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Last weekend I had the pleasure to speak with a young woman who lives in my apartment complex in an almost one-on-one setting. She sat in front of me on the concrete outside of my apartment, weighing 90 pounds soaking wet, trembling and chain-smoking, trying desperately to cope with the withdraw still left-over from her self-inflicted detox. I had seen her around and knew that she and her boyfriend had a problem with heroin, a drug that seems to be ravaging through my State and the country, but I had never had a real conversation with her. Then, Saturday night, two days before she would be checking herself into rehab, that would change and I would come to realize that she was yet another victim of a broken mental health care system that we have here in the U.S.

We began to talk and she became more comfortable with me and started to open up a bit. I made a few comments about my own story, although drugs had never been my issue, she was still able to relate to the mood issues and she explained more of her own background and how she ended up here, her boyfriend already in rehab and she heading there Monday morning.

It turns out that drugs had not been really a part of her story until the last year or so. She had been a habitual pot smoker (are we really considering pot a drug these days?) but had never tried anything harder until she ran into problems with doctors trying to help her with her diagnosed mood disorder. She explained that after she was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and a touch of OCD, she was put on several different kinds of medication. One of which she was given for anxiety and told to take when needed, however, she began abusing it in an attempt to feel better when she found that her doctor did a poor job at monitoring her use of it. This began the downward spiral.

In addition to this, she told me that the everyday meds she had been prescribed were constantly changing. Not just in dose but the whole cocktail itself after giving her body barely a month to react properly to it. From what I have always been told and have found through my own research into my condition, any antipsychotic medication needs anywhere from 60-90 days of close monitoring to see the true effect it has on a person. This is not to say that if there is a serious side effect that occurs early on that a doctor won’t remove you from that track of medication. But if minor side effects occur that are to be expected, you may not see the benefits for weeks, depending on the medication. However, I am hearing more and more stories of people who have been so turned off at the prospect of medication because of a doctor trying too many medications at once and switching them up too rapidly.

This young girl couldn’t find relief when she went to “professionals” and so she began to self-medicate with heroin and other illegal drugs in an attempt to escape her pain. This story, as terrible and upsetting as it is, is a common tale in recent years and something has got to change.

Health professionals need to stop looking at mental illness as quick and easy cash and start actually seeing the broken person that sits across from them begging for help. But, with medication sessions only required to be 15 minutes, how could they possible understand what that person is going through or what medication (if any) they are in need of?

So many people need help, but it might not even been the kind that involves medication. We are human and we all go through tough times, some worse than others. But that doesn’t mean that popping a pill is the course of action to take. Doctors need to be able to evaluate this with more accuracy and not go to medication as their default. That being said, there are those who, of course, need medication who have a chemical imbalance in their brains (such as myself). These individuals require carefully monitored medication in order to lead a healthy, functional life, and that is OK. The problem is that so many are sent to the pharmacies for a quick buck that not only are they suffering, but those who actually need that kind of help are suffering, as well.

The saddest part of all is that once a person has one bad experience with a doctor, they are not easily convinced to go back and try again. I found this to be true with the girl in my apartment complex. She was scared to go back to a doctor with her problems because the way they had handled her medication the first time has caused so many problems with her physically, that she just knew it would never work, she was “unfixable.” And that thinking is the true tragedy here.

Before you make any final decisions about receiving professional help and of what kind, take the initiative and do your own research. Getting help regarding your mental health is not just like going to a doctor with the sniffles. You have to feel comfortable where you go and with the people there. You have to feel like you can trust them and be open and honest. One bad experience can understandably turn you off from a particular doctor or even the entire office, but don’t let that stop you from seeking help elsewhere. Hit the books, browse the web (on credible sites preferably) and find out all you can and then find another office, another doctor and try again. This is an intimate process and everything isn’t going to change for the better overnight. You will have hard times, maybe some of the hardest you’ve ever had, but once you are out on the other side, you will realize it was all worth it. And I can tell you this because I have finally found the other side, and take it from me, it was well worth it.

Try starting here to learn more about mental health and the treatment of. You owe it to yourself to find the other side.