THE BLOG

Therapy or Medication for a Citalopram Nation?

03/10/2013 13:48 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

I've tried therapy, I've tried medication (both prescribed and unprescribed) and I've tried just about everything else to make me happy.

I've ticked all the boxes of addiction (apart from anything I'd have to inject or inhale) and now I'm at a place where I'm pretty happy with myself.

But let me ask you this - if you were desperately unhappy, stressed or grieving and went to your doctor to ask to be referred for counselling but instead were offered antidepressants, how would you feel and would you accept them?

The UK is the country with the highest levels of drug use and addiction (both prescribed and unprescribed) in Europe so I wonder when did we become a nation of pill poppers? When did Citalopram and Diazepam become our drugs of choice? When did we learn to suppress rather than express? And is it our own fault or the fault of the very people who are supposed to be helping us?

I've never found it hard to talk about my problems, the old adage 'better out than in' has become kind of my mantra so to me therapy was a revelation. It was a chance to star in my own 50 minute movie where I could be fed up, made up and ready for my close up at whim. But what if you are someone who does have trouble expressing how you are feeling? What if it took a lot of courage to actually get to the point where you went to the doctor and explained how you felt, only to be offered a box of 'happy pills'? What if you said that you would prefer some kind of therapy but were advised that wasn't what you needed 'but if you still feel the same in a years time then maybe therapy would be an option we could look at?

I'm not a Doctor (I have neither the intelligence nor the inclination to become one) and I realise that one bad experience should not tarnish the reputation of a profession which is invaluable to our society, but it's not the first time I have heard of mental illness or depression being dealt with by handing a patient a box of pills and them being told to 'see how you get on'. I don't know what the difference in cost is between three months supply of pills and three months worth of sessions with a therapist, but from my own experience, therapy works a lot longer and goes a whole lot deeper in finding the reasons why some of us struggle with our day to day lives than swallowing a little white / blue or yellow pill every morning.

I was prescribed Citalopram after the death of a close relative four years ago. At that time my GP was based in a 'health centre'. A huge impersonal building that was originally opened with great fanfare and press on how it would rejuvenate a run down area and improve the health of the local population. Unfortunately it didn't and although I have now moved away and changed my GP I'm sure it still hasn't. Taking a ticket and waiting for your number to be called is not conducive to a healthy atmosphere nor a happy mind, and for me Citalopram wasn't the wonder drug it was made out to be, within six weeks of taking it I knew I had to come off of it. It completely dulled my senses, slowed my reactions and made me feel like I didn't have the energy to wake up and go to work in the morning. It was only after I changed my GP and went to a smaller practice that I was told the 60mg I was prescribed to take daily should have only been 20mg.

I know Doctors are overworked but I truly believe that the tendency to hand out antidepressants rather than an opportunity to talk to a therapist is greater in the more urban and run down areas of London. I am very aware that the NHS is overstretched and understaffed and that every patients needs are different, but I think that the repercussions of handing out pills rather than giving someone the opportunity to talk to a trained professional is far greater cost wise, than a course of therapy sessions would be at the beginning of a patients treatment.

We all have days when we struggle, and there will be a time in all of our lives when we will suffer from some form of mental illness, be it caused by stress, grief or even our genealogy. It saddens me that for many who don't have a support network or the finance to see a therapist, they will be handed a box of pills to chemically alter their mood or thoughts.

The government have strict policies and guidelines on drugs that are Class 'A' 'B' and 'C' and yet it seems when it comes to mental illness and how we are to cope with it, prescribed drugs speak a whole lot louder than words.

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