Community Connections for Health Care

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THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE

by Joan Bachman

I recently had opportunity to spend time visiting with a teenager who has struggled with anxiety for a couple of years. Although the condition was sometimes quite severe, this teen is one of the lucky ones. He is surrounded by a stable immediate family and extended family. Access to professional services is financially available -- and is producing positive results after some tough times.
The important point about this conversation was the plea by the teen for the medical mental health community to not prolong the practice of empirical prescribing of antianxiety meds but rather to do early genomic testing to discover which medications are correct for this person for this health condition. Early identification and appropriate treatment will promote good quality of life and prevent suicide for many individuals and their families.
It seems that treatment for anxiety is no easier or faster than its diagnosis. This teen’s plan of treatment initially included counseling and medications prescribed using an empirical regimen: prescribe, administer, wait for success or failure; prescribe, administer, wait for success or failure; prescribe, administer, wait for success or failure. Throw in a period of ineffectual, if not damaging, residential care for good measure. Unwanted symptoms during this time included sleeping all day, despair, withdrawal from interaction with anyone but immediate family, and lack of appetite over too long a time period. The symptoms did not all occur at the same time, but varied in reaction to whatever was the current medication regimen.
Insistence on finding a counselor who “fit” and who was not satisfied with less than the teen’s success was an important element on the road to wellness. I don’t know all the complications along the way but, when winning the battle seemed illusive, there was a change in plans. Thankfully, this teen and family were intent on finding success -- they are persistent.
A recommendation for DNA and other testing was accepted and completed. The DNA testing verified that the medications prescribed to date had been less than effective and pointed to a change. A new medication regimen was prescribed based on the science of the testing. After a relatively short time, the teen assured me that the new drug regimen makes the future looks brighter and the world larger again.
The point of this teen’s message is frightening. This long experience led to a conclusion, based on personal experience, that the high numbers of dysfunctional teens and suicides may be related to the practice of prescribing medications using the trial and error (empirical) method rather than taking advantage of early DNA and other testing to make decisions for treatment.
This teen encourages everyone with a family member experiencing mental health issues to insist on early use of all possible tools, especially including appropriate testing to prevent treatment that may be worse than the original disease. Early application of a suitable treatment plan including a personalized drug regimen will support good quality of life for someone you love.

About the Author

Joan Bachman

Joan Bachman is a Registered Nurse, Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, Registered Health Information Technician, and Faith Community Nurse. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Joan has experience as a Nurse, Administrator, Developer, Trainer, Grant Writer, and served as Administrator of SD State Survey Agency. She has consulted with health care facilities and nonprofit organizations and presented leadership training. Joan is the author of Guidebook for Assisted Living Facilities and Senior Service Providers and Guidebook for Physician Services in the Nursing Facility, and she has published in professional journals.

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