Providing access to medications that meet the needs of patients with mental illness is a key factor in not only improving their quality of life and ability to participate more fully in society, it is often a crucial part of saving their lives. Reducing high rates of suicide, hospitalization, unemployment, and the stress that affects both people with mental illness and those who love and care for them is a goal that the development of new medications consistently strives to achieve.
Ambassadors for Mental Wellness recently conducted an independent survey of individuals in Canada and the United States who have a personal understanding of mental illness, either as patients recovering from a mental illness or as caregivers, family members or health service providers. The survey was designed to measure the demand for injectable long-acting medication.
The survey was sent out to 6920 people on the mailing list of Mental Wellness Today, of whom 1500 accessed the newsletter containing the survey, and made available through the organization’s website and social media. The breakdown of mailing list members by country is approximately 25% Canadian residents, while 65% live in the U.S. (the remaining 15% live in another country or their country of residence is unknown). Mental Wellness Today is dedicated to bringing hope, dignity and support by providing inspiration and information about mental health issues through online resources and advocacy, and their mailing list includes many people with mental illness as well as family members and caregivers.
Ambassadors for Mental Wellness received 54 responses to the survey, broken down by country as 33% Canadian responses and 67% from the U.S. Of these, just over 31% were patients recovering from a mental illness, 61% were caregivers for someone recovering from a mental illness, and the remaining 7% consisted of parents of someone recovering from a mental illness, support providers, and respondents who were both recovering from a mental illness and either a caregiver or support provider.
Survey respondents were dealing with a number of mental illnesses either as patients, caregivers or family members, including schizophrenia (52%), schizo-affective disorder (28%), depression (17%), bipolar disorder (15%), OCD or other anxiety disorder (15%), with the remainder answering “other.”
Among the survey’s key findings is the fact that over 96% of the 54 responses received answered “yes” or “maybe” to the question, “If a long-acting medication was available to significantly increase the time between required doses, would that be a major breakthrough in treatment?” (61.1% yes; 35.2% maybe).
Given the key role medication plays in recovery from mental illness, advances in treatment options can be a significant benefit to patients and their families. Asked about the role of medication in mental illness recovery, with 1 categorized as “not important” and 5 as “very important,” the average response rating was 4.74. Asked to explain in their own words the role that medication plays in their recovery or the recovery of a loved one, respondents’ comments included the following:
“It has enabled me to remain stable, study, work, live on my own, and recover from relapses.”
“Major role. I am not able to function without it.”
“Proper dosage saved my life.”
The fact that availability of a long-acting medication was seen as a major breakthrough is particularly significant in the context of the connection between relapse and hospitalization and patients failing to comply with their prescribed course of treatment. Fifty-four percent of survey respondents indicated that they found their current medication program very difficult or somewhat difficult to manage (16.7% very difficult; 37% somewhat difficult), while 48% said they often or sometimes forgot to take their medication as prescribed (5.6% often; 42.6% sometimes). When asked what the biggest drawback about taking medications is, responses included statements such as:
“non-compliance in taking medication.”
“The biggest drawback about taking medication in my recovery is having to take all those pills EVERYDAY for the REST OF MY LIFE.”
“I hate taking pills. It reminds me daily that I am not healthy, although on recovery, I am still suffering from a disease. Then there are the blood tests and the side effects. A long lasting medication with LESS side effects than the average antipsychotic would be great because we all know that antipsychotics are not meant for the long run…and I can’t live without it.”
A form of treatment that is taken less frequently thus has the potential to improve compliance and reduce relapse. Survey respondents who do have access to injectable long-acting medication made comments like:
“I am VERY pleased to report that clinicians selected the long-acting injection because my loved one was deemed ‘noncompliant’ with the existing treatment plan. Thankfully, once my loved one began to recognize the necessity of medication to manage symptoms, they conceded to receive the monthly injection. And during Mental Health Awareness Month, they will celebrate three years of stable recovery since the last hospitalization.”
“The injectable meant he does not have to take it every day and he goes to the nurse to get his shot. This has allowed him stability to live independently! Since the shot is monitored.”
“As I give the injectable, as the primary caregiver, I can monitor that it is indeed being taken.”
“No drawback – injectables are convenient and you never miss a dosage.”
While survey respondents varied geographically as well as by the nature of the illness they were dealing with, overwhelmingly they were searching for a long-acting medication that would simplify their treatment while allowing them to resume the life they desire.
If you would like to download a pdf version of these study results, please do so by clicking here.