Mental health drugs are over-prescribed and how social media is helping keep tabs on suicide rates

There is always debate about how to treat mental health issues effectively. As someone who deals with this everyday, the solution is sometimes as individual as the patients themselves. However, according to a recent article in Psychology Today, it could be argued that drugs are being over-prescribed. It starts by saying :

“We hear so much these days about how psychotherapies can help people with mental health problems. But the most recent figures tend to suggest that as many as 57% of people with mental health problems are being treated solely with medications without any form of psychotherapy. And that figure is not going down—it’s going up!—up from 44% to 57% between 1998 and 2007. In addition the pediatric use of SSRIs has risen significantly between 1994 and 2000, largely to treat childhood anxiety and depression, and has often occurred without regulatory approval.”

The author, Graham C. L. Davey, Ph.D. gives some very convincing arguments as to why this trend is happening and will continue into the future. Among others, he states that when only one line of treatment is available, small bouts of mental illness can be “medicalised” and turned into longer term issues. One of these issues could also be the long term use of prescription drugs. Additionally, prescribing drugs alone from the outset could have the psychological effect on the patient that his “recovery” is now out of his own hands and dependent on the medication. He also argues that while drugs will sometimes subdue symptoms, ( he did mention that a study of depression sufferers found that 60 percent felt better in the short term after being medicated) they will not change the way patients think or perceive the world and that a mixture of medication and psychotherapy should be the minimum offered.. Most sinister of all was his theory that many first points of contact for mental health sufferers were GP’s and family doctors who were poorly trained in recognizing psychological issues. However, something he wrote which was of no surprise to me was the influence of the big pharma companies on the situation. I quote :

“Drug companies need to sell drugs to survive, so will have an incentive to invent new disorders to generate a market for new drugs. Very often this may lead to the medicalization of perfectly normal emotional processes, such as bereavement”

The internet is playing an ever increasing role in the battle for mental health. Online therapy is becoming more and more popular and this trend is likely to continue in my opinion. However, according to a recent article by Elana Premack Sandler, L.C.S.W., M.P.H, help is coming from a very unlikely source.

A recent finding by researchers at Brigham Young University offers a very modern kind of hope. Twitter, it seems, may provide a proxy measure for suicide rates. States with a higher proportion of people tweeting about suicide are states that have higher-than-average suicide rates. The opposite seems to hold true as well—states with lower proportions of people tweeting about suicide have lower-than-average suicide rates.Twitter is providing real-time data about suicide risk, which is something that those of us thinking about the implications of social media for suicide prevention can get pretty excited about.

The excitement she refers to comes from the fact that the most up to date data concerning suicide rates is at least three years old. We all know how things can change over a period of three years. Twitter and presumably other social media sites are offering “real time” statistics and that can only be good for “real time” solutions. The challenge is to use this data to the best effect. It is another way in which technology and social media are impacting our daily lives, this time in a positive way.

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals,couples,  groups and companies globally. Online therapy is, in his experience, effective for treating a number of major conditions. Are you having issues that you need to talk through? He has a range of plans that can help you get the help you need.  Online Therapy details : Here ……

  13 comments for “Mental health drugs are over-prescribed and how social media is helping keep tabs on suicide rates

  1. January 31, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Very interesting stats about how people are tweeting about suicidal tendencies! They can feel relaxed enough to tweet about their issues in real-time and, hopefully, this will lead to changes in how mental healthcare is presented.
    It’s unfortunate how the medical industry continues to push medication upon those who seek help for mental and emotional issues. When my husband died recently, the hospital social worker suggested I should see a family physician. I immediately knew she was suggesting that I should get some medication for “bereavement”. In response, I spewed out some statistics about how people react differently to a loved one’s death and that not everyone needs to take drugs to deal with it. There are much better ways!
    Have a great weekend, Dr. Jenner! 🙂

  2. January 31, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Playing devil’s advocate Dr Nick can the same be said for therapy? The implication when you go see a therapist is that you have a problem or worse still am a problem, especially if you are a kid. Perhaps the kid is just a bit exuberant, rebellious or quiet and withdrawn but otherwise ‘normal’. Sometimes maybe what some need is a good friend or someone they trust to be heard.

    Perhaps as is the case with over-prescribed medication therapy is not needed or at times even harmful if the therapist is unprofessional and unempathetic as I have experienced.

    Talking about the issues feels a bit like going round and round in circles. I have had counselling on and off over the years to combat clinical depression but I stayed stuck in a rut. Talking may make you aware of the root of the problem but until you actually address it and change your life dramatically it is just a sticking plaster. You feel better in the session getting it all out but as soon as you are home you feel terrible again. This is my experience.

    • February 1, 2014 at 8:20 am

      I think the key thing you stated is that medication is being pushed on the public as if there is no alternative.

      • February 1, 2014 at 8:26 am

        There is definitely a lack of counselling services on the NHS in UK for those who need it; mental illness being the Cinderella of the Health Service. It is a lot easier to write out a prescription and send the patient on his way. Counselling has to be set up and is on-going and time consuming.

      • February 1, 2014 at 8:28 am

        This is also the feedback I have had from British clients.

    • February 1, 2014 at 8:27 am

      Hello. I am sure this statement is true for you given your experience of therapy. I would however argue that even the most incompetent therapist doesn’t have the power to keep you hooked for many years! However, the article is not about either/or. It is about finding a sensible, appropriate balance of treatment to give patients the best chance of recovery, not about assuming that medication is the one and only way. I agree with the author that once that mindset kicks in, you can find justification to prescribe medication for all and everything.I do fully agree with you though that an incompetent therapist can do damage. I am sure that some do assume that just because a potential patient is in their office, they feel obliged to find something wrong. It is essential that a therapist presents a treatment plan with goals and expectations. That is what we are paid for.

  3. January 31, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    I love your blog, Dr. Jenner. Thank you for putting rational information in a format that is tangible and available. Happy Chinese New Year!

    • February 1, 2014 at 8:18 am

      Thank you for the kind words and for taking the time to comment

  4. February 1, 2014 at 8:27 am

    But I also stated Dr Jenner that therapy is not for everybody.

    • February 1, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Yes, that is very true but a choice should be available.

      • February 1, 2014 at 8:35 am

        Yes choice is always good but unfortunately private counselling is not always affordable and the waiting list on the NHS is so long that you would have probably committed suicide from severe depression before it is your turn.

      • February 1, 2014 at 8:37 am

        What a sad situation…

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