COLUMN: Patients should be put first, not fobbed off with quick fixes says Westwell of Ely

Rosemary Westwell

Rosemary Westwell - Credit: Archant

It has been reported that a large number of children are being prescribed anti-depressants and that many of them do not need them.

While there are some children who do need help this way, there are many who do not.

I am not medically qualified enough to comment on the medical importance of this, however, I can comment based on my experience with children as a parent and teacher for over 40 years.

A large part of the problem is people seeking a quick fix which is rarely possible when dealing with mental health.

One method that should be tried first is ‘talking therapy’. As a visitor (not a patient) to a mental hospital I once witnessed a very kind and understanding mental health nurse talking to a patient.

Slowly and surely, he led her to come to a closer appreciation of reality. He was not patronising, he was simply talking common sense as one person does to another.

It was amazing how the patient slowly came to accept what he was saying. To my knowledge, no pills were taken to achieve this result.

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It was simply a matter of sympathy and understanding from someone willing to spend the time.

Many of us rush around saying how terribly busy we are and that we could not possibly spend time just sitting and talking, but why not?

Many problems would be solved if talking things through is given much greater importance.

Deborah Curtis’s play ‘Holding Hands’, produced recently, was based on her own experiences when she was trying to help her father who had Alzheimer’s disease.

It gave clear insight into the difficulties that the appallingly-bad organization of our society unnecessarily creates. Some doctors are unwilling to ‘notice’ health problems in those who do not want them ‘noticed’.

It will cost time, effort and money. Social workers are so over-loaded with cases that many leave the job after only a few months without arranging their workload to be taken over properly.

Patients remain ignored, their symptoms getting worse. The police cannot act until it is too late because many of our laws favour the perpetrators rather than the victims. Deborah’s experiences are not unique.

Another local trying to look after her partner who needed help became more and more stressed while she had to deal with the day to day running of the family as well as fighting for the services to do something to help her partner. What was she offered? Pills. She declined, knowing that the problem was not her but the ‘so-called’ services that were failing her.

Services need to change their priorities by putting patients first and not ignoring them or fobbing them off with quick fixes.