It is astonishing to hear that Northern Ireland has one of the world’s highest rates of anti-depressant use and that doctors in Northern Ireland prescribe anti-depressants at a rate that is two and a half times higher than in England.
This is nothing short of a disgrace and highlights the fact that over prescribing by doctors and demands from individuals for anti-depressants, is doing little to enhance the health and wellbeing of our population. It would look as though anti-depressants are being handed out like smarties, to many patients, who are no more than a little below power: rather than having any degree of moderate or severe depression.
It is not unusual to hear of a ten to fifteen minute GP visit, securing the patient a script for anti-depressants; which only reinforces the patient’s belief that they suffer from depression, when quite often the problem is nothing more than stress. This diagnosis can ‘sentence’ the patient to a false belief that they are depressed, which is regularly reinforced by each repeat prescription they receive. Anti-depressants have done little more than put many on the long slippery slope of chronic mental illness and in the process, sentence them to become chronic underachievers in most aspect of their lives.
On many occasions, when speaking to patients for the first time; they often announce that they are “on anti-depressants”, as though it was a badge of honour. If only, on that first visit to their doctor, the urge to write that prescription had been avoided and the individual pointed in the direction of an experienced therapist: If this had happened, we can only wonder how much different that person’s life would have been?
The time has come for doctors to realise that talking therapies, such as ‘Mindfulness’, in many cases, should be the first choice of treatment for their patients; especially when it has been widely reported that for people who have the most recurring forms of depression, that Mindfulness halves the risk of depression over that twelve month period, where we know two-thirds of those people would have relapsed.
It is worth taking to mind; that if Mindfulness can have this level of success with people who suffer from a serious mental illness; then just imagine the benefits that Mindfulness can deliver to those people with lesser problems.
Jimmy Smyth The Health and Wellbeing Company