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Monday, August 20, 2012

To Medicate or Not, That is the Question

I feel the need to call out a double-standard which many times finds its way (or doesn't, I should say) in fiction.

It's no big deal for a character to pop a pill to improve a failing kidney, pancreas, or heart or reduce headache or blood pressure or regain cartilage. Should they not take these pills, they might even be considered foolish or foolhardy with their health.

It's a bit more risque to have a character take drugs to improve fertility or decrease mental deterioration. Or what about a non-Christian person taking the morning-after pill, which so many deem a simple medical procedure these days?

But it seems that no character takes psychotropic drugs near so freely as the others. By this, I mean, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, or anti-psychotic drugs.

Why is this the case? 

If you have a chemical imbalance in the pancreas, you have diabetes. It's no different for the brain, but people don't accept this.

When I'm with a client, ethically I'm bound to explain to them that research shows that clients can achieve more lasting change with therapy and medication. I usually refer them to a psychiatrist for a med evaluation.

Many times, clients can be reluctant for a variety of reasons to seek medication for a mental condition. The roots of this vary, but below are three common reasons I've come across:

1) Stigma associated with medication - only truly ill people need meds. To take meds would be openly admitting (to at least yourself if not to family and friends) that you couldn't conquer the problem on your own.

2) Staunch Christian background - hate to say it, but many Christian people believe that if they only pray harder or gave more to charity that God will heal them of their affliction. Not to say He can't, but this shouldn't exclude medication.

3) Bad medication experience for self/other loved one - people are far less likely to want to take medications if they know of one who took psychotropic meds and had a bad experience. Many meds come with serious side effects, or the dosage isn't right at first, and their loved one was "zombie-fied."

As a counselor, I try to take the stigma away from medication as much as possible. I believe fiction should do the same!

Let's Analyze

Have do you feel about medication for mental illness? What about having a character take meds in fiction?