Medication is a hot topic when it comes to mental illness. Many people believe that medication isn’t necessary while others insist upon it. There are several different theories saying exercise and nutrition are the best treatments for mental illness but are there facts backing that? For the example this week I’m going to talk about Depression because it is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses revolving exercise and proper nutrition as the cure.

Mental illness is known for having chemical imbalances within the brain, but there are several different factors that go into properly diagnosing depression. Some of these factors include faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. There are billions of chemical reactions that make up the system that creates your life experience. The major areas of the brain that are affected throughout depression include Amygdala, Thalamus, and Hippocampus.

Amygdala affects…

The limbic system is associated with the emotions of anger, pleasure, sorrow, fear, and sexual arousal. The activity in this system is high when someone is clinically depressed and is activated through emotionally charged memories.

Thalamus affects…

The sensory information which then relays it to the cerebral cortex. This part of the brain affects speech, behavioural reactions, movement, thinking, and learning. This part of the Brian links to sensory input.


The limbic system is a central role in long-term memory and recollection. This part of the brain registers fear and is smaller within those with depression.


The brain produces neurotransmitters that keep people learning, moving, and moods perking. People who have depression neurotransmitters can be oversensitive, or insensitive to a certain neurotransmitter and this creates the response being excessive or inadequate.

Medications built for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) such as Fluoxetine, Celexa, and Paxil are created to increase the level of serotonin, which mediates the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission.

Exercise increases oxygen to the brain which in turn increases serotonin precursors, dopamine and the brainstem in the hypothalamus.

The fact is, for treating mental illness both medication and exercise is necessary. A good psychiatrist will first assess your lifestyle before prescribing medication. As I said before depression is based on many factors rather than simply based on chemicals. However, medication is absolutely necessary in some cases. Exercise and nutrition should only be a sole based treatment after 2 years remission from depression depending on severity.

The best treatment plan for those with Depression based on the contributing facts…

If you are going to see a professional about your depression…you’re more than likely depressed, but this doesn’t mean you have a depression disorder. The first step in any depression journey is to create a routine including proper hygiene, a support network, exercise, proper nutrition, and psychotherapy. You should never start treatment for depression solely on medication. If we look back to the causes of depression we notice it includes stressful life events, the healing from these events cannot be cured with medication, they will take time, work, and psychotherapy to create new ways of thinking. If you start a depression treatment based solely on medication it often gets worse, and the side effects of the medication create medical complications which then contribute to your depression. Medication is an intervention needed when lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, and mindfulness don’t take any effect, this often proves genetic, and chemical imbalances where medication is the necessary treatment.

My personal opinion on medication and mental illness is that depending on your life experience heavily affects your mental health/mental illness. Life experience includes past trauma, genetic vulnerabilities, chemical imbalances, and many other factors that are personalized to each individual person.

There is no one standard treatment for mental illness and there is no shame in being on medication. The cause of mental illness is extremely complex and no one treatment should be overlooked. Medication is necessary for many people who suffer from mental illness such as those with schizophrenia or psychosis. The stigma behind mental health medication is based on wrongful facts from previous generations and people who tend to believe medication is a choice for those with mental illness are not educated on the subject.

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