Papering over the cracks of a fractured society.
Since the recession began, Mind has reported a dramatic rise in the number of people calling its phone line. “There are clear links between unemployment and depression,” says Sophie Corlett, Mind’s director of external relations. “After six months, one in seven unemployed men will develop mental health problems. People are falling into debt and there’s a reciprocal relationship between debt and mental health.”
While almost everyone with experience of antidepressants reports finding them useful, many could have made use of alternative forms of help. “We know that people go to the doctor because they’re feeling low, and the reasons may be domestic violence, debt, bereavement, marriage breakup, difficulties from past trauma,” says Corlett. “Some of these are practical and could have practical solutions, while some are deep-rooted psychological issues that need dealing with. Antidepressants are not always the answer.”
For mild to moderate depression, unless it is persistent, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) does not recommend medication as a first resort. However, despite the government’s investment in the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme, in some parts of the country people wait months for access to CBT or similar treatments. Likewise, it does not appear that people’s prescriptions are always reviewed every six months, as Nice suggests.
“My worry is that we are medicalizing all forms of sadness in the belief that antidepressants are a safe drug that you just prescribe,” says Muijen.
The mind has called for accurate research to be carried out into how many people are taking antidepressants, how long they take them for and whether they are receiving any other treatment. It is a serious problem, Corlett says, that this data does not exist. Antidepressants are a vital tool. But if in many cases, we are simply papering over cracks, we should, as a society, face up to the depth of the problem.
Watching the wealth of North America being progressively transferred into the hands of the .01% should be a pretty traumatic experience. Watching the unemployment levels rise as the ultra-wealthy play dice with the retirements of the working classes of the world should be just as disturbing as the resulting relational disintegration, child poverty and lower levels of educational progress that result. Recognizing that the creators of all of this turmoil are above the law that should be moderating their behaviours is supposed to generate the generalized anger needed to foment change.
Historically, those awarenesses have been so disturbing that they resulted in political or, unfortunately, armed rebellion aimed at equalizing such so that all could live in a good and just society.
But, now, we’ve got a drug for that…
Obviously, antidepressants are a good and critically needed treatment that can dramatically assist psychotherapy in providing recovery from depression, but, the author is right: They may be working just a bit too well. And, just perhaps, some sadness and anger should be motivation for change — perhaps even a political organization for change…