Call the LionHeart Helpline

UK: 0800 009 2960 or +44 (0)121 289 3300

Request a callback


Mental health and... medication

med SM (cropped)

What do more than 1 in 6 people aged 18 to 64 - rising to 1 in 5 of over-65s - have in common?

They're among the millions of people prescribed anti-depressants, according to figures for 2017. More than 4 million are classed as long-term users meaning that, for huge numbers, medication is a vital part of managing their mental health.

The number of anti-depressants prescribed more than doubled from 31 million in 2006 to nearly 65 million in 2016, costing the NHS £266.6million (source: NHS digital, prescriptions dispensed in the community).

Medication is one of many treatment options; what you are prescribed will all depend on your symptoms, diagnosis and how severely the condition is affecting you. While for milder cases of anxiety or depression it may not be the first choice of treatment, for people more severely affected it can be an absolute lifeline. And for those diagnosed with conditions such as schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder, medication is likely to be the main foundation of a treatment plan.

There's a huge array of drugs currently used to treat mental health conditions, most of which fall into 4 categories:

  • anti-depressants mainly used in the treatment of depression but sometimes for anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and eating problems
  • anti-psychotics used to reduce symptoms of psychosis, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and sometimes severe anxiety
  • mood stabilisers mainly used in the treatment of bipolar, hypomania, mania and occasionally recurrent severe depression
  • sleeping pills and minor tranquillisers these help you sleep but may also be used calm down someone affected by severe anxiety

As with any medical condition, the effectiveness of medication can vary from person to person as can any side effects. This means it can take time and monitoring to find the medication type and dosage that works best for you.

We asked some of the LionHeart mental health ambassadors what difference medication had made to them.

Alan Burke

I never saw myself as someone who would need to resort to medication to treat my condition and was highly sceptical that any pills could influence the way I thought and felt. This view was initially upheld when I tried various anti-depressants without any immediately noticeable effects.

It's been a bit hit and miss but, with the right advice, I ultimately found a balance of medication that to a large extent keeps my depression in check. Medication has definitely been an important part of my ongoing treatment. In a funny way, taking something to counter my periods of depression has helped me come to terms with the fact I'm dealing with an illness and doing something positive to treat it.  

I've been on medication for over 5 years now and expect to continue for many years. I'm aware that for others a short-term treatment is all that is needed but, for me, it's more about the long-term management of my condition and I'm OK with that.

Looking back, I don't think I could have got things under control without medication.  It's a case of recognising that people take all sorts of medication for all sorts of conditions, so why not for anxiety and depression? If you can overcome the initial hurdle of seeking help it's then a case of accepting that medication has a legitimate part to play in any recovery or management strategy.  

Gemma Foster

gemmaI've had a few different experiences with anti-depressants. When I was 19 and lost my mum to terminal cancer I was really struggling and my doctor prescribed citalopram; after a few months, I felt that whilst the medication balanced out my mood and stopped me feeling down I didn't really feel anything at all. As an anger-fuelled 19-year-old, I decided it wasn't for me - I wanted to feel. However, fast forward 10 years, my mental health really deteriorated. I was really struggling with depression, crying every day for what seemed like little to no reason. My anxiety skyrocketed and it got to the point where I couldn't leave my bed. I'd been attending weekly counselling sessions for 9 months when my therapist suggested anti-depressants.

At first I was reluctant but knew I couldn't carry on as I was. My doctor suggested a low dose to minimise the chance of any negative side effects. We progressively increased my dosage until I found what worked for me; this time I felt in control! The medication honestly saved me and helped me pull myself out of the dark pit of despair and depression I'd been in.

For me, using medication has been very important. It gave me the ability to return to work with the confidence that I wouldn't burst into tears during a site visit and would be able to remain in control of my emotions. It helped me slowly but surely feel like me again.

Personally, so far, I've used medication short term but know many who take it long-term to manage their conditions: there's no right and wrong, we're all complex individuals and it's about finding what works for you.

For anyone nervous about taking medication, I'd say try and have an open mind and speak to your GP about any worries you may have. The support of close friends or family can be helpful, especially in the beginning when all the changes are taking place inside. I'd also recommend talking to your GP about complementary talking therapies that may help alongside medication. Most importantly, go back to your GP to discuss alternatives if you feel a particular medication isn't working for you.

Latest Posts

12th - 10 little ways to cut stress
9th - Countdown to 125 Anniversary Challenge
7th - LionHeart appoints new CEO
13th - Celebrating 125 years of LionHeart
3rd - 10 things to STOP doing this year
20th - 2023
14th - LionHeart kicks off 125th anniversary year
16th - Can you support LionHeart's 2023 Christmas hamper appeal?
1st - Men's Health Month
23rd - LionHeart vice chair wins ambassador award
17th - Trio of trustees shortlisted for award
11th - RICS chief exec speaks at LionHeart office opening
29th - LionHeart CEO to step down
23rd - LionHeart signs 50th corporate partner
12th - Corporate Bushtucker Trail challenge raises £8K for LionHeart
3rd - LionHeart has moved!
26th - 2023 LionHeart Impact Report published
9th - Farewell to trustees with combined 27 years' service
6th - LionHeart announces new financial education partner, nudge
5th - Stress at work "an almost constant thing"
8th - RICS Matrics Gives 5 for LionHeart
6th - Neurodiversity Celebration Week programme
25th - Talking Children's Mental Health
5th - 23 ways to be kind to yourself in '23
21st - LionHeart's 2022
14th - New board members join LionHeart
8th - Support our Christmas 2022 Hamper Appeal
19th - New trustees wanted
9th - The death of Queen Elizabeth II
8th - New associate board members appointed
22nd - Building a successful career - webinar series
21st - LionHeart features on Surveyor Hub podcast
7th - 2022 Impact Report published
22nd - Add your voice to our focus groups
23rd - SDL & Countrywide in Route 66 fundraising head-to-head
3rd - Get connected this Mental Health Awareness Week!
12th - Ukraine war
31st - Stress Awareness Month 2022
2nd - Support through war in Ukraine
1st - Follow Your LionHeart
10th - It's time to talk - 2022
22nd - LionHeart's 2021 in review
9th - Generous donation to LionHeart following BlueBox sale
7th - 6 things to understand about grief
16th - Christmas hamper appeal 2021
10th - New RICS president pledges support for LionHeart
2nd - New streamlined global access to counselling
23rd - Mental health and... happiness at work
20th - LionHeart 2021 Impact Report published
14th - World Mental Health Day 2021
6th - Launch of new youth counselling service
12th - LionHeart grants
1st - LionHeart board chair to serve second term
17th - Men, and asking for help
8th - SDL Surveying do 5K May for LionHeart
13th - Mental health and... nature
7th - New wellbeing webinar for referred APC candidates
6th - Mental Health Awareness Week
23rd - LionHeart helps get paralysed dad home
17th - Join us for Stress Awareness Month 2021
9th - Generous legacy of LionHeart founder's great grandson
24th - Mental health and... lockdown
26th - New Post-APC webinar range officially launched
6th - Join LionHeart this Time to Talk day
5th - 7 ways to stay positive (even if you don't feel like it)
22nd - Reflecting on 2020
1st - 5 ways to support LionHeart
25th - Can you be a Christmas Party Hero?
19th - Looking after yourself
16th - 2020 LionHeart Christmas hamper appeal
12th - Brand new support for surveying students & apprentices
15th - Join the conversation
29th - World Mental Health Day 2020 online programme
22nd - LionHeart 2020 Impact Report released
14th - LionHeart shortlisted for two awards
25th - Video
15th - The Covid-19 crisis - our impact so far
17th - LionHeart's (virtual) summer fundraising challenge
9th - Black Lives Matter
1st - New trustees appointed to LionHeart board
20th - Mental health and ... mindfulness & meditation
14th - Fundraiser James's solo half marathon for LionHeart
11th - Free daily webinars for Mental Health Awareness Week
5th - Giving Tuesday Now
3rd - Working from home - Top tips
23rd - Preparing for Covid-19 demand
16th - LionHeart response to Covid-19
27th - Mental health and... social media
23rd - Mental health and... money worries
22nd - LionHeart among charities who supported almost half a million people
2nd - Back to work blues?
12th - Mental health and... Christmas
12th - Mental health and... sleep
23rd - LionHeart partnering on EG mental health project
18th - Mental health and... menopause
1st - LionHeart trustee in RICS mental health video
21st - Mental health and... physical ill health & disability
15th - Support for new parents returning to work
17th - Mental health and... LGBT+
9th - Podcast
17th - Mental health and... talking therapies
13th - Changing Times, Changing Minds
16th - Mental health and... family
10th - Mental health and... medication
18th - What's OCD and how can we help?
5th - Children's mental health & families
21st - Blue Monday?