As more and more Australians are using antidepressants, or medications associated with mental illness, the time is right for a re-think on the approach to treatment of these conditions.
Eighty-nine Australians in every 1,000 are now prescribed some form of daily anti-depressant, but 10 years ago the rate was closer to 45 – near enough to a 100 percent increase, and more than enough cause for concern.
While the causes of this increase are numerous, and the centre of many debates that don’t provide concrete resolutions about how to tackle the problem, one problem we can address is the lack of precision in depression treatment.
On average, statistics show that only 50 per cent of patients respond to their first anti-depressant treatment, making an already sensitive process difficult and time consuming.
There is also a degree of subjectivity that goes into mental health treatment, unlike many other medical areas that generally provide an accepted guideline for diagnosis and treatment that varies little from patient to patient.
Add to that the fact that adjusting to new medication can take 3-4 weeks, patient’s wellbeing can be seriously compromised.
In essence, these factors mean that by its very nature, depression treatment can be “trial and error”. That is not to say for a moment that doctors are at fault here – let me be abundantly clear that this is not the case, nor is it inferred – it is simply the status quo.
Indeed, doctors do the very best they can with the information they have. But given the complexities associated with mental illness, and the variations in patients, prescribing is at best hit and miss.