"Depression is a major public health issue," said Dr. Kelly Posner, an assistant professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. "The fact that people are getting the treatments they need is encouraging."and another one saying,
"Doctors are now medicating unhappiness," said [Dr. Ronald] Dworkin. "Too many people take drugs when they really need to be making changes in their lives."Not surprising – the controversy will continue to rage for a long time. I gave a lecture a couple of months ago about popular misunderstandings regarding depression. I’ve heard many lay people say that we are over-medicating our population. I agree there’s some of that going on – doctors writing prescriptions because a) it usually makes befuddling and distressing symptoms disappear, and b) they get so many gifts from the pharmaceutical companies that it profits them to prescribe such medicines.
Nevertheless, I believe strongly that we still attach a stigma to depression, and because of that, the incidence of that disorder is vastly under-reported. Even with under-reporting, the numbers are towering. In any given year, between 20 and 25 percent of Americans experience a major depressive episode (the National Institutes of Mental Health cite the low number; some independent sources lean toward the higher). Their suffering is painful and relentless.
I’m a holistically oriented person and therapist, and I love the stories of those who have successfully pulled themselves out of hard emotional times by their own efforts. But depression is a disease, and in most people who experience it, it affects the body, the brain, the mind and the spirit in profoundly cruel, and progressive, ways. (I recommend Peter Kramer's comprehensive book, Against Depression on this point.)
I’m not entirely comfortable backing medications produced by questionable pharmaceutical companies. And no, we shouldn’t be throwing pills at patients the moment they feel down. But I’ve seen depression at work, and I have seen the medications be amazingly helpful. (Especially in combination with talk therapy – a proven formula. Frequently, medication can be reduced or eliminated after such a course of treatment.)
Jumping on the popular bandwagon of condemning medications is just another way of saying “Snap out of it” – the kind of treatment that has exacerbated mental illness since time immemorial.