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General Information on Psychiatric Illnesses, Medications & Treatments

Here we provide information on the different types of psychiatric illnesses and the medications and non-medication therapies used to treat them. Further information can be obtained from other sites listed on our 'Helpful Links' page.

The importance of gaining detailed information on the nature of your specific illness and the medication you are taking should never be underestimated.

Unrealistic Expectations:

Too many people have the expectation that their GP's and other health care providers 'know everything there is to know' about treating their condition because they are 'Doctors' or because they 'work' in mental health. This could not be further from the truth.

Mental Illness is an extremely complex area and requires specialist training and accreditation. It is beyond the scope of knowledge of most General Practitioners and unless a GP has a special interest in mental health and has sought specific additional training in this area, most will be ill-equipped to provide you with the care required.

Help Your GP to Help You:

When you book your appointment with your Doctor you must allow enough time to adequately discuss your condition, it is sensible to book an extended consultation so your Doctor has sufficient time to spend with you.

In March 2004 the Australian Government launched a psychiatric referral service called 'GP Psych Support'. If your GP is not already registered with this service they can do so at www.psychsupport.com.au. Your GP is then able to access information and advice about your symptoms from a qualified Psychiatrist who will respond within 24 hours.

If you have concerns about the ability of your GP to correctly treat your symptoms please insist that they take advantage of this free service and refer your case to the Psych Support Service.

It is very important for you to be completely honest with your GP or mental health case worker about what you are feeling and what you are thinking. This information is what your treatment will be based upon so the more information you can provide the better they are able to assess what needs to be done to help you.

It is not unusual for people to feel embarrassed or self-conscious about describing their behaviours, especially when they feel they have a lack of control. Remember, you are not the first or only person to have experienced a mental health issue. The types of symptoms and behaviours that people experience are as many and varied as the human mind can envisage, that is to say they are 'unlimited'.

Sometimes people hide what is really going on because they fear being admitted to a psychiatric ward. In reality there is such a shortage of available beds in public hospitals that those who want to be admitted can't always get a bed.

There are two main criteria for admission, they are:

  1. The person is a danger to themselves (i.e. suicidal) or others

  2. The person has ceased taking their medication and is highly unstable.

If the person is in either of the above categories then hospital is the best place for their own protection.

In general, a GP should be sufficiently competent to put you at ease and help you talk about issues that are of concern to you in a friendly, non-judgemental and helpful manner.

Information is empowerment and gives you the opportunity to fully understand and assess the treatments you are receiving. You need to ensure you are getting not only the correct treatment, but the very best treatment available for your condition. You also need to be very aware of the potential side effects of various medications and the complications of treatments such as ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) so you can ascertain whether your condition is serious enough to warrant the risk of these treatments weighed against the benefits they provide.

If your health care provider suggests medication to help you with symptoms, ask them to fully explain the potential side effects of the specific medication suggested. While not all people experience side effects many do and no one can predict how a person will react to any medication.

If your health care provider is reluctant to talk about side effects, tells you they are 'rare', or generally shows disinterest in the topic you would be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that they will continue to be unhelpful, unresponsive and unwilling to take appropriate action if you do experience side effects.

Find a health care professional who is not afraid to discuss and acknowledge side effects and who is experienced and successful in treating other patients with side effects. You will be in much safer hands.

What Your Health Care Provider Must Do For You:

Your GP or mental health advisor has a duty to:

  • Fully inform you of the nature of your condition.
  • Provide full details of proposed or continuing treatment.
  • Ensure you are fully aware of potential adverse reactions to medications.
  • Provide full details of known potential side effects.
  • Ensure all medications you are taking are compatible.
  • Properly monitor your physical health.

These are basic requirements under the recommendations of RANZCP (Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists) Clinical Practice Guidelines. These Guidelines are adhered to by all good Doctors and mental health providers who are genuinely interested in the well being of their patients.

A summary of these guidelines together with a link to the RANZCP website is available on our 'Treatments' page. To view this information click on the 'Treatments' link on this page.

If your health provider is failing to meet these minimum requirements, find someone who can.

Be informed, be aware, your recovery depends on it.

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Information on Depression

Information on Bipolar Disorder

Information on Schizophrenia

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Information on Physical Causes of Mental Symptoms misdiagnosed as Mental Illness

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