Author: Karen Copeland
Put those two words together in a sentence and you had better be prepared to experience a barrage of very strong opinions for and against. And judgement. Always plenty of judgment.
A lot of people won’t talk about medication for fear of being blasted for 1) considering it; or 2) not considering it.
So knowing this…why the heck am I writing about it?
The reality is when your child is experiencing mental health challenges the chances of medication being recommended and/or prescribed is very, very high. And instead of being scared of it, we need to start talking about it. Respectfully.
I remember the first time it was suggested that we put our child on medication. It was after a quick, fifteen minute appointment that provided barely any opportunity to explore what was happening for our child. No checklists, no consult with school personnel. Just a fifteen minute appointment. I chose not to pursue this medication option that was presented to me. It was not that I was completely opposed to trying a prescription, it was more that I was opposed to the manner in which the option had been presented. I didn’t think there had been adequate exploration or understanding of what we were experiencing, therefore I felt like it would be premature to begin medicating our child.
I wanted to know and understand what we would be medicating. And I knew a fifteen minute appointment did not provide enough information to ensure the medication that was being suggested was entirely appropriate.
Over the next couple of years we delved deeper into the challenges our child was experiencing. We took the time to ask questions, seek information and tried a number of different strategies and therapies.
As I wrote earlier, I am not opposed to exploring medication; yet my internal narrative in those earlier days was
“Am I a bad mom for considering medication?”
This is the power of a society that judges these types of decisions so harshly.
As time went on, we discovered that things weren’t really changing. And it got to the point that my narrative changed from worrying about being a bad mom for considering medication to:
“Am I a bad mom for not trying medication?”
It was the shift in perspective that I needed to make. I was confident we had tried most or all other options and I started wondering if I was doing a disservice to my child for not even trying medication.
So what helped in those first days of exploring meds? Well, first and foremost, it was critical that I felt supported and confident in our prescribing physician. Our pediatrician was always open to answering any questions or concerns I had, and was diligent in her follow up care.
Equally important was having a good understanding of the medication being prescribed. I’m not talking about the medication sheets you get from the pharmacy that are hard to read for all their technical and medical terms that make your eyes cross and your head hurt.
All of these fact sheets have been thoroughly reviewed and vetted to ensure accuracy. They are also written in a language that youth and parents can understand. Having access to these fact sheets as well as the medication monitoring forms were essential to increasing my confidence in the medications we were trying with our child.
I would love to see more doctors and pharmacists start providing parents and caregivers with these fact sheets when they are starting medication(s) with their child. When you are a parent of a child who is experiencing mental health challenges, you have enough to try and sort out to worry about trying to find accurate and readable information about medications.
Parents, let your doctor and pharmacist know about the fact sheets available through the Kelty Mental Health website. Encourage them to share these fact sheets with new (or current) prescriptions that are coming in. You never know how many families this might help!
Making the decision to try medication for your child is an incredibly difficult one. But arming yourself with knowledge, asking questions and keeping on top of how your child is responding can be very beneficial.
Always remember that medication is a personal decision that works for some families and perhaps doesn’t for others and that is okay. Make the assumption that parents have done their due diligence to determine the best course of treatment for their child, which may (or may not) include trying medication.