How can I better understand the challenges of using medication as part of the treatment of mental illness?

Research has shown that the most effective treatment of the symptoms of mental illness involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy. It’s important for clinicians to be aware that the choice to include medication as part of the treatment plan is frequently a difficult one for patients to make and involves multiple levels of complexity. Frequently medication is first suggested during times of crisis, and may even be forced on the individual. Many of the medications used to treat mental illness have unpleasant side effects which must be weighed against the benefits – which frequently don’t happen quickly, but over a period of weeks. Additionally, there is the ever present question of “do I really still need this medicine?”

Learning to use medication optimally as part of the treatment plan is part of the journey of recovery and has been described in an easy to understand way in The Journey to Use Medication Optimally to Support Recovery (Psychiatric Services, 2020). This article can help you understand the point of view of the individuals you are working with and their families. It can also be a valuable resource to share with those individuals and families to help them understand more about the normalcy of the process of asking questions during treatment and recovery.

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