of taking my life’. Sonia’s psychiatrist was ready to admit her under section ‘the reason he admitted me to hospital was the paracetamol overdoses because I think I’d probably overdosed every night in a week... and he said, “You either go voluntarily or I force you”’.
 

Olivia X was shocked by the way she was treated ‘I had no concept...

Olivia X was shocked by the way she was treated ‘I had no concept...

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 40
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
The psychiatrist that I saw I was quite resistant too and I thought that he was making some snap decisions he initially thought I had, well he, I was definitely emotionally dysfunctional so he initially said bipolar disorder but I was, couldn’t accept that as a diagnosis, I just said ‘No I’ve got the divorce, I’ve got this shitty situation at work, it’s not that - it’s the situation I’m in, it’s not me - it’s all these things I’m having to deal with,’ and so he wanted me to go on olanzapine and lithium and I have a friend who’s on lithium clinical trial and I didn’t want to touch the stuff so I said no because I want to look at what the toxicological l issues are, I want to look at the side effects, you’ve not taken my blood pressure, I’m feeling quite wired and tense, I probably have got high blood pressure, you know. There’s all these physical things you haven’t, nobody’s looked at and also I had had no periods for like two months so I said maybe this is menopause, nobody’s looking into this. and I had also had my breasts were making milk a little bit as I had a three year old, my son was three at the time but I had stopped breast feeding at six months so it was all a bit peculiar that my breasts were making milk. So I said all of these things should be looked at because I could be physically ill or it could be a hormonal thing. And so I was bit challenging to the psychiatrist which I think he didn’t really appreciate.
 
This has escalated so quickly and had been so extreme. And I mean that episode still haunts me to this day, how quickly something, your liberty can be taken away, shocking, shocking, absolutely shocking. I actually believe it’s against the law what they did, you know, because I didn’t really feel like I got any consenting. It was just like you’re ill we’re having you that’s basically the way it was handled, and then we’ll put you in a place that isn’t even therapeutic, you know, I would have been better off at home with my parents pissing off and leaving me alone, you know, that’s basically what would have been better for me. And some were all being sent on a nice little holiday to a hotel somewhere in the countryside, that would have been therapeutic, this was not therapeutic, it was prison; I was in prison as far as I’m concerned. So if you, if I have any advice to anybody it’s like take super care of the power that the psychiatrist has because I had no concept that this was, if I’d, if I’d said to the psychiatrist I don’t believe your diagnosis, I don’t want to take your medicine I didn’t know that he could do that to me, you know, absolutely shocking.
 

Thomas avoided being admitted to hospital by saying he was...

Thomas avoided being admitted to hospital by saying he was...

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Then basically I stopped taking it. I kept being prescribed it, but it wouldn’t, I wouldn’t actually take it. Because I thought well if on paper I’m being prescribed medication and sort of I say I’m taking it, then it makes me less likely to be sectioned. You know, I thought well if I can be seen to be compliant to treatment and this is fairly common for people who are actually prescribed psychiatric medication. Almost half would say they don’t actually take them.
 
But you would say you were taking it? Is that right? You would tell the people that were prescribing it…?
 
I would be prescribed it. I would pick it up at the chemist and that would be that. So I did take quetiapine for a while but again I noticed no real difference, benefit.
 
So your concern about that again was that kind of stigma but also the, the fact that you felt it could send you further down that road of psychiatric treatment?
 
Well no. My motivation behind saying I was taking it was I thought that it would make me appear to be compliant with treatment. And therefore I would less likely to be sectioned, you know.
 
And was that a fear that you had at that time, that you might be sectioned?
 
Very much so. My, my psychiatrist had on one occasion sort of said, “Are you asking me for a hospital appointment?” That was the time that she sent the crisis team after me and again I said, “Could I leave?” And she was sort of went, sort of like that, and that kind of, that was the first kind of moment that I felt the system kind of really, kind of coming in on me. And I didn’t want that.
 
And what was it about that that made it feel that didn’t feel like it would work for you?
 
It felt like I’d have to give up my PhD. If you’re sectioned you will be in hospital for months. Again it was my worry about my studentship, my housing, everything.
 

Hannah didn’t want to take medication in hospital but eventually...

Text only
Read below

Hannah didn’t want to take medication in hospital but eventually...

Age at interview: 28
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 23
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I didn’t, I really didn't want to take any medication because I was actually feeling quite unwell, physically unwell when I was in hospital.
 
Was that as a result if having done, because you’d overdosed?
 
I’m not sure.
 
But it was on that medication was it that you overdosed?
 
Yes, but I’m not sure if it was as result of that, I think it might have been more because I was so distressed about being in there because I wanted to leave and the nurse came to see and try to give me the medication first of all and I didn’t want to take it and she said ‘okay that’s fine’ and then she left and I was kind of left there for hours and I didn’t know, I felt like I didn’t really know what I was doing in the hospital because obviously I wasn’t well but it, it just it was like because no one had shown me around even come to talk to me.....or I just I don’t think, I think I can’t remember if I was feeling sick then initially I think I was feeling really anxious and wanted to leave and I remember ended up going to find a nurse and saying I really want to leave and she said ‘oh you have to see the doctor on call’. So I saw the doctor on call (It was a Saturday) and he said like basically I was trying to persuade him to let me leave and I was really upset and he said it’s like I could leave because I wasn’t sectioned but he would advise against it and oh because the other thing was that I found it really difficult was that because the other thing was that I found really difficult was that I was on observations during the night so they were shining a torch light every fifteen minutes so I couldn’t sleep at all. so I was like, you know, ‘I want to go home’ because I didn’t have any belongings that was the other thing so I wanted to go home, you know, and just go to bed and have a shower and things. and yes so anyway because I knew then actually I could still leave so but he got called away so he left so I just went to get the few belongings that I had, my phone, from my room and went to leave but the nurses prevented me from leaving they actually stood against the door and wouldn’t let me leave and made out that the doctor had sectioned me. which actually I found out later that he hadn’t but as far as I was aware I couldn’t leave because... so I did eventually phone a friend and they really kind and... brought belongings for me.
 
And so did you stay?
 
Yes well as far as I knew I couldn’t leave.
 
So initially the nurse didn’t force me to take it and then when I saw the psychiatrist on the Monday he I was really unwell that day in the morning but he came back to see me in the afternoon and tried to persuade me to take it and I think he was just saying, you know, why don’t you give it a try, you know, it might make you feel better. So and then the nurse came around not long after and tried, with the mediation to get me to take it, so I did take it then. I think it was more of I realised that I probably needed to do what they said in order to get out of there more than like I believed that it was necessarily going to help me because, because everything I’d taken so far just hadn’t worked really so . Yes so even when and then actually yes then I had to have the a review with the well a social care worker and a GP, because they’d put me on Section 5 which only lasts like a few days for someone who’s already in hospital and wants to leave.
Being taken into hospital under section can be a frightening experience. People felt fear, shock, panic and anger at having their liberty taken away and some said that their choices and decisions about treatment had been removed. Dina felt strongly that in these circumstances ‘there’s a lot of talk about ‘choice’ and all that stuff… but when you’re sectioned under the mental health act you haven’t got a choice and you haven’t got any rights basically’. Dina, Hannah and Olivia X were critical about the care they received in NHS hospitals. After Dina was sectioned she spent three months in a psychiatric hospital but said the only treatment she received was medication, and that there was little interaction between staff and patients. Olivia felt very angry about the NHS Acute hospital she was originally admitted to ‘this was not therapeutic, it was prison; I was in prison as far as I’m concerned’. Later she moved to a private hospital where she said things felt more structured, and that people had a more positive outlook about the possibility of recovery. Hannah said she felt the hospital she was taken to ‘wasn’t a suitable environment to get better… it felt like I was being punished’.
 

Olivia X said the NHS hospital she was taken to was like a prison...

Olivia X said the NHS hospital she was taken to was like a prison...

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 40
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So the psychiatrist then felt that I ought to go under observation and go into an acute hospital so I got sectioned for assessment which was shocking in itself because two police turned up here and I, and another psychiatrist and a social worker and I just found the whole thing really shocking and I was like shouting at them because I couldn’t believe the intrusion, the way it was done was just mind blowing.
 
I got taken to an NHS secure hospital which was mind blowing as well... because the people in there are just like all different state of affairs and the facilities are pretty rudimentary so you don’t have very much privacy I was in a six bed unit there weren’t that many resources there so there was nothing, you couldn’t go outdoors, there was nothing entertaining to do. You literally were in this sort of bubbly vacuum of nothingness really. The people in my ward were in various states, the woman next door to me wanted to kill herself, the woman on the other side of her was so, me, was so demented she kept falling out of bed, I had a book that I took with me and she couldn’t even turn the pages. You know it was just going into the most incredible situation with people you are never likely to normally meet.
 
There were a couple of guys that were stalking people and just didn’t have, you know, they were so psychotic they didn’t know that that wasn’t right, it was terrifying, absolutely terrifying to be on this ward.
 
So I got to the private hospital which is a famous one, all very glamorous and well obviously it was much more comfortable and much more therapeutic and you have a lovely hotel -like room and, you know, you feel more civilised and, you know, you feel more sort of cherished and I got put on suicide watch. Now I’d not even mentioned suicide to anybody but it’s like this super acceleration of if you’re behaving badly then suddenly you’re suicidal which I’d never, I’ve got kids, I’m not, you know. So that happened for three days they kept on checking me every hour through the night, all my stuff, you didn’t have anything sharp that sort of thing. So I just went with it, my periods started and I instantly felt better so maybe there was a PMT issue going on here as well. and basically I just behaved like a good little girl, went to all the relaxing things, the psychotherapy which was like being with a gay best friend, and took the Seroquel which I was told to take by the psychiatrist there who thought I was hyper manic or a paranoid psychotic and took that, started to take that and I think a few days later you did start feeling this sort of, it makes you sleepy and I asked her can I not take it during the day can I just take it at night because I can’t see the point of me being this sleepy during the day when you’re wanting me also to, to take part in group therapy and one to one therapy and swimming and yoga and all sorts of lovely jolly things, you know. So I took it at night and it did help me sleep more and obviously the dose sort of slowly ratcheted up and I’m quite small so I think I got 200 milligrams really because of my size which isn’t very much because I know people who have taken 600 and something like that. So and that just took me to a level where I was getting consistent sleep and my moods were just becoming more regular.
 

Dina described some of the health professionals she has seen...

Dina described some of the health professionals she has seen...

Age at interview: 46
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Yes, I have yes, I mean my GP is brilliant you know, the woman that I saw for two and a half years, the psychologist again is brilliant and the psychiatrist that I’ve had is brilliant but some others, I mean the nurses in the hospital were just useless, you know, I mean it was like, you know, I’m not anti -staff but I’ve had some poor experiences, you know, but also I’ve been lucky.
 
Is it to do with not feeling listened to or not joining in and being able to make decisions together?
 
Yes, yes and not, for example in the hospital it’s like, you know, there was no interaction there was no interaction with the patients, you know, the only time when there was interaction was when they were administered drugs and, you know, the rest of the time, it was mostly with the unqualified assistants that there was some interaction but the others were just, you know, sitting in this room which was the nurses office drinking coffee and looking at a computer. I mean I know they have a lot of work, I know they, they are pressurised, you know, I know all that but on the other hand it was, I mean the whole environment it was totally un-therapeutic.
 

Dina feels strongly about the way in which people’s human...

Dina feels strongly about the way in which people’s human...

Age at interview: 46
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I’m not against psychiatry I mean, you know, I guess I am critical of a lot of practices of psychiatry but I’m not necessarily and I’m not necessarily against medication but I think especially, you know, especially with the sectioning if I didn’t want to take medication when I was sectioned they would have injected me because you can’t refuse so I guess there are some serious violations I think of human rights if you take it to that kind of, well yes because so there are these things with medication, you know, where people are not given a choice. And of course there’s all this stuff with community treatment orders now where, you know, people are put on community treatment orders because, okay they don’t want to take their medication but if they are under the community treatment order they are really in reality sectioned but under the community. But if, so they have to take to the clinic and have the depot and, you know, if they don’t do that they can be revoked then, you know again.
 
It’s controlling.
 
It’s very controlling, I mean it’s very and there was no as I said there’s no negotiation, of course I mean there’s the politics of it and there is the big pharma and, pushing from all this. I mean I don’t I’m not saying that, you know, sometimes I guess for some people and I guess I’m included in that apparently with the lithium medication works. So, but I guess people need to be able to be more informed, need to be able to have alternatives and given other ways as, you know, like more psychological or kind of treatments to get at… with the medication because I think if I hadn’t asked for it I wouldn’t have been offered, so you know, I think there are quite a lot of, a lot of complex kind of issues with medication. Especially when, you know when somebody’s detained and, you know, you don’t have any choice.
When people take an overdose they are sometimes taken to A & E for emergency treatment. Hannah was worried when she went to A & E after an overdose that staff would see it as ‘self- inflicted’ and be unsympathetic but she was surprised to find this wasn’t the case. But some felt hospital staff lacked empathy or were indifferent towards people who had overdosed. Dina recalled a nurse in A & E had been dismissive about questions she had about fluoxetine and whether it can increase suicidal thoughts, ‘He didn’t really listen to what I said’.
 

Hannah was taken to A&E after an overdose of mirtazapine...

Text only
Read below

Hannah was taken to A&E after an overdose of mirtazapine...

Age at interview: 28
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 23
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I did end up overdosing on mirtazapine and I think it was with some venlafaxine tablets I had as well.
 
Did you get help after that or did you sleep it off or?
 
So I rang up... I spoke to the my psychiatrist and yes so I told him what I’d done and it was, it was towards the end of the day on a week day but he basically he told me to see like he asked if I could order a taxi and go to A&E, so that’s, so I did. And actually yes that was well it was really awful winding up in A&E again, it’s just it’s like a really anxiety provoking place being in there.
 
How did they sort of deal with you with the fact that, what you’d go in there with, were they sympathetic to you?
 
They were actually, I was really worried and, because especially like you hear of like reports of people who have, you know, self-harmed and gone to A&E and the response has, you know, it can be like the staff the response can be quite I guess critical and negative... Obviously because, because you know it’s something you’ve done yourself but they were fantastic, they were very understanding.
Mixing with other people who have similar problems in a hospital setting can provide opportunities for people to compare their treatment and talk about the medicines they are taking, although not everyone finds this useful. Max described how there was ‘a sort of ‘cold war’ between the patients... comparing what drug you’re on... it’s like the ‘arms race’, who’s taken the most drugs kind of thing and what they’re taking’. Similarly Thomas said people at the day hospital he attended would ‘swap stories’, ‘this was a staple of conversation for people in contact with mental health services. “What medication are you on?” That would be one of the first questions that you would be asked. “How much are you taking?” “What side effects are you getting?”
 
Being in hospital for another medical condition

Some people were admitted to hospital because of other health conditions. They said they would take in their own supplies of the antidepressant they were taking although if other medicines were needed they would be given on the ward. Emma has a neurological condition and has been in hospital several times. She takes her antidepressant in with her but said having to hand it in to a member of staff makes her feel she isn’t trusted. Jenny has a very severe form of asthma, and takes nineteen medicines each day including an antidepressant. She has such a complex medical history that she takes a folder of information about her drug regime in with her each time she’s admitted.
 

Emma was in hospital for a neurological condition, but took...

Emma was in hospital for a neurological condition, but took...

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 20
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Did you ever have to be admitted to hospital because of your condition, no?
 
Oh you mean the brain?
 
That yes...
 
Oh God several times.
 
So when you were in hospital for that illness how did they manage, how were you able to take, were you able to just take your antidepressants into hospital and take then as usual?
 
I actually had to take them in because they don’t have sertraline or the citalopram on hand.
 
Oh really?
 
Yes.
 
So you had to bring your own?
 
Yes.
 
And then did they manage you taking those or where you just able to carry on?
 
Yes I had to take them in I had to give them to them for some reason I don’t know why that is, who had to hand over all your medication.
 
Right.
 
So I used to carry them in my handbag but I don’t anymore.
 
Yes, that must have felt strange having somebody else take over your, something that you do every day.
 
Yes it’s like I’m going overdose, you know. That’s another thing I think people always assume with depression is the suicide risk. You know I think that’s.
 
What overdosing on the tablets do you mean or?
 
No I think, I think that people whenever they’ve been depressed or have depression or something that they always think that you’ve tried to kill yourself or that you want to.
 
Oh I see.
 
I think that’s another taboo, you know.
 

Jenny has an acute form of asthma and takes numerous...

Text only
Read below

Jenny has an acute form of asthma and takes numerous...

Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I wish I could take less medication. I sit at the breakfast table and look at the 14 tablets I call my second breakfast, and I wish that for just one day I could not take any pills. Many years ago, before I was as ill as I am now, I did decide that I wasn’t asthmatic anymore. I lasted 32 hours before I ended up in hospital. Now if I tried that I wouldn’t last 12 hours without help, and would probably be dead in under 24 hours. My medication literally keeps me alive. Thinking about this now, maybe this realisation is one very good reason to keep taking the anti-depressants. It’s a depressing thought that without pills I would be dead. If I had been born even 25 years earlier than I was, i.e. in the1950’s, I wouldn’t have survived to be 36, as I am now, and my body would have given up before this age.
 
After years of experience of anti-depressants I can now see changes in myself which might indicate a need for a dose or medication review. But I have also learnt how to identify when my low mood is related to my chronic health problems and when it is the underlying depression rearing its ugly head again. It has taken me quite a while to accept that when I have been unwell or in hospital I might be “down” for a few weeks. “Normal” people have this psychological response to ill health and/or hospitalisation. I used to think that because I was on my anti-depressants I shouldn’t be feeling like that. I now know that they don’t stop me feeling down when it is natural to feel down; rather they prevent me from getting stuck down there. They allow my not to pile one thing on top of another and get bogged down by life.
 
I think it is obvious from what I have already said, that I am a real advocate for anti-depressants if they work for you. For me personally they maintain me on a level plane from which I can then deal with whatever else life throws at me. Trying to cope with a serious chronic physical illness whilst your emotions are yo-yoing up and down would not be fun. I’m not sure that I would have coped this long if I hadn’t been on the anti-depressants. I have so many medications in the house that, taken in big enough quantities could kill me, that I think had I been as low as I was before the anti-depressants, temptation for the easy way out would have been too much. My asthma is not curable, the side-effects caused by some of the medications, have given me several other serious non-curable conditions, and some of the medications themselves are depressives. On top of all this I don’t know from one day to the next, how my lungs are going to be, and I’m in and out of hospital on a depressingly regular basis. Is it any wonder that I keep taking the tablets! I challenge anyone to live my life, with my history, without taking anti-depressants.


Last reviewed June 2016.
​Last updated June 2016.
donate
Previous Page
Next Page