Tips on taking medications
“Well, I must say my physician that I have now is much more open. We talk about things. I told her I want a partnership…I like this very much as an option [compared] to the old way of “I’m prescribing this, this is for you, you take this.” But it also puts responsibility on you. You have to be responsible if you’ve chosen something.” 
It is important to take your medication in exactly the way your psychiatrist prescribes it. This piece introduces some strategies you can use to help you remember to take your medication, fill your scripts, and store your medication safely.
If you have a mental health condition, getting the right treatment and support can help you to thrive. And for many people, medication is an important part of their treatment plan. (Please see the footnote for this post.)
If you and your psychiatrist decide to see how you go with taking medication for your mental health condition, it is important to take your medication exactly as it is prescribed. This will ensure you get the benefits you want from your medication and that you are taking your medication as safely as possible.
Taking your medication exactly as prescribed is very important, but it can also be challenging. Here are just some of the challenges that can be involved:
Remembering to take your medication at a consistent time each day (or, if you take it more than once, at consistent times)
Making sure you don’t take a double dose
Remembering to get your scripts filled (so that you don’t run out of your medication!)
Remembering to store your medication safely, including making sure it’s out of reach of other people (and children) and making sure not to leave it in the car or other hot places
A psychologist can help you with strategies to support you with these challenges. This is another reason why Call To Mind promotes a multidisciplinary approach to supporting you with your mental health care. We have also pulled together a number of ideas below.
Remembering to take your medications
Here are some tips for remembering to take your medications:
Set up reminders
Set reminders or alarms on your phone to remind you to take your medication, then:
Take the medication as soon as the reminder or alarm goes off (don’t snooze the notification)
Only let yourself turn the alarm off once you’ve taken it (that way you know you’ve taken it)
Write yourself a note and keep it in a prominent place where you won’t miss it. For example:
Leave a note for yourself right next to where you make your breakfast
Change the position of the note, or leave multiple notes, in case your routine changes day-to-day or you get used to seeing one of the notes you left
If you have a friend or partner who can regularly remind you to take your medication, see if they are willing to remind you until you’ve made it a solid habit
Make it part of your schedule
Make taking your medication part of your morning routine. For example, you can:
Take your medication immediately before you brush your teeth each morning
If you always eat breakfast at the same time (and never forget to do so), you can take it with your breakfast
If you need to take your medication with you to work or campus, pack it the night before in your bag – make packing it part of your evening routine
If you are due to take your medication at lunchtime, you can pack it wherever you keep your lunch
Keep your medication stored in the same place all the time
To avoid losing your whole container of medication, only ever take out what you need for that day. Leave the rest of your medication in the same designated place
Remembering to not run out of medication
Here are some tips for remembering to not run out of medication:
Set up reminders
If possible, ask your pharmacy to remind you when you need to fill your next script.
Put a reminder in your calendar for the date that you need to fill your next script:
Ideally, make this a recurring calendar reminder, so that you always renew your script on a particular day of the week
Make sure that you get a notification on the day that you need to fill your next script
Have another reminder for the day after you were meant to fill the script, so that you can check that you did indeed fill it on the day you were supposed to fill it
On the day that you need to fill your next script, write yourself a note and keep it in a prominent place
If you have a friend or partner who can remind you to fill your next script, see if they are willing to remind you until you’ve made a solid habit of filling it
Make it part of your schedule
Find a day and time that suits you best to fill your next script
This should be a day well in advance of when you’re due to run out of your medication
This should also be a day when you have enough time to go to a pharmacy (so that you’re unlikely to put it off until the next day)
Make a habit of filling your script at a certain time and day of the week.
For example, if there’s a day of the week where you finish work earlier in the day, you can make a habit to fill your script on your way home that day.
Pack your script and wallet in the bag that you always take with you
Keep your medication in a secure part of your bag, where it’s easy for you to find
Keep your water bottle and any other fluids away from your bag.
Put your medication straight in its designated storage area as soon as you get home
To avoid losing your container of medication, only ever keep it in the same designated place.
Because of how highly regulated some medications are (such as ADHD medications, for example), it’s very important not to lose your medication, otherwise you might have to get by on less or no medication for a while (until it’s time for your next script).
Making sure you don’t take a double dose
Here are some tips for remembering when you’ve already taken a dose:
Write it down once you’ve taken your medication
As soon as you’ve taken your medication, write it down:
In your phone (for example, by ticking a box in your daily checklist)
On a physical checklist (for example, on a white board, black board, or piece of paper).
Use the Stop, Think, Go executive function strategy: In this strategy, stop before you take your medication, count to ten while thinking about taking your medication and then go and take your medication. By slowing down and purposefully focusing on taking your medication – it will help you remember later on that you have taken your medication.
You could try using a pill box labelled with the seven days of the week. This would mean that you only need to fill your pill box with your medication at the start of the week. Then, you’ll be able to keep track of whether you’ve taken the medication each day.
If you try this, make sure the medication is safely out of reach of children and that you are the only person who knows where to find it.
You might want to try putting your next medication dose in a specific place the night before. That way, if you go to take your medication and it isn’t there – you know that you’ve already taken it. However:
This only works if you remember to put the medication in the specific place the night before
This method is less secure if you live with other people, especially young children.
If in doubt, don’t risk taking a double dose:
If you are unsure if you’ve already taken a dose, it’s best not to risk taking a second dose by accident.
Try to set up systems for the future, so that you won’t have to question yourself about whether you’ve taken your dose.
What to do if you forget to take a dose
Never take a double dose to make up for a missed one. Check our information sheet about the specific medication(s) you’re taking for more instructions on what to do if you missed a dose. You can also find information in the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet that comes with your medication. We also encourage you to talk about your psychiatrist if you have any questions.
How to store your medication
Store your medication:
Locked away in a cool, dry place
Out of sight
In a place that nobody else is able to take it (either accidentally or on purpose)
If you need to take your medication out of the house with you:
Only take the amount of medication you’ll need that day
Keep it in an unmarked container or bottle (so that people wouldn’t be able to guess what is in it)*
Don’t leave it anywhere where it’s likely to get warmer than 25 degrees Celsius, such as in a car
*If you are travelling (either interstate or overseas), then don’t keep it in an unmarked container – instead, keep the medication in the original labelled bottles, in case authorities check what you’re carrying.
If you are travelling overseas, make sure you get a letter from your psychiatrist so that you are permitted to have your medication with you.
If you ever have a surplus of medication, return this to your pharmacy.
Footnote: What are some of the common examples of medications people take?
For many, but not all, mental health conditions, medication is an important part of treatment. There are a wide range of medications available to support mental health, and the specific one(s) that you take will depend on which condition(s) you have.
There are typically multiple different options available for a given condition, and it will be up to you and your psychiatrist to work together to choose one(s) that suit your needs.
It is relatively common for people to take:
medication for anxiety
medication for depression
medication for anxiety and depression
medication for ADHD
medication for schizophrenia
medication for OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
medication for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
Some people also ask about medication for autism or about medication for BPD (borderline personality disorder), but medications are not actually treatments for these conditions per se. Instead, medications can be used for some of the mental health conditions that commonly co-occur with autism and BPD, such as anxiety or depression.
- Dolovich, L., Nair, K., Sellors, C., Lohfeld, L., Lee, A., & Levine, M. (2008). Do patients’ expectations influence their use of medications?: Qualitative study. Canadian Family Physician, 54(3), 384-393.