Let's Talk About Anti-Depressants
Let's Talk About Anti-Depressants
Today’s society is very complex. There are lot of stresses and strains that can take have an effect on people, which in turn can develop into depression, anxiety or a mood disorder. Antidepressants are used to treat these illnesses and to prevent them from reoccurring. They can also be used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress.
These illnesses and the medicine to treat them still hold a lot of stigma in cultures all over the world today. This is due to a lack of education about what they are and what they do.
So let’s get educated!
To understand antidepressants, people need to understand why those who are on them take them. Many studies have been conducted to understand this. Depression has been linked to a multitude of things that we all deal with on an everyday basis. Researchers at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada found that consumers of fast food, when compared to those that eat little or none, are 51% more likely to develop depression. The study was published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition, assessed nearly 9,000 people who had not suffered from depression previously; 493 were diagnosed with depression after approximately six months and were put on antidepressants. This shows that absolutely anything can be a trigger of mental health illnesses and that no one is immune.
A lot of the time there is also a lot of scepticism in relation to how effective antidepressants are, with some people arguing that they are purely a placebo. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom believes that antidepressants benefit most people to some degree, however, research suggests that they may not be as effective as previously thought in cases of mild depression. That said, they are the most effective treatment in relieving symptoms quickly. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK, estimates that 50 to 65% of people treated with antidepressants will see and improvement, compared to the 25 to 30% of those taking placebo pills.
Antidepressants work by increasing the levels of chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. Certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and noradrenaline, can improve mood and emotion, although how this works still not fully understood. Whilst antidepressants can help to treat the symptoms of the illness, they do not always address the causes. This is why they are usually used in combination with therapy in severe cases.
In Northern Ireland employers have been encouraged to have a greater understanding of mental health issues. A local charity called, Aware Defeat Depression, which works exclusively with those with depressed states, says that while depression is becoming less stigmatised there are still barriers which make it less acceptable as a physical illness. The charity’s Chief Executive, Siobhan Doherty believes that “there is a certain element of society that stigmatises mental illness and depression”. For example she argues that if she was to call work with the flu, that it would be ok. However, if she was to say she had depression it would be a lot more difficult.
According to Northern Ireland’s 2012 statistics, the number of men and women diagnosed with depression increased in every health trust over the past few years. More than 2.5 million antidepressants prescriptions were dispensed, which is about 1 million more than in 2007. Siobhan says that the charity is helping an increasing number people, both men and women, young and old and across all social classes, because depression doesn’t discriminate who it affects.
This is just one example of organisations fighting the stigma of antidepressants. The most effective way to defeat the stigma is to talk about to help people to understand it. Once is it understood it is more likely to be accepted.
We must learn to accept depression, and mental health issues in general, to the same extent that we accept physical illnesses, or we risk undoing all the good work and progress that has been made in this field.
Nina is in her Honours year at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow studying History. She loves keeping fit and healthy at the gym and singing to her hearts content. Because of Nina's love of all things history related, she has a passion for reading, writing and researching. Nina is the Editor-in-Chief for an online magazine for female students at Strathclyde called Her Campus Strath and wants to continue her passion for writing after graduation.