Some Financial Consequences of Depression

When I was a sophomore in college, I learned that my mother had terminal cancer. This news threw me into a downward, depressive spiral. Months later, my friends finally convinced me to get help at the college's health center. A combination of really good friends, counseling, and medication helped me pull through.

Unfortunately, that's not the end of the story. Even 4 years later, I still feel the after-effects of that period, not just in my head but also in my wallet. You see, antidepressants are pretty important to getting and staying well. And most doctors prescribe name-brand anti-depressants, the expensive ones.

So if you don't have insurance, you're in a bad place. And having depression can lead to losing your job (thus no insurance) and having a hard time finding one after you've been through therapy, if you can afford it (again, no insurance).

Few people realize the extent of these effects. I didn't until I was in the middle of it. If you're really lucky and have a suitable personality and work hard at it, you can probably pull through to a time where you need neither counseling nor antidepressants. It may take years. I aim to get there some day. But when I spiraled down, it threw a switch in my brain, one that I'm still trying to flip back.

I've gotten to the point where I don't need to see a regular counselor. It's good. Mr. Micah is the son of a psychologist and good at talking me through my occasional bad days. If it's really bad, I can call my mother-in-law, not for an official session but for a little help. That saves us some money.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to move off the medication yet. My dose was cut in half, which worked fine. I tend to cut that in half too (the lowest dose prescribed) and it works pretty well. But if I go without it? Bad things happen, I can't maintain the emotional stability I need to do even normal things.

I worry that if I go off them, I won't be able to work. This job is new, I'm in a temp-to-hire process, and my situation can be a bit stressful. They could let me go whenever they wanted. Now, they said that they want to keep me, but I know they can change their minds.

So in this situation, I have no guaranteed insurance (my husband's job doesn't offer it) and not enough stability to be able to go off my meds. Unfortunately this means paying the full price. As I said, I cut them in half, and since the 5mg dose costs about the same as the 10mg, I “only” spend $45/month on them by buying 1 month of 10mg and cutting them to last for 2 months.

The financial effects for me are at least $45/month, combined with not getting as good a dose as I could. They also include periodic doctors visits and could include therapy.

This is a problem. But I think the cost, anyway, has a comparatively simple solution.

Right now, lots of doctors are prescribing brand-name antidepressants to their patients. Yet there are plenty of generic types out there, a variety which means that they could fit the different peoples' needs. Many are simply older versions of the name brand (which was probably only reformulated because the formula was going to be public property). They can cost as little as $4-30 per month (some do cost more, unfortunately, but still less than regular ones). That would fit most peoples' budgets just fine.

But doctors don't like to switch you off one that's working. I hope their only concern is for your health and not upsetting your equilibrium. New medications increase suicide risk. I'm sure pharmaceutical companies don't have such laudable motives.

I wish that my doctor had started me on a generic antidepressant. I'm still trying to get switched. If you're depressed, if you ever become depressed, or if you're caring for a depressed person, see if you can get them on generics right away. It'll save a lot of money in the long run. It'll make them less likely to spend time figuring out how to afford their medication. It'll probably work just as well (and with several different types to try, you have good odds of finding one that works).

It's too late for me to get that good start. We've laid out hundreds of dollars for my medications. It doesn't have to happen to you. Talk with your doctor about generics. If they're not right for you, at least you tried.

Note: Mrs. Micah is not a health professional, just as she's not a finance professional. Please talk to your doctor before taking any medications.

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