More than One in Four?

There is an often bandied about statistic in mental health circles which would seem to prove that mental illness is more common than one might think, and that is that mental ill health will affect one in four people at some stage in their lives. Such statistics are often used by anti-stigma campaigners to show that mental ill health is really quite common and should not, therefore, be the subject of so many negative attitudes and behaviours. However, in an article in "The Guardian" last year ("Antidepressant use rises as recession feeds wave of worry", 11.6.2010) it was revealed that the number of people being treated for mental illness could be even greater than the one in four statistic suggests.
According to the article, the number of prescriptions handed out for antidepressants had risen from 20.1 million in 1999, to a staggering 39.1 million in 2009, a 95% increase over only ten years. The article, as its title suggests, attributed this new "wave" of mental illness to a reaction by many to the harshness of living amidst the economic recession.
However, other reasons for this apparent rise were given, some seeing it as a result of a better diagnostic process and, perhaps, more people "coming out", as it were, about their conditions due to there being less stigma surrounding depression than has been previously encountered. Others saw it as an indictment of NHS practice, where doctors hand out pills as an "easy option", instead of considering things such as "talking therapies" to treat more mild or moderate cases. Also, there was the consideration that antidepressants are also used to treat different conditions like social anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Add to that that many must return to their doctors throughout the year for new prescriptions for the same problem as antidepressants are usually needed for six months or sometimes longer and one begins to form a slightly different picture of the situation.
Having said that, whatever the reasons for the rise in the prescription of antidepressants, the fact that it has happened is not being disputed. And this, it seems, would be, in a strange kind of way, good news for anti-stigma campaigners, as the apparent ubiquity of mental ill health appears to be proven beyond doubt. Indeed, with the current UK population estimated at around 63 million, we might even begin to say that mental illness is more common than the one in four statistic would have us believe.
With, it seems, over half the population being treated, at some point throughout the year, for depression or other illnesses which require the use of antidepressants, one would hope that mental illness is now so common that it loses its taboo identity.
It is not so good news, however, for those who experience mental ill health. Depression can be a hugely debilitating illness, one which one would not wish on anyone. And while we, in the anti-stigma business, might be glad that more people are coming forward for treatment, those being treated are not likely to share our enthusiasm.
So, as the statistics surrounding the abundance of mental ill health in our country seem to be going through the roof, one wonders where it will all lead. Less stigma, perhaps, but one would also hope that treatment for mental illness continues to improve and, instead of just doling out drugs, doctors will take the time to listen to their patients problems properly and begin to prescribe other treatments which may be more appropriate.     



klahanie said…
Dear David,
Yes, like you, I'm very aware of all those statistics. I would also concur that instead of GP's just handing out prescriptions, other resources and possibilities for the patient should be discussed and offered by the doctor. Luckily, my doctor suggested options that have been to my benefit. Indeed, one of his suggestions led me to meeting such empathetic souls such as your good and noble self.
I would also suggest that today's worrying environment has had a direct bearing on the mental health well being of a wider section of society. I would also note that the ripple effects of those with mental health concerns impacts those who are within their social circle. We need to strive to continue to bring further awareness of mental health issues. Help each other, for as we both know, mental health concerns, can happen to anyone.
And at nearly three thirty in the morning, I bid you goodnight.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your thoughts and I can only agree with what you say.
Still not managed to conquer the old insomnia, though, eh. So, I wish you a good, sound sleep, for a change, as I bid you good-day at 8.45 am.
From your "good and noble" pal,
bazza said…
Hi David. I suppose if the numbers keep rising 'they' will be in the miniority and those with mental illness will be the majority and make all the big decisions!
Sorry if this seems flippant but that's what came into my head.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
dcrelief said…
Dear David,

Wow, another slam dunk for you.

My 2 pence... It's an amusement ride. All the insurance, phama companies, doctors and health groups are racking up the coins.

Over here, 'mental health/illness' means you're a danger to yourself or to others.

I can go to any doctor I want and get antidepressants without having to see a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist. Antidepressants have become like 'general aspirin.' So if you have 'issues' you'll need to call someone for those; the doctors only do pills.

Hell with stats. The government took all the pot away so they could make the money from prescriptions. Soon they'll have the right price for marijuana and it will return.

I liked Bazza's comment and think I'd make a terrific mayor!! Maybe.

Okay, mental fog creeping in; more later. Oh, btw, hate I missed the 'boob blog'... will try to get back to read it soon.

Thanks for not deleting my comment,
David said…
Dear bazza,
Yes, you "normals" may be in for a shock as the lunatics take over the asylum.
All I can say, though, is that if those with mental illness were making all the big decisions, the world might not, ironically, be such a "mad" place.
Nice thought, bazza.
Best wishes,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thanks for your thoughts.
Things in the States seem, if you'll excuse the word, a little "crazy". What you say about the availability of antidepressants I find a little scary. Over here they are still prescription only drugs.
And, I think you'd make a great mayor!
With Very Best Wishes,
David said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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