Medicating Mania Video

Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of Psychiatry at John's Hopkins School of Medicine, shares her experience of waking up from a coma after a suicide attempt, and realizing that medication was her only remaining choice.
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Medicating Mania Quite literally I woke up from a coma from having tried to kill myself, and it was very clear to me what my psychiatrist had been saying for years. The choice is not between a drug that has side-effects or not. Life is not ideal. Yes, your drug has side-effects, and yes, if you don’t take it you’re going to die. And I—that had been clear to me, but there’s something really crystal clear about it. Actually, nearly dying— I had not. Since I emerged from suicide attempt, there has not been a day that I have not taken my medication. It’s hard to say. I mean, I had the advantages, of say, of having been treated by somewhat I knew was a superb clunsion. Most people don’t have that advantage of being able to evaluate their doctor in advance. So that I think was a huge advantage, and particularly since in my particular illness, one of the worse things that can happen for a certain kind of severe bipolar is to be given antidepressants. As if my psychiatrist knew better, and didn’t do that, only for a very short term and very controlled periods—very, very short, and only once, maybe twice. So that—I’m very fortunate and I respect; I would never say how fortunate I was. On the other hand, there were real difficulties because I was constantly concerned about losing my license, somebody finding out. So I didn’t go into a hospital and the California Commitment Laws for such that I could keep out of a hospital, and I should have been in a hospital. And I should have had ECT. I now have advanced directive written out for my doctor and my family that says this is what I want done. If I get severely depressed again, if I get manic again, I want ECT. I want to be treated at Johns Hopkins, I want to be treated by the following doctors. I do not want the following medications. I do want the following medications. All things that will encourage people to do in advance, I do. But at that time, it wasn’t really possible. Again, it’s hard. I think it’s—one of the things that have been great over the last ten years or so when people were just a lot more educated about it particularly young people. I spent a lot of time on college campuses because it is an illness that hits you on, and I am just staggered by the amount of information. Not all of it accurate, but a lot of information that people have much more than their professors and their administrators, about these illnesses, particularly about depression. And I think that one of the things, for example, at Hopkins. We have a very active program that goes out into the public and private schools in Baltimore and Washington, and now across the country. And just teach people the symptoms of depression. Just in a very straightforward way, say these are the symptoms. It’s a really treatable illness. It’s important that you get treated early. As a matter of fact, teach the teachers, teach the parents. Parents learn all about these mondo-bizzaro diseases that nobody yet. And they don’t learn about depression, which is actually most likely to hit one of their kids. So I think there’s more education out there. With bipolar illness, it’s more complicated because it often gets tied up with alcohol and drug abuse—agitation problems with behavior that people don’t necessarily associate with psychiatric problems. Why I think that, you know—I think that a couple of things—first of all, I am a huge advocate of prescription drugs given wisely and for the right reasons and the right diagnosis and also psychotherapy. And I mean, I think I psychotherapy saves lives. And it’s hugely meaningful, and I think that one of the unfortunate aspects of prescription drugs working well is that people tend to think that’s enough. And usually, it’s not enough. Sometimes it is. There’s no question in this day and age that I think there’s a lot of over-prescription. And from a public health point of view, still, the overwhelming problem is that people are not treated enough for depression. Depression remains undertrea

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