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How can I help someone with mental illness continue to take his medication?

It is important for a person with a mental illness, plus his or her family and/or significant supporters, to know about the risks and benefits of any medications prescribed to treat the disorder. That understanding can help the person follow a treatment plan and manage his or her illness. In addition to consumer and family education, education of mental health practitioners on a variety of issues can enhance their helpfulness and boost the likelihood for effective treatment.
Family involvement is a key factor in treatment with medications. The most effective way found to increase a person's appropriate medication use is to involve the family. Whenever possible, family members should be present when a physician talks with the person about possible side effects and the importance of taking the medication consistently. Practitioner education is necessary to prepare them to discuss the benefits and risks associated with medications. Factors shown to contribute to greater observance of the medication regime are perception of the warmth and friendliness of the physician, and the length of time the physician spends discussing the medications. Since the majority of antidepressant medications are not prescribed by psychiatrists, primary care physicians in particular need broader education on the medications' use in order to avoid making medical mistakes.
Black box warnings of adverse effects on prescription labels may prompt clinicians' reluctance to use antidepressant medications by patients who might benefit from them. Conversely, concern exists that such warnings may inhibit pharmaceutical companies from pursuing development of medications that may be even more appropriate.
The period between the start of a medication regime and the time the medication begins to work is a period of significant risk for suicide, and physicians, nurse-practitioners, and other providers along the health care spectrum need education on the necessity and protocols to monitor that risk. Few clinicians conduct adequate monitoring or follow-up of patients for whom they prescribe psychotropic medications. Monitoring is essential to recognize and ensure proper care in the event of adverse side effects, including physical or mental discomfort and/or suicidal ideation. Some side effects may impede adherence to the medication regime.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.