We need to stop antidepressant shaming

They’re not all bad

This week, many have blown up, weighed in, and wrung their hands about the taboo topic of antidepressants. And it amounts to scaremongering.

The NHS reported that the number of children prescribed antidepressants has increased by 50% over the last seven years, and it doesn’t take a medical expert to realise that’s a fucking big number. And so panic ensues and there’s this advice from the WHO saying that young people shouldn’t be prescribed antidepressants indiscriminately. And that’s turned into a colossal dumbing down of the situation saying young people should steer clear of the pills full stop.

It’s all based on facts and figures, but what’s missing is the personal facts and situations.

For certainly, some people shudder at the word, others feel outright uncomfortable. But I feel neutral – if not a little bit on the positive side – and so should you.

Let me take you back six months. I was just starting my third year at Manchester after a summer in London fuelled by a cocktail of fake smiles and working so hard that I literally had no time to think about anything. I was moving back to the place I associated with being unhappy, the place that, to me, looked like the murkiest Instagram filter you could imagine, but not because of the incessant rain.

Before the summer, I’d chosen to intervene in my own thoughts and get help. The doctor sorted me out on a cognitive behavioural therapy programme and I saw a counsellor at uni. Yeah, they helped a bit, but you can only think of it like a round the world trip with Bear Grylls – there were so so many more life-changing challenges to come and a long time before it was all going to be over.

There’s absolutely nothing steady about life in general, but when you’re not in control of your emotions, anything can turn your world upside down – from one person not smiling at you in the street to your bloody pen running out in the library. And when this was happening everyday, when there were no good and bad days anymore, I knew it was time to go back to the doctor’s, and when I left, I went to pick up an SSRI, Sertraline – a type of antidepressant.

But the story wasn’t the one you’ve heard told time and again. I didn’t just rock up and get offered a “happy pill”: it took a lot of time to ensure it was the best option. Think of the received mental health story a bit like Chinese whispers, or like a painting. The artist paints an original masterpiece before it’s copied by another slightly less knowledgeable person, then printed and reproduced for the mass  market. The most genuine and beautiful paintings are originals – they’re often complex and provoke a lot of thought and feelings.

And it’s the same for an illness like depression. You can’t just reproduce a process for every case, because everyone needs something different.

Six months later and I’ve never felt so good in myself. I chose to come off Sertraline a month ago and I didn’t come crashing down and I wasn’t addicted – those are two more assumptions that have been mass-produced. You’re receiving the best support for your situation. Antidepressants are to mental health as protein shakes are to gym-ing; just like working out will bulk you up, but protein helps you on your way, counselling alone will work, but it’s a long process which can be sped up by medication.

They’re certainly not for everyone and not everyone’s lucky enough to find a medicine that works for them but antidepressant shaming need to stop. Some doctors aren’t prescribing them properly, but others are and that’s probably costing the NHS a hell of a lot.

Everyone is different, and everyone’s illness affects them in a different way. Scaring young people away from antidepressants is far from the answer.