Eradicating Depression

There is a half-formed mutant meme knocking around that the psychiatrist, Peter Kramer, wants to destroy. This idea seems to have popped up that perhaps we don’t want to completely eradicate depression because some of the greatest artists and leaders have been depressives. Would Van Gogh have been able to knock out those masterpieces if he had been on Prozac?

Kramer is determined to fight the battle against those who think that depression is not really a proper disease, but somehow part of the human condition.
NY Times Magazine [Free Reg. Req.]

Antidepressant – suicide link reassessed

New research published in the BMJ this week reviews years of research into the link between antidepressants and suicide. The results are mixed and the statistics are open to intepretation. So some of the papers (*SIGH*) go with the usual option of putting the word ‘fear‘ in the headline to cover their ignorance. I wonder if their aim is to inform, entertain or scare the living bejesus out of anyone taking them?

When the results cannot be summarised in one sentence, even a very long Guardian sentence, the papers get confused. One of the few papers that has actually written something intelligent about the study is, yet again, the New York Times.
→ From the New York Times (Free registration required)

Books replace antidepressants in pilot scheme

A lecturer at Plymouth University has set up a pilot scheme for treating those with mild to moderate depression that does not involve antidepressants. Patients on the scheme will be prescribed with a self-help book from the local library instead of mood regulating drugs.

Paul Farrand, lecturer in health psychology, argues that an actual prescription for a book will encourage the patient to obtain and read the book. The most obvious advantage of this scheme is that it allows the patient to take control of their future. In psychological research it is the control factor that is often closely associated with changes in behaviour.

> From BBC News

Treating depression chemically

One reason that depression is so difficult to treat is that it can have a wide range of causes. If, as in most cases, an anti-depressant is prescribed, it is hard to predict exactly how a patient’s condition will interact with the drug.

Recently Seroxat’s developers GlaxoSmithKline have received considerable bad publicity about the drug’s dangerous side effects. The evidence is mounting that it may not be suitable for treating children. Research has found that after taking Seroxat, children can experience an increase in suicidal thoughts.

There is a growing awareness that psychoactive treatments do not make the best default option for treating depression. Unfortunately they represent the easy option and of course make huge profits for the pharmaceutical industry.

> From The Guardian

> From The Observer

Mental health worsening around the globe

Almost every day I read a story from a different country describing the worsening state of mental health there. It’s difficult to tell whether this is a result of a genuine trend or simply a greater awareness of mental health problems. Either way I tend not to link to these stories because of their sad monotony. Instead I think I will add them to a roll call.

The first two countries are China and India. The report from China says that over a fifth of children suffer some emotional problems.

> From BBC News