Mental health experts remind patients medication’s one piece of overall puzzle

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. -- One in five Americans has a mental illness, and mental health experts encourage patients to consider medication as part of treatment -- but not everyone is open to taking pills or having the patience to figure out what medication works for them.

“When under the cloud of mental illness, it is scary and lonely," Phaedra Moll said. "I hope that people would recognize that mental illness is just that. It’s an illness."

The metro woman said she wrote her first suicide note in third grade.

She spent years struggling through different mental health battles and includes medication now as part of her journey.

“It’s not a case of ‘I just need to get up and do this,’ like ‘Oh, just get over it.’ I needed something more than that," Moll said. "There was something not working correctly in my brain.”

Moll now works at Johnson County Mental Health, helping other people with their demons.

Tim DeWeese, the director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center, said he sees a lot of people who start the medication but quit because of side effects.

“Medication is just one piece of the overall puzzle," he said. "When a person experiences something like they have a dry mouth or they get a cough, they’ll just stop taking the medication, and that’s probably the worst thing that you can do.”

He also said weight gain or lower sex drive can deter people from staying the course.

DeWeese said medication works in combination with other types of treatment. Talk therapy, learning new behaviors and developing different coping skills are all suggestions.

“The most important thing that you can do is talk with your prescriber and come up with what works the best for you," he said.

“Taking the right medication is like finding the perfect cookie dough recipe," Moll said. "Sometimes you have to experiment a little bit. Is it a little bit more eggs that you need? When that doesn’t work, try a little bit more water. Everybody is different, and yes, it does take time for that medication to take effect, so it requires some patience, and that’s again, where some support is very helpful.”

She said she’ll always have a mental illness. But she’s lived both sides of it, and continued treatment is what she’ll work toward.

“The end result is definitely worth it," she said. "I am, I am an example of that.”

If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.

Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

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