How Much Do You Know About Mental Health Medications?

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Perhaps you or someone you care about takes medication to help manage a mental health condition. There’s a whole alphabet soup of such medications, from Abilify to Zyprexa and everything in between. As a clinical psychologist, I’ve also noticed there’s also a lot of inaccurate information out there about these types of medications.

How savvy are you about the basics of mental health medications? Take this quick quiz, saying “True” or “False” for each of the 10 questions. The answers and explanations can be found below each question.

1. All mental health medications work equally well for just about everyone.

False. Some mental health medications will be more effective for you than others, and one that works well for you may not be helpful for a friend or family member. It’s often a process of trial and error to find the most effective medication for your unique needs.

2. Mental health medications do not cure mental illnesses.

True. It’s regrettable but our science is not at the point where we can permanently “cure” mental illnesses. So don’t expect any medication to magically erase your mental health issues once and for all. However, medications can be tremendously helpful in reducing or managing distressing symptoms related to a mental health condition.

3. Mental health medications always have to be taken for the rest of your life.

False. It is true that some people may take medication throughout their life for the best management of their mental health symptoms. However, others may eventually be able to stop taking their medication or take a lower dose if symptoms lessen over time.

4. If you think you no longer need to take your medications or feel they aren’t working properly, just stop taking them.

False. Several medications for mental health conditions can have unpleasant and dramatic side effects if stopped too suddenly. The dosage of many medications will need to be slowly decreased while under the supervision of your prescriber before you can stop taking them. It’s not recommended to go “cold turkey” and just stop taking your medications.

5. Non-mental health prescription medications, over-the-counter medicine, recreational substances and alcohol can interact with mental health medications.

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True. All of these types of medications or other substances can interact with your mental health medications, sometimes in a harmful or even life-threatening manner. This is why it’s very important to tell your prescriber about any use of other medications or substances to make sure you don’t inadvertently get into difficulties or put your health (or your life) at risk.

6. Older people and people with chronic health problems may be more sensitive to mental health medications and their side effects.

TrueOlder adults, people with multiple health issues, and individuals with a history of brain injury or developmental disabilities can be extremely sensitive to many mental health medications. Side effects may be more noticeable or more uncomfortable among these groups of people. Careful supervision by trained prescribers is essential to manage these types of issues.

7. Mental health medications are never addictive.

False. While most of the mental health medications are not addictive, there are some which have a high potential for abuse and addiction. These medications are primarily some of the ones used to treat symptoms of anxiety or panic. They are in the drug category known as benzodiazepines; common examples include Valium, Klonopin and Xanax. If you use these medications, it’s important to communicate regularly with your prescriber to make sure they are closely monitored.

8. All mental health medications have “side effects.” No medication is completely “safe.”

True. Every medication can cause side effects, and information about common (and less common) side effects is routinely provided in the drug information provided by your pharmacist, or it can be easily found online. Take time to review this information carefully and make sure to let your prescriber know if uncomfortable side effects begin to emerge.

9. It’s not a big deal if you forget to take some of your mental health medications.

False. Medications can’t be fully effective if you don’t take them according to the recommended schedule provided by your prescriber. Not staying on the correct medication schedule is one of the most common reasons for less than ideal improvement of your mental health condition.

10. Mental health medications are one tool among many that may reduce emotional distress.         

True. Usually, the most effective overall treatment plans for mental health conditions include not only medication, but also counseling or psychotherapy. In addition, it’s vitally important to maintain healthy lifestyle changes such as appropriate nutrition, physical activity, adequate sleep, ample social support and avoidance of illegal substances and alcohol overuse.

So, how did you score on the quiz? If you got most or all of the questions correct, you have a good understanding of some of the basic facts about mental health medications. If you missed more than a couple questions, you could likely benefit from additional education about these medications. Here’s one helpful website which provides reliable and accurate information about mental health medications.

Just remember that mental health medications can be extremely helpful as one component in the overall treatment of mental health concerns. However, they need to be used as prescribed and carefully monitored by knowledgeable prescribers. Keep the lines of communication open with your health care professional to gain the maximum benefit from these medications.

Here’s a question: What has been your experience with mental health medications? Please leave a comment.

This post originally appeared on David Susman’s blog

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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9 Prince Songs That Have Helped Us Through Rough Times

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Every week, we ask our Mighty mental health community to share songs that have helped them through difficult days with depression. On Thursday, with the news of Prince’s death, our community paid tribute to the pop legend by sharing which of his songs they put on when they need an extra boost. We’ll miss you, Prince. Thank you for your music.

All of the songs below can be accessed on iTunes.

“When Doves Cry”

How can you just leave me standing? Alone in a world so cold? Maybe I’m just too demanding. Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold. Maybe you’re just like my mother. She’s never satisfied. Why do we scream at each other? This is what it sounds like when doves cry.

purple background with white words that read how can you just leave me standing? alone in a world so cold? maybe i'm just too demanding. maybe i'm just like my father too bold, maybe you're just like my mother. she's never satisfied. why do we scream at each other? this is what it sounds like when doves cry.

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“Sometimes It Snows in April”

Sometimes it snows in April. Sometimes I feel so bad. Sometimes, sometimes I wish that life was never ending, and all good things, they say, never last.

blue letters that read sometimes it snows in april, sometimes i feel so bad, sometimes, sometimes i wish that life was never ending and all good things they say never last

“Musicology”

Even the soldiers need a break sometimes. Listen to the groove, y’all. Let it unwind your mind.

green letters that read even the soldiers need a break sometimes, listen to the groove, y'all, let it unwind your mind

“Kiss”

You don’t have to be rich to be my girl. You don’t have to be cool to rule my world. Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with. I just want your extra time and your kiss.
meme that says you don't have to be rich to be my girl, you don't have to be cool to rule my world, ain't no particular sign i'm more compatible with, i just want your extra time and your kiss

“Starfish and Coffee”

Starfish and coffee. Maple syrup and jam. Butterscotch clouds, a tangerine and a side order of ham. If you set your mind free, baby, maybe you’d understand.

black lettering that says starfish and coffee, maple syrup and jam, butterscotch clouds, a tangerine and a a side order of ham. if you set your mind free, baby, maybe you'd understand

“Seven”

I am yours now and you are mine, and together we’ll love through all.

pink letters that read i am yours now and you are mind and together we'll love through all

“1999”

I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, so sue me if I go too fast, but life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.

I was dreamin' when I wrote this, so sue me if I go too fast, but life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last.

Let’s Go Crazy

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.

purple lettering that says Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life

Purple Rain

I never meant to cause you any sorrow. I never meant to cause you any pain. I only wanted to one time to see you laughing. I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain.

purple lettering that says i never meant to cause you any sorry. i never meant to cause you any pain. i only wanted to one time to see you laughing . i only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain.

What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.

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You Cannot Excuse Abuse Because I Have a Mental Illness

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You say you understand, but you give me shifty eyes when I see my doctor.

And when you come to my appointments you say he’s a quack, and ask me to stop going unless I’m scoring some meds for you to abuse.

You say you understand and that you won’t call me crazy.

You know how much it hurts me but still, you hit me, and say it’s my fault because I’m “psycho” and “insane.”

You say you understand, but you get mad when I cry. And instead of calling for help you call me fat, lazy and tell me how much I let you down.

You say you understand, but when I cut, you don’t call an ambulance.

Instead you tell me I’m ugly, that I’m a coward.

You say you understand, but you won’t talk to my parents. I guess for you it’s easier to cheat and lie and to ignore my “problem” because you say you’re sane.

You say you understand, but you take advantage of me.

Instead of doing the right thing and leave, you take control and abuse your power over me.

You say you understand…

But you don’t. And it’s just as simple as that.

You cannot excuse abuse because I have a mental illness.

And mental illness is not an excuse to abuse someone emotionally, physically or sexually. You can create a helpful and healthy support group. If you or someone you know is being abused, there is no excuse. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You are worth more than they say.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Follow this journey on Taylor’s site.

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8 Tips for Practicing Self-Care During Finals

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College students across the country are preparing for one of the most stressful times of the year — finals week. Trying to cram for the most important tests of the semester would be stressful for anyone, especially when an estimated 26 percent of college students have a diagnosable mental illness. This means self-care during exams is important.

We teamed up with Active Minds to ask our communities’ college students how they take care of themselves during finals week.

So if you’re worried about finals, take a breath. Here’s are some tips that might help:

1. Take advantage of the resources your school already has.

Chances are, your school already has some initiatives meant to help you destress during finals weeks. Whether it’s bringing puppies on the quad or any kind of free food, take advantage of what your school has to offer. Don’t get so pulled in by the books you forget you have resources a walking distance from your dorm.

“During my junior year the library had started a wellness week specifically for finals. They did stuff like holding mini library concerts, running yoga classes, bringing therapy dogs, having a pillow fort and having a destressing station with mini zen gardens and beautiful pages from adult coloring books. It was the coloring that really stuck with me, and in time I bought my own coloring book to destress.” — Isabelle Parker

2. Stick to your regular self-care routine.

Just because finals are coming up doesn’t mean you have to suddenly drop your regular routine — especially when it comes to self-care. If you have important parts of your wellness routine (working out, therapist appointment, re-filling your medication, etc.) stick to them.

“I have been stricter about going to yoga! On my worst days, it’s really difficult to make myself go, but I feel so much better after and it sets me up for a good week.” — Mariah Anderson

3. Don’t forget about your basic needs.

Even with finals coming up, you are still a human. A human who needs food, water, clothing, shelter and sleep. No test is worth depriving yourself of your basic human needs.

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“Sleep seven hours a night and have three meals a day! It may sound like an easy thing to most, but this can be something that’s quite hard for me, especially when I’m stressed out.” — Rosie Howard

4. Take breaks. 

Know your brain and its limits. If you know you can only focus for one hour at at time, don’t torture yourself. Take whatever you have to do it divide it in small, manageable tasks. No one will benefit from you locking yourself in your room all day.

“Don’t lock yourself to your desk! Get out, take breaks and don’t fool yourself into thinking more work is always better. It’s not. It’s your brain and you have to nurture it.” — Erika Rusher

5. Take advantage of your school’s counseling center. 

Even if you’re not someone who goes to counseling regularly, if you’re feeling like extra stress is wearing you down, there is nothing wrong with trying to get an appointment to talk to someone.

“I take care of myself during this stressful time by recognizing that I need to take breaks and just do non-school related things for a little bit before going back to studying. I also utilize my school’s counseling center for additional emotional support during this time.” — Julianne Leow

6. Make sure you get accommodations if you need them. 

If you’re a student with a mental illness who gets accommodations through your school’s disability services, finals week isn’t an exception. Communicate with your teacher about what the expectations are, and keep the communication going as finals week approaches. Remember: No test is worth the decline of your mental health.

7. Hang out with an animal. 

Whether you have a pet, have a friend who has a pet or have a pet shelter near your home, hanging out with an animal (preferably of the friend/furry variety) is a great way to destress when your brain needs a break.

“I like meditation and snuggling with my dogs.” — Dani Hazelwood

8. Get coloring.

Active Minds member Alyse Ruriani (who’s also a Mighty contributor!) designed a great Stress Less Week theme coloring books pages you can download and print out for free. Coloring has been proven to reduce anxiety and promote mindfulness, and it could be just the distraction you need when its time for a break.

And lastly…

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The Drawbacks of Living Openly With a Mental Illness

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Although I am open about living with a mental illness, I know there are many others in the mental health field who aren’t. While I believe disclosing a mental illness is a personal choice, some people are not able to share because of potential legal, financial or social ramifications.

I have already explained why I share my experience living with mental illness and the benefits I have received by sharing, but I always wanted to acknowledge the drawbacks of being so public.

1. Stigma 

Stigma is the biggest drawback to being open about living with mental illness. There is a great deal of misconception in the world today about mental illness and a great deal of people, especially those who do not know anyone open with a mental illness, are misinformed about the true nature of mental illness.

2. “That moment” you have to tell others. 

The moment you tell others is another drawback for me. It is always a battle for me to decide if and when to tell a new person in my life about living with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder; I wonder if they will accept me, pity me, judge me, empathize with me or condemn me. I’m also worried they might say one thing and think another.

3. Dealing with people who are not accepting.

People who are not accepting are a huge drawback for me. I have been blessed that most people in my life (family, friends, coworkers) have accepted I live with mental illness, but there are a few people in my life who do not accept it at all and think mental illness is something to hide. They feel that mental illness is not a real illness, that you can just “don’t worry, be happy” and that I’m not trying hard enough.

4. I’m afraid it’ll affect my ability to get a job. 

As I near graduation, another huge drawback has been staring at me — will being public about living with mental illness affect my ability to find employment? Any potential employers can just do a simple Google search and easily find the newspaper article I was in or the YouTube video of my speech at PeaceLove studios. In the mental health field, it is quite acceptable to be in recovery and be a substance use disorder therapist, but it is not as acceptable to have a mental illness and be a licensed therapist.

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I’ve been lucky to have an employer right now who accepts I live with mental illness and has been supportive of me sharing my experiences. I hope in the future I’m able to find more employers in the mental health field (and I know there are many out there) with that same attitude.

For me, it has been important to share despite these drawbacks. In fact, I believe these drawbacks will not go away unless more people are open about their mental illness despite the drawbacks they may face.

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The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When You're Figuring Out Mental Illness Recovery

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To those among us, the mentally dysfunctioning, behavior stumbling, fix-seeking, feel too much, too little, everything, up, down, why am I crying? Some of us make the decision — it’s help time.

Words get thrown around, one sinks in: recovery.

It’s a blimp in an ocean of doubt; it’s a word that suggests up, up and out!

What does it mean? Me being still the same person, still heavyhearted, fed up, strung out, it’s tangible yet it takes route and in the next few weeks, months, years, it’s bound to feel useless.

Recovery is less friends, less drinking and drugs, less low self-esteem…

Except recovery is also relapse and making an old mistake and the promises made to oneself that it wont happened again.  

It’s endless explaining to family and friends and starting sentences with “when you do that I feel” or “such and such makes me feel anxious.”

It’s being venerable to stigma in a way you were not before because now you have a diagnosis and the language that surrounds it.

It’s appointment after appointment, doctor, psych, therapy, new drugs, drug changes, drug side effects.

It’s moving back home.

It’s flashbacks and crying over people long gone.

It’s memories that live in muscle.

It’s nature vs. nurture with you as it’s tester.

It’s harm prevention weighed up next to a shot glass, it’s knowing now all things pass, but still sinking so low that you sometimes forget it.

It’s new boundaries and wondering was I too soft, was I too firm, should I just give in?

As time goes on there is growth and self-improvement, there are techniques to calm nerves, to help with sleep and how best to eat and the tireless observing and recording of one’s triggers and warnings.

Recovery is a trigger in itself because it exposes and strips back the ways which we coping, forcing us to face the music.

My unhealthy coping mechanisms, I miss them, they did the job, I could use them so well to avoid really seeing myself.  

Self-sabotage is short-term problem solving with the side effect of suffering.

Solving problems in the long run is daunting and difficult, so I take my hat of to those who are trying it.

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