The average age of onset for depression is 14, as diagnosed now, compared to age 45 in the 1960’s. If that statistic doesn’t give us all a moment’s pause in the current national gun control debate nothing will.
The above statistic comes from an article published today in Britain’s “The Telegraph” which cites the results of the largest scientific study ever carried out in Great Britain. The article notes that the results and recommendations of the study have been published in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal and one of the world’s oldest and best known. Perhaps the most astonishing, and disturbing, of those conclusions is this: a million more Britons should be placed on anti-depressants.
Now let’s tie the first two paragraphs of this post together with a personal story.
At age 24, I was being treated for ongoing depression. My doctor had prescribed Triavil. The generic is amitriptyline and perphenazine, a tricyclic antidepressant. Side effect warnings are as follows:
Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as: mood or behavior changes, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or if you feel impulsive, irritable, agitated, hostile, aggressive, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically), more depressed, or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself. [emphasis added].
I didn’t report any worsening symptoms. I simply tried to commit suicide, which is not uncommon for people on anti-depressants or those coming off that class of drugs. So imagine my dismay (there’s an understatement!) to read that physicians and scientists in Britain want to put 1 million more people on them.
We humans like quick, simple and generally overreaching solutions. So with mental illness, a definition that encompasses not only depression and anxiety but also a myriad of complicated and diverse conditions, of course…let’s give them all a pill and be done with it. Let’s not be bothered by the annoying and multi-faceted “why” behind the statistic of depression onset falling from age 45 to age 14 in 50 years. After all, that would require inquiry, dialogue and behavior modification, not to mention an assessment of cultural and societal influences.
It’s kind of like saying, “We’ve clearly got an increase in violent behavior by humans so let’s get rid of all the guns.” Never mind that without understanding and addressing the underlying causes of the increase in violent behavior, we humans, being the ingenious creatures that we are, will find other ways to express the violence brewing within us.
Nor do I think that the proliferation of mental illness (as found by the British study and as evident here in the U.S. as it is in Britain) is unrelated to increased violent behavior toward one another. But neither a pill nor gun confiscation will solve either of these because treating the effect without treating the cause is like putting a band aid on a visible sarcoma. You may cover up the unpleasantness you’d rather not see… but the underlying disease continues to metastasize.
Mental illness remains one of the last taboos. We are a culture where you can openly be gay but not openly depressed. Where a parent will stand side-by-side with a daughter who “identifies” as a son, but who will not acknowledge a psychotic child. Where social media revels in shaming but not compassion. Where acceptance of diversity is demanded of racial issues but not encouraged on the battle ground of ideas.
I have some advice for the British scientists and physicians who want to medicate one million more people with synthetic drugs. The only pill any of us should be taking at this point is the red pill not the blue one. And if you don’t know what that means it’s time you watch “The Matrix”…because we’re in it. Carole