Recovery & Renewal

Establishment of Recovery and Renewal, Helensburgh

Ann Kelly asked Marion Brown (a local psychotherapist) to co-found Recovery and Renewal self-help support group, which they did in mid 2013.  The dual aim of the group was stated as being: to offer self-help support to local people whose lives are/have been affected by prescribed mood/mind-altering prescription medications and to explore healthy alternatives.  This independent, self-funded group met regularly (usually weekly) for over 70 meetings, trialled a range of non-medical approaches, and learned of some specific local personal experiences and most alarming global facts (known but not widely acknowledged) about the adverse effects that these medications can have on people’s lives – and indeed the lives of their families and others.

Recovery and Renewal found that it is still very common for people who visit their GP presenting with typical symptoms of ‘stress’ (for example, insomnia, depression, anxiety, panic-attacks) to be prescribed hypnotics, anti-depressants and/or anxiolytics – and it is very uncommon for any alternative (apart from taking more exercise and trying online CBT) to be offered, suggested, or made readily accessible or available.   We have a most extraordinary situation where people are commonly prescribed ‘free’ (in Scotland) mood/mind-altering medicines which, in addition to masking other problems, can themselves cause devastating side-effects, cumulative effects and/or long-term dependency/withdrawal effects.   In brief, it seems that the current common quick-fix NHS ‘cure’ is creating future problems and growing long-term health and social costs.

On researching Health and Wellbeing and Mental Health websites and initiatives supported by the NHS and Scottish Government, no mention was found, nor any information about, the most alarming damage that can result when people take (or try to stop taking) these psycho-active medicines as prescribed.    Clear evidence was found that the unintended effects of such medication can and do seriously impede and/or compromise people’s capacity to recover optimum health and this aspect does not appear to be recognised or acknowledged in the NHS/Scottish Government supported Mental Health and Recovery initiatives.   This omission needs to be addressed and accurate information made available to doctors and patients, ideally in advance of any treatment, in order facilitate properly informed discussions and treatment choices.

Recovery and Renewal (per Marion and Ann) liaised with the newly established CEP, and wrote to the Scottish Government and to the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland raising issues and concerns.  After months they were eventually referred back to a local representative and then the (new) Integrated Health and Social Care Partnership.  They met with a representative in August 2015.

The experience of the Recovery and Renewal group, over 2+ years, clearly exemplified the longstanding, widespread, serious and immensely complex problems caused by these prescribed medications.  This medical legacy is not something that can be safely coped with by ‘volunteers’ without robust specialist support services.

To address the ongoing medication ‘dependency’ issues, specialist services are needed to work with the GPs and patients to advise, assist, encourage and support people to appropriately taper and safely withdraw from these prescribed medications – during which process affected people are likely to experience confusing, distressing, and sometimes life-threatening manifestations of complex psychological and physiological challenges as their medically-altered mind/body systems gradually detoxify, rebalance and recover.

Marion Brown