Antidepressants: hesitate before you medicate

Julia Jacoby

Mental health and wellness is an issue of rapidly rising recognition and controversy. We see it here at Redwood in the debate over the value of the newly established Wellness Center. However, there is one aspect of mental health that often goes unquestioned: pharmaceuticals, antidepressants in particular.

Antidepressant use in America increased by 400 percent between 1988 and 2008, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some argue that the rise in antidepressant use is due to the fact that health insurance reimbursements are higher and easier to obtain for drug treatments than for therapy, according to the American Psychological Association. This would suggest a higher rate of antidepressant use among those of lower soc

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ioeconomic status, but according to the CDC, antidepressant use between people of different socioeconomic status does not vary.

Understanding that antidepressants are not a magic fix is especially important for Redwood students and teenagers as a whole. At Redwood alone, 13 percent of students suffer from a mental illness and 47 percent of students know someone close to them who suffers from a mental illness, according to a recent Bark survey.

I am not campaigning for a complete cease in antidepressant use. While there are plenty of benefits to antidepressants, I believe they should be distributed with caution.
A recent study published by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reports that 69 percent of those taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the most common form of antidepressants, such as Prozac or Zoloft, have never had a major depressive episode, which is part of the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression. This could mean that the prescription of antidepressants is often unwarranted by the degree of depression.

For chronic disorders like depression, treatment is more than just a pill. It requires lifestyle change, like creating a strong social support or learning relaxation techniques to reduce stress, and serious self-reflection. When a person’s doctor makes no effort to help them with their depression, other than writing a prescription, it enhances the idea that medication is a cure-all, perfect solution.

There are effective means outside of antidepressants to manage depression.

A method to effectively manage depression is talk therapy. The American Psychological Association reports that the results from talk therapy tend to last longer and be less likely to require additional treatment courses than psychopharmacological treatments. Overuse of antidepressants highlights the penchant we have for easy-outs in our society. We are prone to sidelining ourselves when it comes to taking control of our lives, and this habitual passivity is reflected in our reliance on antidepressants.

Exercise releases neurotransmitters, endorphins, and endocannabinoids, which can ease depression symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition, exercise allows one to set goals. This can help those with depression because depression is partly characterized by an inherent lack of hope in the future. Reaching fitness-related goals gives people who are suffering from depression hope because it proves that they can be and feel successful. Getting in shape can also improve self confidence as it improves satisfaction with one’s body and appearance.

I don’t mean to further stigmatize or shame those taking antidepressants. However, antidepressants can’t be handed out like candy to those who may not even meet the criteria for depression. Remember there are other alternatives to medication and to stop and consider those options before rushing to take a pill.