Self-harm: Parents' experiences


When a young person who self-harms also has a mental health problem, such as depression, they may be prescribed medication. Some of the parents and carers we spoke to talked about how the young people had reacted to this.

Some were pleased with the effects of the tablets they were prescribed. Charles’s son thought his increased dose of antidepressants was helpful. Audrey’s husband became much calmer after taking mood stabilisers and ‘could see everything from a different perspective’. Jane S said that when her daughter was on her medication ‘She’s lively, she’s bubbly, she’s just normal.’
Often it takes time for people to get used to medication and doctors have to try out different doses. Ann’s daughter had some side effects. ‘Once she started on medication things actually got a lot worse,’ Ann told us. ‘I think her medication had a lot to do with her behaviours at that particular episode and she was put in the psychiatric intensive care unit’. Jo noticed that her daughter’s behaviour was becoming more ‘erratic’ after her GP reduced the dose. She didn’t know if the reduction was because the GP thought it appropriate or whether her daughter was ‘pushing to get it reduced’. Gwendoline’s daughter was put on some medication which affected her badly: ‘She was going stir crazy… and she just felt like she was going to explode’.
Sometimes the young person decided not to take their medication. Sandra’s daughter tried medication to help her moods for nine months, but decided it wasn’t helping and ‘weaned herself off’. Joanne’s daughter refused to take antidepressants but did take antipsychotic drugs. ‘The meds she really needs, she refuses to take’, said Joanne. ‘Don’t know if that’s another form of self-harm or whether she just physically can’t allow herself to get better. I don’t know. Nightmare.’ Jane S’s daughter told her mother something similar: ‘I’m not sure whether sometimes I purposely don’t order my medication because it’s another form of self-harming.’
Jane S (see clip above) and Ann talked about difficulties in getting prescriptions. Ann told us that when her daughter was an outpatient, ‘There seems to be a communications gap between the hospital and the GP as regards medication, but that message never gets across when there’s been a change in the medication.’ Ann had to ring the GP’s secretary to ask for the new prescription. 

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