Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pop-culture cruelty

Why do people get confused and think that people take antidepressants to make themselves happy? I even overheard a medical student saying that a side-effect of taking antidepressants for another medical condition could be happiness. 
Pop culture references also make this mistake (see "Everyone's at it" by Lily Allen), comparing taking antidepressants with the consumption of illicit drugs. This kind of finger-pointing could be a way to justify illicit drug use in the mind of the user, stigmatise psychiatric drugs to justify their own avoidance of help, or just reveal an overwhelming misunderstanding of the necessity of pharmaceutical therapy to people with mental illness.
Sure, people often treat their own symptoms with alcohol or recreational drugs, but this is never the assumption that is made. It is often thought that people are using prescription anti-depressants to avoid their problems or make themselves unnaturally happy, when anybody who has been on antidepressants knows that there is no such thing as an easy cure. 
It is just so frustrating when stigmatisation of mental illness and its treatments is so openly accepted and present in the public media and everyday life. In general, people getting treatment aren't avoiding their issues, they are getting help for them, and anything that discourages this is just cruel and ignorant.


Milk and Two Sugars said...

Indeed. I also hate the common misconception that being schizophrenic means one has a "split personality". At least you, as the medical person seeing a patient or talking with a friend, can reinforce all the aspects of the necessity and appropriateness of pharmacologic treatment for depression. Your opinion will mean more to them than that of popular society (though ignorant family members seem very hard for depressed patients to deal with).

The Girl said...

True - thanks for the comment. :)
It always confounds me that people take so much of their opinions and "knowledge" from the popular media, and I think that they share a good burden of responsibility for increasing the pain of unwell patients.
Another one that gets me is the popular misconception that people with anorexia can just snap out of it and start eating again. It causes them a lot of pain and lost friendships.

The Shrink said...

It's not widely seen to be something that heightens mood, in the UK. Drug use is a big problem (or recreation) here but folk on street corners ain't peddling paroxetine.

And as M&2S says, we're in a powerful position to Tell It Like It Is with patients, challenging misconceptions.

But I'm totally with you that there's huge misunderstandings and prejudice and misrepresentation around mental illnesses.

Dragonfly said...

So true. Antideps are often known as "happy pills", and I once made themistake of referring to them as such in front of a GP who took exception and explained in great depth how they are "normal pills" not "happy pills". Mind you I have a friend who takes her prn (I query the effectiveness of this regimen).
What The Girl said is so true....the few ignoramuses in my class (12 months of having a licence to prescribe) who still say "those attention seekers should just get over themselves". Doesn't help anyone, except their sense of superiority and self righteousness.