Scientists find a new way to help mental health patients take drugs

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In simple terms, a group of researchers at Aston Pharmacy School have discovered a new way to help people with severe mental health issues manage their medications better. This method could improve their health and overall happiness in life.

These mental health issues include serious conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Normally, doctors treat these with medications such as antipsychotics and mood stabilizers.

However, these medications can have strong side effects, especially when people first start taking them. This can lead to people not taking their medicines as they should.

The research team, led by Dr. Jo Howe and Professor Ian Maidment, wanted to find out if involving patients more in decisions about their treatment could help. They did this study as part of a project called MEDIATE, which ran from November 2021 to March 2023.

A big part of their research was looking at what other studies had already said about this topic.

But what made their study special was they also talked to people with these mental health conditions and doctors from Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. They wanted to understand their experiences and get their ideas.

The researchers found that it’s really helpful when patients and doctors work closely together. This helps make sure patients get the right medicine, at the right amount, at the right time.

However, people with these mental health conditions often don’t see their doctors very often. They might only have an appointment every few months.

If they have a bad reaction to their medicine, they might try to find information on their own, sometimes from unreliable sources. This can lead to them stopping their medicine or using other substances without a doctor’s advice.

Max Carlish, a key member of the research team who has lived with bipolar disorder for 19 years, shared his thoughts.

He said that having a good relationship with the doctor who prescribes your medicine is just as important as the medicine itself. But this relationship isn’t talked about much or studied enough.

The research highlighted the potential benefits of peer support. This means getting help and advice from people who have the same mental health issues.

Peer support is already used in mental health care, but it hasn’t focused much on helping with medication. The study found that more research is needed on how to train and support peer helpers to do this safely.

Dr. Howe mentioned that people with severe mental illness often don’t have enough information about their condition or medication.

They might turn to places like Reddit for information, but it’s hard to know if what they find is accurate or not. Having a good system of peer support could help them find reliable advice.

These patient groups and doctors agreed that trained peers, who have experienced the same conditions, could offer useful advice. They might suggest practical tips, like taking medicine at night if it makes you drowsy, or reassure someone that bad side effects might lessen over time.

Talking to someone who understands and has been through the same thing can be easier and more comforting than talking to a professional who hasn’t. It also helps patients feel more confident about their treatment choices.

Carlish pointed out that in the future, peer support could be a key part of the relationship between doctors and patients. But right now, there’s not enough research to know how much it could help.

The team also noticed that there isn’t much research focusing on ethnic minority communities or from the patient’s point of view. This is important because sometimes, people from minority groups might be given medication more forcefully.

Professor Maidment emphasized the importance of finding the right medication that patients are willing to take. He mentioned that not treating mental illness properly can have very serious effects.

The team plans to focus future research on how peer support can help people with severe mental illness manage their medications better and improve their lives.

If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and results showing Omega-3 fats may help reduce depression.

The research findings can be found in BMJ Quality & Safety.

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