Mental health should be meticulously diagnosed before treatment


A GROWING number of patients are seeking the help of psychiatrists, and how business was booming for those prescribing the magic pill. There is no question that regional developments and uncertainties have led many to a life of anxiety and depression. Not all mental issues have to be treated by drugs.

From the little I know, there is little in the way of local therapeutic help, or psychiatric treatment through a concentrated study of the patient’s medical and social background at hospitals. There are few if any established groups manned by qualified therapists for group therapy as in other countries.

At such major hospitals, it is not uncommon to notice swarms of patients waiting dolefully for their monthly prescriptions of mind-soothing drugs. The psychiatrist on duty seems to have a quota to fill, and patients are shuttled in and out, willingly led by a nurse through an imaginary turnstile, within a span of a few minutes with prescriptions in hand.

Somehow it seems that very little time is available to those in this noble profession to understand the mechanics and triggers that have led the patient to seek such help. Any student of psychology or psychiatry will tell you that to treat a patient effectively, one must get to the core cause of the issue that is giving rise to the disturbances swirling a patient’s mental state. And that is way before any pills are readily prescribed.

But here it seems that have ‘prescription pad, will travel’. Time and time again, patients are fed with chemicals deadly enough to put a horse down. There have been far too many cases of patients being prescribed the wrong medication, and especially in the field of psychiatry.

Stories of patients erroneously diagnosed and given epileptic medication when all they needed was perhaps a change of climate and some rest are not uncommon. Neither are cases of mind-altering medication being dispensed to patients who had a slight case of anxiety. And whether it is a case of a psychiatrist pushing pills to get to the next patient and thus increase revenue for his hospital, or simply incompetence on the part of the psychiatrist remains to be investigated by the Health Ministry.

While some of us generally do a bit of research on the medication we are about to take, not all of us are so cautious or vigilant. Some people are very trusting of their doctors and will pop those pills as instructed. And when there are severe or in some cases extreme reactions, they are generally blamed on the patient or as ‘acts of God’.

In the field of psychiatry, the problem is more intense as mind-altering drugs can be destructive and sometimes create a life-long dependency factor. Whether the patient’s situation really warrants such powerful medication should not be motivated by the need to process the highest number of patients through hospital corridors, or by the wheeling and dealing between physicians and drug salesmen and traders, but more by a serious evaluation of the problem on hand.

And patients who have been written up prescriptions during such times should remember to get another opinion or two. When in doubt, ask more questions or hold off. Don’t be too agreeable to popping those pills. To reverse the effect of these medications is often very painful.

I am not suggesting that all psychiatrists are incompetent agents of pharmaceutical companies. Psychiatry is a noble profession. There are many doctors indeed who honor the Hippocratic oath to the letter. Unfortunately, the patient is rarely in a state to weed the good from the bad.

— The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena