Stigma surrounds psychiatric medication, particularly for children and adolescents. Everyone from conspiracy theorists to well-meaning friends or family members to even general medical practitioners have ideas about why you should not give your child medications to treat their mental health diagnosis. There is probably more misinformation about psychiatric meds than accurate information, which can make the decisions even more difficult to make. How do you get past all of this stigma and find the help your child needs?
Weighing the Risks vs. Benefits of Medications
As you wade through the stigma, information, and misinformation, bear in mind that everything has risks; there will always be some risks involved in giving your child any medication for any reason. The question you must ask yourself is this: Do the benefits outweigh the risks of the medication? When it comes to your child’s mental health, are your child’s symptoms interfering with daily life? Is suicide a risk? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then most medications can definitely be a benefit in those situations and are also lower risk than either of those scenarios.
Mental health and the medications used to treat it carry so much stigma. Imagine if your child was diagnosed with diabetes or cancer. You would absolutely use whatever medical treatments the doctor prescribed to help your child not only stay alive but also enjoy a reasonable quality of life. Mental health diagnoses are also medical conditions that require medical intervention and can be life-threatening. Yet because of the stigma attached, too many parents are afraid to access the help their child needs.
Getting Accurate Information About Psychiatric Medications
If you want to find the least accurate and most negative information about a medication, read unsourced personal stories or comments on social media. Personal reviews may not have anything to do with the medication itself. On the other hand, if you go to the manufacturer’s website, you may get glorified claims about the medication without all of the fine print that provides important warnings and information about clinical trials.
Often, a neutral source that reviews or offers general information about many medications and has no affiliations with any pharmaceutical companies will have the most accurate information. Additionally, manufacturers are required to publish the complete prescribing information, which includes information on dosages, side effects, clinical trials, warnings, and more. Reading the complete information about a drug can seem excessive and tedious, but doing so offers all of the facts about a medication so you can be aware of every potential risk.
Finding a Psychiatrist You Trust
Ideally, you will have access to more than one psychiatrist, so if you do not like the first one, you can meet with another one until you find one that both you and your teen are comfortable with. A good psychiatrist will gather as much information about your child and family history as possible before making a diagnosis. They will listen and observe your child as well as the family dynamics. Finding a doctor who takes time with your child, truly listens, and does not just rush to get through their list of clients is also important.
When it comes to prescribing medication for your child, you should find someone who has a similar philosophy as you do about how much medication your child needs, what types to avoid, and how long your child will need to take the medication. Finding a doctor who listens and is willing to make changes when the medication is not working or if negative side effects occur will also help to build trust.
Listening to Medical Advice Instead of Stigma
Once you have met with the doctor and they have prescribed medication for your child, you need to listen to the medical advice over any stigma coming from outside sources. Reading as much as you can from reliable sources will be helpful. You may even want to consult with another doctor to get another opinion if your child is not in a crisis situation and you have that time. However, this is not the time to listen to stigma or conspiracy theories or even the concerns of well-meaning people in your life who are not trained psychiatrists with all of the information about your child’s condition.
Following Your Gut as a Parent
At the end of the day, you as a parent will be able to make the best decisions for your child if you listen to your gut instincts. You know how disabling your child’s mental health symptoms are. You know what is at stake if there are suicidal thoughts or attempts. You know if mental health is also impacting substance use. If psychiatric medications can provide a better quality of life for your child, and especially if they can save your child’s life, then all of the stigmas in the world do not matter.
The stigma and confusion surrounding psychiatric medications can be overwhelming. As a parent, it can be difficult to make the decision to give your child medications for mental health diagnoses. Still, by weighing the risks versus the benefits and reading accurate information, you can make an informed decision that will give your child the best quality of life. Sustain Recovery specializes in working with adolescents with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues. The family’s involvement in the healing process is crucial. Our Irvine, California, extended residential program offers structure and teaches adolescents accountability as they learn to find the underlying sources of their problems. We help them gradually transition back home and connect them to people and resources after the program as well. Contact us at (949) 407-9052 today to find out if our program is right for your family.