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GPs urged to discuss ‘social’ side effects of antidepressants with patients

GPs should ‘have a conversation’ with patients about the possible social effects of antidepressants, the charity Mind has said.

This follows a new look at the charity’s 2012 research which surveyed over 1,000 people taking anti-depressants, and revealed that more than half of patients felt that they had not been warned about possible effects on their relationships, work or social life.

The study found that over 60% of people taking antidepressants feel the medication has a negative effect on at least one aspect of their life.

In all, 44% reported an effect on their sex life, 27% said it affected their work or study, and 23% said it impacted on their social life.

Over half of the participants were also taking other psychiatric drugs, usually prescribed by a psychiatrist, and they experienced more side effects than patients prescribed by GPs.

Dr John Read, professor of psychology at the University of East London, who conducted the analysis published in the Journal of Psychiatry, said: ‘Studies usually focus on the biological side effects of these drugs but it seems other aspects of people’s lives can be equally affected.

‘People taking antidepressants need to be warned about these effects, which can be very upsetting, especially in people who are already experiencing depression.’

Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, said ‘GPs and nurse prescribers are ideally placed to support people to make informed decisions about their treatment’ as the vast majority of people with mental health problems who seek NHS help are ‘treated entirely within primary care’.

Mind is calling for better support for people on antidepressants to help them cope with the potential impact, as well as better training for GPs and prescribing nurses as part of its ‘Find the Words’ campaign.

‘Many of the patients GPs and practice nurses come into contact with have mental health problems,’ explained Mr Buckley, ‘yet many primary care staff tell us they haven’t had sufficient training to be able support them as well as they would like to.’

He added: ‘GPs and practice nurses have an incredibly difficult job to do under enormous pressure. We believe that offering more training would help patients get the best outcomes while also giving more confidence and alleviating some of the pressure GPs and practice nurses experience on a daily basis.’

Mind is also calling for better support for all staff working in primary care when it comes to their own mental health at work.

Mr Buckley said: ‘When primary care professionals are well and supported, they can provide the best care for their patients, yet we know that almost 90% of primary care staff experience workplace stress, compared with 56% of the general workforce.’


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