Experiences of Side Effects of Mental Health Medication: Peer Research Report

We are happy to publish the report from our Peer Research into Experiences of Side Effects of Mental Health Medication.

You can read it here:

Here is the large print version:

We have put a summary of the results below.

We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who responded to the research and to the peer researchers.

This is not the end of this piece of work. We plan to hold an event at some point in the future with people with lived experience of mental health issues to discuss the results, what action they think needs to be taken and what our next steps should be.

We are still working on the report from the research into experiences of treatment and support for physical health issues and we will get this out as soon as possible.

If you have any questions or want to be kept up to date about this work, please contact Becky – [email protected], 0131 554 5307.


We heard from 22 people. 

They told us about a wide range of side effects that they had experienced.

They told us that the side effects had an impact in different areas of their lives.  These included but were not limited to a negative impact on:

  • Physical health
  • Mood and mental health
  • Self-esteem
  • Ability to work
  • Relationships and social life
  • Ability to exercise / levels of physical activity

People had different experiences when it came to how much support they received to help them with the side effects.  Some people did receive support but many did not. 

Some people felt that they were given the information they needed about potential side effects, however some people felt that they were not given enough information and some people were not given any information.

Some people told us that they were listened to, some people told us that they were listened to in part and some people told us that they were not listened to at all. 

In answer to our questions about support and information given and being listened to, some people told us that it depends on the doctor – they had had good experiences with some doctors and bad experiences with others. 

These are the things that people would have liked to have been done differently:

  • To have had more information
  • A longer appointment time when the medication was prescribed
  • More support from the doctor
  • A support group with other people who had experienced side effects
  • To have been listened to
  • To have had their concerns and their side effects taken more seriously
  • There to have been more understanding of the impact
  • The likely impact of the medication to have been taken into account when the medication was prescribed
  • Options other than medication, including counselling
  • To see a counsellor or psychologist first before being offered medication
  • Not to have been given medication
  • Option of different medication
  • To have received an accurate diagnosis in the first place

When we asked if there were any wider changes that could be made to address the issue of medication side effects, these are the ideas that people gave us:

  • More research into medication with fewer side effects
  • More alternatives to medication
  • Increased investment in talking therapies
  • People to be given more information about side effects
  • More support given to people to help them deal with side effects
  • When someone is given medication when they are receiving treatment for their mental health in hospital, include side effects in their Patient Care Plan
  • Minimum dose prescribed for shortest time
  • A check-in with the GP to review the benefits of the medication against the side effects
  • The NHS no longer prescribing drugs which are likely to have a negative impact on a person’s wellbeing and self-esteem
  • More acknowledgment of impact of side effects
  • More understanding and sympathy
  • Training for non-mental health doctors and nurses