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Depression Su B

Two of my patients went to see their GPs last week, one for back pain and one for digestive problems. Both were sent away with prescriptions for antidepressants.

It’s a story I hear quite a lot. Turn up with fatigue, trouble sleeping, chronic muscular pain – in fact, anything that doesn’t respond well to the first line of attack – and you may well end up on antidepressants.

One of these patients was actually asked if he felt depressed, and the answer was ‘No’. He didn’t know what the pills were. To be fair to his doctor, she may well have tried to explain how they worked, but because the patient was thinking about his stomach trouble, he didn’t take that on board.

The trouble is that antidepressants usually take two to three weeks to come into full effect, and sometimes they can make people feel worse, not better. Sometimes, indeed, they can cause digestive upsets. And if the patient does take them as ordered, there may well be problems down the line with coming off the drugs. It’s not a thing to embark on without careful consideration, never mind without informed consent.

I don’t know what the answer is. It’s normal for people not to take in most of what their doctor says, so should it be put in writing? Should you have to sign something saying you understand what you’re taking on?

All I can do is to fill in the picture for my patients, and work with them, whether it’s on coming off the drugs, not going on them in the first place, or focussing on the problem itself, whatever it may be, and supporting them in dealing with it.

EDITOR: Sue has an excellent Herb Handbook available to buy directly from her website or from Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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