Experiences of antidepressants

Antidepressants: Messages for health professionals

We asked people if they had any messages they would like to convey to health professionals who prescribe antidepressants.
Most people we talked to had been prescribed antidepressants by a GP. Some had also been under the care of a psychiatrist, either through community mental health services, or in hospital. A key message they wanted to pass on was how important it was for people to feel they could trust the health professionals they were seeing and to be treated as an individual. They wanted to be involved in decisions about their treatment. People appreciated having a good relationship with the GP or psychiatrist so that they felt well supported, and they said it helped if they could build up a relationship with staff and ideally see the same person each time. Andrew, Clare and Emily (below) describe the care they received from their doctors, and the importance of feeling listened to, and cared about.
People stressed how important it is for doctors to listen to their patients and treat them as individuals, so that they can feel confident about the diagnosis and be offered the right treatment. Depression often leaves people feeling disempowered, negative and without hope, so working in a way that can help people regain a sense of control can be very powerful.
Some people were surprised at how quickly they had been diagnosed with depression and given a prescription for an antidepressant, simply by filling out a questionnaire and talking to a doctor for a few minutes, and they felt that doctors should spend more time talking to people before reaching for the prescription pad. They felt it was important for the doctor to explain about the options for other treatments, especially psychological ‘talking’ therapies. 
When an antidepressant is prescribed, people want their doctor to keep a close eye on them and to provide on-going support, and to be given, or pointed in the direction of reliable and trustworthy information. They also emphasised how important it is that health professionals shouldn’t give people false hopes, or give the impression that an antidepressant can solve all their problems. Emily explained how it was important for doctors to guide people to have realistic expectations ‘They need to communicate with their patients, they need to explain to their patient... they shouldn’t tell people it’s a miracle cure because it’s not a miracle cure you’re not going to get better overnight’. Collette felt her doctor hadn’t taken her seriously when she experienced problems that she thought were caused by the antidepressant she was taking ‘they need to listen to the patient and not just say ‘oh it will be okay it will go away’ because it might not go away. Support them through it, give the person some time’.
Catherine recommends that doctors should understand that some people hold strong views or beliefs about antidepressants and may not want to take them, and that they should respect individual choices. Many people stressed how ‘pills treat symptoms, not causes’. They felt that it wasn’t enough to just be given a prescription, and that doctors should be able to offer their patients time to talk things through, as well as to help them find other ways to deal with depression.

People expressed wider concerns about the limited availability of psychological help and said that although the provision of these services may not be in the hands of individual doctors, they felt it was important that health professionals and policy makers should act to try to increase the availability of talking therapies and other psychological help. Melanie waited many weeks for an appointment with a counsellor, during which time she felt that nobody cared.
‘Try and motivate people to have some kind of talking therapy as well because I think otherwise you are just treating the symptoms and not helping people really move on’. Lou
‘I think they need to question their motivation and say ‘right what am I, am I ticking the box or helping this person but then I’m just shoving them out the door because I don’t have that much time?’ Max
‘Whatever you do don’t just sit and say ‘oh I think this person’s got depression here’s a prescription’ you actually have to get them to understand what’s wrong with them so they understand why you’ve given them the tablets’. Stephen
‘It shouldn’t be seen as a panacea to the problem of depression, you know that’s very important that they offer talk therapy as well’. Gerry
‘There’s a whole world of support out there and GP’s and the medical profession could act as a sort of gateway to not just the drugs but all the other places that people can get help’. Stuart
‘Double check that the person does really need it and there’s not another condition that’s underlying … just really listen to your patient and talk to them other over a period of time rather than just in one consultation’. Olivia Y 

Last reviewed June 2016.
​Last updated June 2016.


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