Posts Tagged ‘antidepressants’

We give some advice on mental illness…

March 29, 2017

I was asked whether my own experience provided any guidance for a friend whose daughter, a student, had returned home from university apparently suffering from depression:

I did indeed suffer from severe depression (accompanied by anxiety) 30 or so years ago when you used to kindly come and visit me in the hospital in [a place] whose name I’ve forgotten. Since then, I’ve suffered from it  more mildly on a few occasions.  (I think I the most serious episode was when I had five days off work while waiting for the pills to take effect.)

I personally find that antidepressants have always worked for me.   Apart from that, a lot of the process of getting through mental illness (indeed illness generally) is finding someone who you can talk to, who will listen to you and take you seriously.  I had a very nice lady doctor in [a place] who managed to sell me me on various things by saying that especially if you were clever you could convince yourself that depression was all kind of terrible things but it was just depression.

It’s important to reach the stage of understanding that this is it, which means that it’s not going to go away but also it’s not going to turn into something fantastically worse.  I think it’s useful to have contact with people in the same kind of situation as yourself, but I believe (this may be a London thing) that nowadays inpatient mental health facilities are often occupied largely by dual diagnosis cases (drug use and mental illness) and so aren’t particularly pleasant.  Actually, that’s not only London but also NHS, so probably beside the point. In my day, a lot of the clientele were nice young women suffering from bipolar disorder and as long as they were taking their lithium they were perfectly charming.

I have no real experience of either talking therapies or ECT, so can’t say much about therapeutic possibilities outside pills. It’s certainly the case that whatever the  underlying mechanism is, severe episodes are initiated by stress of some kind, so it’s worthwhile avoiding that.  I think that something like a rest cure in a simplified, predictable environment ought to do some good–it did some good in the days when there were no effective specific treatments.  One should avoid alcohol and other recreational chemicals–at best they impede the process of things getting better naturally.

I hope this answers your questions, as far as my experience is relevant.  What strikes me from re-reading your letter is that you say [your daughter] had been self-harming for years as of a year ago.  That suggests something starting in adolescence, which is a different mechanism from the one I am well acquainted with of having a severe initial episode as a young adult and less severe recurrences through adult life.