16 December 2020

How to prevent over-medicalisation in mental healthcare

To shed light on over-medicalisation in mental healthcare, MHE hosted a screening of the Medicating Normal documentary, followed by a lively discussion with mental health advocates, a clinical psychologist and transparency experts. 



The documentary Medicating Normal explores the reliance of our current mental healthcare systems on psychiatric drugs to deal with trauma, grief, and distress. Medicating Normal follows the journeys of a newly married couple, a female combat veteran, a waitress, and a teenager. They struggle with severe physical and mental side-effects as well as neurological damage which resulted from taking drugs as prescribed. The movie presents an untold story of the disastrous consequences that can occur when profit-driven medicine intersects with human beings in distress. 


In the discussion that followed, the panellists touched upon some of the issues, including their personal experiences with psychiatric drugs, a profound need for a paradigm change in thinking about mental health and support, and the big elephant in the room – the role of the pharmaceutical industry in mental health research and practice. 


In particular, three mental health advocates Dominique De Marné, Stevie Lewis, and Angela Peacock (who is a subject of the film) shared their perspectives on psychiatric medication and the withdrawal process. Each of them had a different story and varying attitudes towards the prescribed drugs. The panellists also discussed the societal approach to mental health support from the perspective of healthcare and mental health professionals, users and patients. The main reasons for over-reliance on psychiatric drugs as a primary form of treatment and the limited accessibility of the alternatives received a lot of attention during the discussion. Peter Kinderman (Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool, and a Chartered Clinical Psychologist) and Dr. David Klemperer (Public Health Member of the Drug Commission of the German Medical Association and its Expert Committee for Transparency and Independence in Medicinementioned some concerns surrounding the way research is conducted and its impact on clinical practice, later followed with a goodwill by many mental health professionals working in the field. Another interesting point discussion, raised by Stella Goeschl, focused on the issue of conflict of interest in both graduate and postgraduate medical education caused by the presence of the pharmaceutical industry at very early stages, often without any reasonable justification.  


Finally, all the experts were asked to come up with a single policy recommendation to limit the over-reliance on psychiatric drugs in mental health care and to tackle the harmful influence of the pharmaceutical industry. Some of their suggestions were as follows: 


  • To establish a role, within the mental health system, of a prescribed medication advisor, with a responsibility of providing users and patients with needed information to give informed consent. 
  • To strengthen the commitment to and promotion of a psychosocial model of mental health, in opposition to the narrow biomedical approach. 
  • To ensure adequate funding for a broad spectrum of mental health support options. 
  • To further empower users and patients and to strengthen mental health literacy in society to increase resilience and skills in self-management of mental health challenges. 
  • To establish EU guidelines on the management of conflict of interest at the European medical universities and to ensure quality education to increase adequate competences for future healthcare professionals, including when it comes to the management of conflict of interest. 
  • To establish and effectively execute the obligation of the pharmaceutical industry to report the long-term outcomes and adverse effects of psychiatric medication.  


We encourage you to watch the whole discussion and to follow the Medicating Normal website to find out more about the next screenings. 


For more questions, contact Marcin Rodzinka, policy and advocacy officer at Mental Health Europe at marcin.rodzinka@mentalhealtheurope.org.


If you would like to watch the film, please contact The Medicating Normal team via medicatingnormal@gmail.com.



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