Mental health: Talking to patients

Last updated: Monday, April 29, 2024

Whether you are working in the dispensary, on the wards, or maybe answering calls from your Trust’s medicines helpline, you could be asked questions from patients about medicines they take for their mental health. They may vary from how to manage side effects, or whether they can take other medicines concomitantly, or breastfeed their infant. 

If you are counselling a patient newly started on an antidepressant for example, key points to cover may include; 

  • It may take several weeks for symptoms to start to improve after initiating an antidepressant, but that side effects can occur earlier. 
  • How to manage anticipated side effects (e.g. dietary advice if constipation occurs, taking medicines after food if nausea is problematic, or using sips of cool water to help with a dry mouth). 
  • If side effects are not tolerable then they should seek advice from their healthcare professional, who might decide to switch to an alternative antidepressant. 
  • Treatment may need to be continued for some months after recovery to reduce the risk of relapse. 
  • Antidepressants are not addictive (there is no desire to seek higher doses as there may be with substance misuse) but if treatment is stopped then it must be done gradually and under the supervision of a doctor to reduce the risk of discontinuation effects.