“If You Take Meds for Mental Illness, Do Not Feel Ashamed or Weak”

If you take psychiatric medications – or want to – these words written by a dear friend of mine, MaryElizabeth, might help you:

I feel compelled to say this. If you take meds for mental illness to help you stay alive, or just as importantly, to move from surviving to thriving, do not feel ashamed or weak.

You did not choose to have a mental illness any more than someone chooses to have epilepsy. Don’t quit your meds just because you hear that big pharma has a conspiracy to medicate everyone.

If your meds help you, take them.

If you are worse off by not taking them, then take them.

Taking meds isn’t an alternative to having a spiritual life, and having a spiritual life isn’t an alternative to taking meds. They are tools to be used in conjuction, not exclusive from one another. Just like eating well and exercise.

Meds alone sometimes are not enough to keep me well. Most often, my meds act like a ladder so I can access other tools, which I use in conjunction with medication.

Medication isn’t bad. Attitudes like that perpetuate the stigma of mental illness. Those who have mental illness often buy into the stigma just as much as those who don’t.

Stop it.

Stop shaming yourself.

Stop shaming others.

Medication isn’t something to ever be ashamed of.

And just because you feel better on meds doesn’t mean you are ready to get off them. The opposite is true. You feel better because you are on them.

I understand the desire to take as little medication as you need to be well, but that doesn’t mean that no medication is the answer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone down that path, wanting to get off meds because I didn’t want to need them. But with age comes wisdom.

I choose to suffer as little as possible in this lifetime. I choose to thrive in this lifetime. If that requires medication to treat a condition I didn’t choose to have, I give gratitude every day that I live in a time and place where there are solid treatments that work.

This PSA is due to a dear friend who felt like he didn’t need medication for his psychosis, and we almost lost him yesterday.

If not taking meds makes you less safe, less happy, less fulfilled, then take your meds.

© Copyright 2017 Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, All Rights Reserved. Written by MaryElizabeth and posted with her permission on www.speakingofsuicide.com.

All photos purchased from Fotolia.com

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  1. Vicki D'Amico says:

    thank you very much for speaking about this issue. As in our case the worse part for us was that a sleep doctor was administering very dangerous drugs for a sleep issue. during our son’s care we never knew what was being given, let alone the side effects of one drug but in his case there happened to be many. After his death and when I was able to get his records and go through them. I am sickened to see a sleep doctor continuing to administer such drugs and noting in his file that he was chronic and worsening and yet she just kept giving drugs on top of drugs. She would abruptly remove drugs like Seroquel then put him right back . At the time of his death he was withdrawing from Klonopin, Seroquel, Ambien, Propranalol . He was only 22 when he passed. If only I had known the side effects, what to watch for I would have been able to help him. because I did not have the education needed. I would love to see our laws changed to provide for proper education as a requirement. But HIPPA prevents that. I can tell you with out a doubt. a person taking meds can be told what to watch for however. Two days before my son died he and I spent the day together, he seemed a little down, nothing out of the ordinary. He talked about further plans goals and things he wanted to do. We ordered shoes and bought clothes. when we got home he asked me a question and as he was heading up the stairs to his room I answered him. Mike you can use your judgement, what does your heart tell you. Follow your heart. He turned around came down the stairs and said. ” No mom you don’t understand these drugs I’m on prevent me from feeling right and wrong I don’t feel.” I remember standing and watching him go back up stairs and feeling like omg he is in trouble but I don’t no what to do. I was unsure of what kind of trouble. But I knew something was wrong. He took his life two days later. I now know that if I had the education of what he was feeling I would know what to do now. I have had the privilege to sit with family’s telling my story and the last family I sat with the young daughter who is on the same combination of drugs , Seroquel & klonopin she said the same thing she does not feel anything not happy not sad . Her mother was there to learn info about the side effects of the drugs. She also learned that day about her daughter the same thing my son had shared with me about not being able to feel. The other missing link is that doctors are so quick to give pills, but when do we ever talk about the issues that are causing our unhappiness. Every Benzo and SSRI has a limit for how long to stay on it. Yet I have talked to people that have been on them for years. There’s no studies to support years. This all comes down to education about what your being given, education on what to expect and what to watch for.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      I’m so sorry about your son’s death. You are doing untold good by using your family’s tragedy to help other families. Thank you.

      I do have one question for you. You note that there are no studies to support the use of antidepressants for years. However, several practice guidelines recommend long-term use of antidepressants for people with multiple episodes of moderate to severe depression. Do you have a study in mind that refutes those recommendations?

  2. Caz says:

    A brilliant post, and very well said as it’s easy to feel ashamed in my opinion from my own experience.

  3. Tore Nielsen says:

    They’ve helped me a great deal. Things aren’t rosy red, even with the pills, but they’ve made my anxiety and dark moods manageable.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      That’s good news, Tore. I’m delighted you shared your positive experience, for others to see, because psychiatric medications get such a bad rap from many people.