A Warwickshire doctor has urged caution in the wake of a report which suggests millions more people in the UK should be prescribed antidepressants to help them deal with mental health issues.
Dr Jeff Foster says the call to give more medication to people suffering with depression is a missed opportunity and that more work needs to be done to help patients understand why they are feeling low – including by looking at the impact of social media.
Leamington-based Dr Foster, of TFJ Private GP Services, was speaking after the publication of a study in the medical journal the Lancet, which concluded that many antidepressant drugs are much more effective in treating depression in adults than a placebo drug.
This has led to several national newspaper articles highlighting the report’s recommendation that millions more patients should be given medication for depression.
However, Dr Foster said wider issues should be considered, such as the impact of social media on people’s daily lives. He referenced a study published by The Book of Life website on how society tells us we should be successful and being ‘ordinary’ can be considered a failure.
“The argument the report makes is that antidepressants work and improve mood, so we should be handing out more of them,” said Dr Foster.
“But we also need to help people understand why they’re feeling like they are – and maybe that particular medication isn’t the best thing for them.
“Of course, if you are struggling with depression then medication can be an effective treatment but we also need to look at the bigger picture. It’s not always the answer just to give someone a tablet.”
Mental health issues in today’s society are being exacerbated by the use of social media and the constant desire to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, Dr Foster added.
He said: “We live in a virtual, media-driven world where we are told you if you have talent and you really want it, you can be successful and you should always be happy. It’s as if everyone is being told they can win the X-Factor.
“This situation can be made much worse when we’re regularly seeing picture-perfect representations of people’s lives on social media and feel under pressure to replicate this ourselves.
“Because of this, it’s so important to keep talking about mental health issues and broadening the discussion as far as we can beyond simply prescribing medicines.
“There are a variety of different methods which can be used to treat mental health issues, such as increased exercise, relaxation and medication techniques and counselling. It’s important to take adequate time to discuss things with your GP and work out what is the best treatment for you.”
If you want to discuss any aspect of your health with a GP, you can make an appointment by calling TFJ Private GP Services on 01926 436303 or by visiting www.tfjprivategp.co.uk.