Last year I found myself at a dinner party where the topic of depression came up. Four out of six people at the table admitted to being on an anti-depressant. The only person, other than myself, who wasn’t taking meds was the bachelor ‘ladies man’ of the group.. (for privacy lets call him Craig) who said he refused to fill a script the previous year out of fear of experiencing erectile dysfunction (one of the common side effects). Instead he said, he “rode it out” and found a good therapist who “unscrambled his brain and accessed the child within.”
As I looked around the table and empathised with my friends and their various health challenges I wondered am I a some sort of vortex for troubled souls? Or does this just reflect a mental health epidemic of magnitude?
The conversation we had that night deeply concerned me. Something felt wrong. I found myself thinking about Huxley’s book Brave New World and his futuristic scenario where everyone in society takes the feel-good drug “soma,” like it’s breakfast. I wondered just how many people are actually on anti-depressants and are they the best treatment option? That question became the catalyst for this blog and my renewed interest in psychology.
Whilst I’d done an undergraduate degree years back in communication & psychology .. it had been a while since I’d gotten up to speed on mental heath. So I did some research and what I found was nothing short of staggering:
“1 in 4 women of reproductive age are taking a medication for depression” … “almost a quarter of Australian teenagers are suffering symptoms of mental illness”… “suicide is now the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.”
At first this all seemed incredibly bleak and I felt a great sense of sadness for the state of humanity. But on closer inspection I wondered are were overdiagnosing mental illness for the sake of profit… are we overdiagnosing the worried well?
Now before I risk massively offending someone who has struggled with deep and profound mental illness I want to say that my intention here is to shed some light on the topic, not dismiss or diminish your sense of suffering. If you feel unwell that’s completely legitimate and you have every right to a diagnosis and to the interventions that work for you.
What I’d like to explore in this blog though is the possibility that increasing numbers of people are being pulled into a misleading psychiatric merry-go-round that may be causing them more harm than good.
A massive eye opener for me was reading the work of Dr Peter Gotzsche; scientist, doctor, medical research expert, published author and co-founder of Cochrane.
Cochrane is one of the worlds largest medical research not-for-profit organisations made up of 37,000 contributors from 130 countries. They conduct systematic reviews of health-care trials to help professionals make the best evidence-based choices possible. In other words they seek to demonstrate what medical interventions work and what don’t; what’s helpful and what’s harmful.
Dr Gotzsche has written several books on corporate corruption in health care and is concerned that Big Pharma has lead psychiatry astray. His work, based on credible science, suggests that anti-depressants are ineffective, over prescribed and may even be making people worse.
The above slide, from a presentation titled “Why few patients benefit and many are harmed,” demonstrates how it’s now easier than ever to get a mental illness diagnosis, using the example of grief.
Grief is a depressive disorder in the DSM (the psychiatric bible of disorders) and to qualify you need to have been experiencing depressive symptoms for 2 or more weeks. In the 1980 version of the DSM you could grieve for up to 1 year before it was diagnosed as depression. In the 1994 version it was 2 months. Dr Gozsche asks will it be 2 days in the next round of the DSM?
He makes some important points and raises some poignant questions. You can watch the full presentation here.
In this interview Dr Gotzsche further explores how Big Pharma might have lead us down the garden path and exposes 10 poplar myths in psychiatry. Number #1 being the chemical imbalance theory. I highly recommend this video which may change the way you view mental illness.
More on this topic to come in part 2..
The Truth about Mental Health is an affiliate of Dr Kelly Brogan, Holistic Woman’s Health Psychiatrist. Check out her online mental health recovery course here.