A Letter to the Editor, S. Wales Echo
The original letter from Brian Daniels is STILL not on Walesonline. Sorry!
On reading correspondence from one Brian Daniels of the Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights entitled, “Be careful of antidepressants,” I implore: beware the CCHR. They are merely an arm of the cult of Scientology. The CCHR’s links page promotes groups who don’t believe HIV causes AIDS, schizophrenia doesn’t exist and that most ills can be cured by expensive supplements, conveniently available from such sites.
I agree with Mr Daniels that prescribing antidepressants to people only because they’re experiencing challenging times leading to episodic low mood and melancholia is neither effective nor acceptable. G.P.s, in the UK, do no such thing. Doctors do not prescribe antidepressant medication for grief of whatever origin nor for, “feeling low.” Depression is a medical condition with identifiable symptoms. It can be disabling. Other conditions have symptoms akin to those of depressive illness (e.g. under-active thyroid) so doctors will endeavour to rule these out seeking further tests if necessary.
Most side effects of antidepressants Mr Daniels’ lists tend to be short lived though, suicidal ideation, for example, extremely serious. For this reason patients on the type of antidepressants where this has been noted are monitored. Depression itself is a risk factor for stroke – another of the side effects he mentions – and though some evidence in the medical literature suggests one type of antidepressant may increase that risk, the evidence from those few studies is paradoxical, opening intriguing avenues for further investigation. No therapeutic drug is perfect and its use must be weighed on a risk versus benefit basis for each individual.
There is a gulf between Mr Daniels’ beliefs and facts that can be substantiated. He claims antidepressant medications to have been linked to school massacres. True, some of the perpetrators of these horrific acts had been on antidepressants either at the time of their rampages or previously. This indicates that these were individuals with mental health issues: their bloody actions evince just how extreme those problems to have been. He ascribes the violence of these troubled and mentally ill individuals to precisely the wrong cause to further his facile argument. This insults intelligence and those whose lives were taken.
So dangerous are antidepressants, he contends, that they can make killers of school children…but by what mechanism? Daniels declares the very notion that mental illness is caused by chemical imbalances a, “marketing tool” of pharmaceutical companies to bolster profits. So, I ask again, by what mechanism can they turn a depressed individual into a psychopath? “Real medicine” he asserts deals with diseases for which the evidence can be seen via microscopy. So, doctors who treat diabetes, epilepsy and even heart disease are then, not “real” doctors nor are these, by this logic, “real” conditions, diagnosed, as they are by chemical tests or scans. He urges we only seek opinions from “non-psychiatric” doctors. It is to the detriment everyone in this country who experiences mental illness that access to psychiatrists is so limited. Were I to break a bone I would not wish to be seen by a cardiologist, so why should we, as patients, take Mr Daniels seriously when he implores us not to seek psychiatric advice for psychiatric and psychological conditions?
We should, says Daniels, if diagnosed with, say, depression, demand tests proving an imbalance of neurotransmitters. That is as ridiculous as asking to see cultures of the ‘flu virus taken from your own body if your G.P. diagnoses you with that disease! Again, I must state, beware the CCHR – a group using the cover of Human Rights to promote an outdated and stigmatising ideology of what constitutes and causes mental illness.
Mrs M. O’Callaghan