This is a topic I have been wanting to touch on for some time, but usually found myself pausing as it proved difficult to articulate what essentially comes down to a concerned observation on my part. (I suppose one could consider this post an attempt to verbalize a matter that’s been unsettling me in hope that it will make more sense once I finally manage to focus it together in a coherent prose.)
Throughout the years of schooling and tutoring, I have noticed several trends and patterns emerging. Notwithstanding the ever-fluid fashion sense of adolescent youths, a concerning trend I repeatedly take note of is how as time goes by the number of people being prescribed antidepressants continues to increase exponentially. This trend is also true of colleagues, supervisors, family members, close friends, and casual acquaintances. And demographic studies seem to confirm my observation that it is indeed the case that over the last three decades the number of people being treated for depression, and prescribed antidepressant, has continuously risen (at least in the U.S.) with no signs of leveling off.
One possible explanation for this is that only recently people have been willing to seek proper treatment for their depression than ever before, which would make the increase in prescribed antidepressants a positive development as it indicates that a greater number of individuals in need of medical/psychiatric care are receiving it. However, although I would love nothing more than to wholeheartedly embrace this optimistic outlook on the observed trend, I can’t help but feel that it serves to overlook a rather important anomaly in the pattern: namely, if there are now more people than ever seeking and receiving treatment for their depression, why is the rate of depression at a seemingly never-ending rise? In other words, if we are being proactive by treating depression head-on, shouldn’t we see a correlating decrease in depression with the increase of prescribed antidepressants (i.e. the exact opposite of the trend we’ve been seeing over the last 20-30 years)?
As a point of preemptive clarity I feel the need to state how I hope this post doesn’t come across as the scribbling of an internet conspiracy theorist, raving against “Big Pharma” and “the ills of modern medicine”. I also feel somewhat silly having to actually say this, but (again, just for clarity’s sake) I’m not opposed to medications, or vaccinations, or hospitals, and I have no issue giving due credit to the advent of modern medical science as an irrefutable component that has shaped the overall rise in improved health for the large segment of the globe that has enjoyed it for the better part of over a century. But none of this has anything to do with the issue that is blatantly staring at me when it comes to depression and the increased dependency on antidepressants I see with the people around me (which seems to mirror the data gathered on the national population as a whole). Furthermore, given this observed trend, I can’t help but ask myself to at least consider that something important is being overlooked. Perhaps the possibility exists that it might not always be the depression itself that is the causal depressor to the afflicted individual; that, in at least some of these cases, the depression itself is a psychological response to an unaddressed stress factor that’s being overlooked because we are more content with just medicating people and sedating them into bliss, rather than considering the possibility that a deeper–possibly environmental or societal–problem exists here.
Like I said before, I am not an opponent to medicine or medication, but I can’t ignore the fact that I keep seeing more and more people around me resorting to antidepressants to treat their distress, with no apparent long-term plan or indication for these pills to actually subside and eliminate the cause of their depression. What I’m saying is that if we are going to numb a portion of people’s neurological senses, we better be damn sure that what we are doing is actually treating the cause of people’s suffering, rather than just assume we’re on the right track and continue to prescribe medication that is simply not bringing about the expected result (i.e. actually reducing the number of people afflicted with depression).