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May 7, 2021

A new prescription for mental health

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Alan Hainsworth, a Byron-based specialist mental health nurse, believes it is possible to treat some mental health issues outside the ‘medical model’ and that the solution to every mental health issue does not lie in the doctor’s prescription pad.

Alan says two-thirds of patients who go to see their GP exhibit emotional distress. Not all of them are serious enough to be diagnosable, but all symptoms cause some suffering. Ninety per cent of people with mental health problems are managed entirely by their GP.

‘Life is about loss,’ says Alan. ‘It’s about conflict and dealing with bureaucracy or a lot of change in your life. It can be really, really stressful. All these things are now being taken to GPs by patients and GPs are saying, “Oh, I think you’re depressed”, and because they have been talking to the drug reps who say, “Oh yes, this is depression”, they recommend these drugs because of research that has been done, but often this research is completely flawed.

Drugs galore

‘The [drug] reps are not giving the negative view of the drug, they only promote the positives – what they want you to hear. It’s really quite corrupted and people without a depressive illness are being given anti-depressants in the millions. It’s huge’.

Now based at the Holdsworth House medical practice, Alan originally comes from Liverpool. Some years ago he spotted an ad in the paper for a job in downtown Sydney working in the St Vincent’s Crisis Team and from there he moved north and has been living and working in Byron Bay for the last year.

Alan says he feels that the prescription of drugs is often an over-medicalisation of what is a normal social problem that you might get over naturally. ‘Giving someone with depression a chemical is not always the best way of treating it. Especially as these drugs have side effects. Some of the side effects of the anti-depressants can give you a bigger problem than your depression.

‘There is one drug that we give that massively increases your appetite. So we are giving you a new problem that is going to create some serious depression for you in the future because you’re going to stop exercising, you’re going to be self-conscious, the quality of your life is going to be adversely affected.

Prescription ‘help’

‘It’s very easy for doctors who are pressured to go to their prescription pad, thinking it is going to please the patient because they are going to go away thinking they got some help.

‘It makes the doctor feel good because prescribing drugs is what they are supposed to do and they are pressured by time because there are ten other people waiting in the next hour, so they don’t want to get too deeply involved with this patient. Many feel that in prescribing a drug they have treated the patient with something that they feel is going to help them.’

Alan is by no means saying that drugs should never be prescribed and he says that often a GP is the best person – they will know a patient really well because of history of contact – but sometimes a patient would benefit from being referred to an expert in the field of psychiatry.

Outside the system

‘Many GPs do feel they can manage their patient’s depression on their own because it is not such a severe mental illness unless it’s very profound or there is a psychotic dimension to it. It’s usually only when the patient is really challenging to the doctor that they refer them on to a psychiatrist, but there are many GPs who are happy to refer a patient on’.

Alan has horror stories of the mistreatment of patients in the mainstream. He has removed himself from that world and finds his work in the Bay very interesting.

‘I can’t think of a more fascinating place to do this job. I have such an interesting range of patients – from teenagers in turmoil struggling with addictions to psychotic patients in suicidal crisis. Many patients are simply profoundly lonely and isolated, displaced from family and friends far away. Unlike previous jobs in the mental health system, where I often felt like an agent of social control, this role allows me to use lots of skills, particularly counselling, crisis intervention, case management, empathy, humour, advocacy, empathy and even ukulele therapy.

‘I hope my style is an empowering one that contributes to people being able to fully participate in community life despite their mental health issues.’

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  1. Nothing new in that , i have been supporting people with depression and minor mental health conditions for over 16 years , running Carnaval drumming team building workshops that culminate in spreading that magic face to face with the public !
    Very powerful !

  2. Good Article and effort to go better! Thanks so much, Alan!
    I have talked with qualified people, RNs, that deal with all drugs issues and psychosis in hospitals. Some know a lot more about facts than others.
    The biggest problem is alcohol drugs, closely followed by and involved with “poly use”, or a variety of others, especially man-made big pharma stuff.

    Cannabis, an herbal plant, does not actually cause psychosis, according to world wide research, but it does reveal building psychosis in some people, about 1.6 % of the population world wide, before it gets worse, due to both genetic and environmental causes. That revealing cuts off the damage before it gets worse!
    Prohibition causes underground indoor “hydro” production that carries chemicals into the plant that in turn creates needless damage, but not from the plant itself.
    Prohibition is imposed worse than useless damage in many ways, world wide, and must and will go, currently in motion. Above ground and in control, not underground and out of control! 40 years of failure is more than enough to warrant a change. Its a health issue, if anything, not a criminal issue.
    Cannabis, through huge research, has shown many health benefits, and how & why. In fact, quite the opposite of what we have been led to believe, which has been, basically, opposition lies for attempts at profits..that go to cartels and criminal gangs instead. Nuts!

    The big problem with TREATMENT is that the patient is given no clear head space at all, and is given another set of big pharma drugs immediately instead, with more damaging “side effects”!

    Thats what is so crazy! Profits driven, not mental health.

    Alan has a far more beneficial approach, and I so wish it would be the norm for treatment, not what is! Go Alan!

  3. I absolutely agree with Alan. In my work in Welfare I see people dealing with the normal difficulties of life which will often create powerful emotions that take time to work through. If you don’t believe in going to counselling for help with difficult emotions and you go to a doctor they will often deal with it as a mental health issue and prescribe drugs.


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