When a talented and famous footballer chooses to hang himself…
People begin to ask questions…
The death of Gary Speed has rocked the UK and the UK media have been having a field day reporting on it. At the moment, no one knows why he did it, but there have been many theories bandied about…
There has been mention of possible depression, but no one knows for sure…
The professional footballers association has even got involved by releasing a booklet highlighting the dangers of depression. Bringing awareness to the plight of the depressed is all well and good, but what about the dangers of treating depression?
or more specifically…
Rumors are abounding across the internet, people are asking, “what drove him to it”? one of these rumors seems to be speculating that Gary Speed might have been taking anti-depressants.
Other reports are saying that he was not depressed at all…
Maybe we will find the answer after the inquest into his death?..
Whatever the reason, the man must have been in an insufferable state of absolute despair, and my thoughts go out to his family and friends..
RIP Gary Speed
May you rest in Peace
The statement by mental health charity Mind was very appropriate, I think it needs to be repeated, although I do believe that those suffering from depression should seek treatment, I would be wary of anti-depressants as a solution. Unfortunately, this is all GP’s usually have to offer…
Following the tragic news of the death of Wales manager Gary Speed, Mind has issued the following comment.
Paul Farmer, Mind Chief Executive, said:
The apparent suicide of Gary Speed is a tragic and shocking event. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this very difficult time.
The high-pressure environment of top-level sport can cause huge levels of stress and, just because someone appears to be able to carry on their usual daily life, it does not mean that they are not struggling in private.
Gary Speed is not the first footballer to experience mental distress and nor, sadly, will he be the last. The suicide of German goalkeeper Robert Enke in 2009 shows that sportsmen, like anyone else, are not immune from the devastating effects of mental health problems.
Each year, more than 4,000 people in England and Wales take their own lives and three quarters of suicides are by men. The macho culture of football means that we have seen very few professionals come forward to talk about mental health problems but It is only by speaking out about mental health, whether through the media or privately, that we can increase understanding and awareness of these issues, and encourage people to be able to seek the help that they need.
Sue Baker, Director of anti-stigma campaign Time to Change, said:
We do not yet know the circumstances around the terrible tragedy of Gary Speed’s death but we want to encourage anyone experiencing similar levels of despair to try and speak to someone, whether friend, family or their doctor. In the past few days, fellow former footballer Stan Collymore has been tweeting openly and honestly about his own ongoing battle with depression. We hope that everyone feels able to follow Collymore’s advice to seek help if they feel like this.
Some other newsworthy articles in relation to anti-depressants have also been in the news lately…
They are worthy of a read :
Antidepressants: Wonder Pills or Just a Quick Fix?
As a therapist, I have worked with dozens of people suffering from depression. Many of these people have been – wrongly, in my view – prescribed antidepressants by their GP. And not just for depression: anxiety, paranoia, eating disorders, OCD, even insomnia are now routinely tackled with this powerful medication.
Earlier this year, NHS figures obtained by the BBC showed a dramatic increase in the number of antidepressants prescribed between 2006 and 2010 – up by 43% to nearly 23 million a year. The increase was blamed on money worries and job insecurity linked to the financial crisis.
Although this increase is worrying, in one way it’s also encouraging. As someone who believes passionately that we need to remove the stigma from mental illness – until a bout of depression is seen as no more nor less unusual or embarrassing than a chest infection or migraine – I am pleased to see mental ill-health being recognised and treated. One reason so many more people are now seeking treatment is that they understand they may have a problem and feel able to ask for help. But why GPs insist on prescribing the likes of Seroxat, Cipralex or Prozac to every depressed person who enters their consulting room is beyond me.
Not only can antidepressants cause extremely unpleasant side effects, for many people they either offer little respite or actually seem to make them feel worse. Even if they do help, they only offer symptom-relief – antidepressants no more ‘cure’ depression than ibuprofen cures an abscess on your tooth. They merely elevate your mood and numb the pain enough to enable you to manage.
I should be absolutely clear here: you should never come off antidepressants suddenly or without consulting your doctor. This can be very dangerous. And although they don’t help everyone, antidepressants can – quite literally – be a life-saver for some, especially those with clinical depression. Taken for a short period, they can help people feel well enough to seek, and benefit from, one of the many effective treatments now available.
Which brings me to my main point: if you are suffering from depression (or, for that matter, stress or anxiety, the other two major forms of mental ill-health) you need to tackle its root cause. We get depressed for a reason – usually because of negative, unhelpful, self-attacking ways of thinking that need modifying. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which I use with my clients, is clinically proven to be the most effective of all the ‘talking therapies’ – and just as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression.
As is exercise – a wonderful way to tackle any form of physical or mental ill-health. Cardiovascular exercise such as jogging, swimming, cycling or brisk walking has been consistently proven to offer as much symptom relief as antidepressants. For free. With no side effects. And no waiting for up to a month to feel the benefit.
The more enlightened GPs recognise this – offering exercise ‘prescriptions’ and referring people for talking therapies rather than simply doling out pills. And surely this is what all health professionals should aim for – not just to alleviate symptoms, but to cure the actual illness.
Call me naive, but isn’t that what we’re there for?
Are You Depressed, Or Just Human?
Depression can be devastating. Its worst form, major depressive disorder, is marked by all-encompassing low mood, thoughts of worthlessness, isolation, and loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities. But this clinical description misses the deep, experiential horror of the condition; the suffocating sense of despair that can make life seem too arduous to bear.
Here’s something else we can say confidently about depression: it is complex. The cause is often a mix of factors including genetic brain abnormalities, sunlight deprivation, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and social issues including homelessness and poverty. Also, cause and effect can be hard to tease apart — is social isolation a cause or an effect of depression?
Unfortunately, we can make one more unassailable observation about depression: the disorder — or, more precisely, the diagnosis — has gone stratospheric. An astonishing 10 percent of the U.S. population was prescribed an antidepressant in 2005; up from 6 percent in 1996.
Why has the diagnosis become so popular? There are likely several reasons. It’s possible that more people today are truly depressed than they were a decade ago. Urbanized, sedentary lifestyles; nutrient-poor processed food; synthetic but unsatisfying entertainments and other negative trends, all of which are accelerating, may be driving up the rate of true depression. But I doubt the impact of these trends has nearly doubled in just ten years.
So here’s another possibility. The pharmaceutical industry is cashing in.
In 1996, the industry spent $32 million on direct-to-consumer (DTC) antidepressant advertising. By 2005, that nearly quadrupled, to $122 million. It seems to have worked. More than 164 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in 2008, totaling $9.6 billion in U.S. sales. Today, the television commercial is ubiquitous:
A morose person stares out of a darkened room through a rain-streaked window.
Quick cut to a cheery logo of an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, the most common type of antidepressant pharmaceutical).
Cross-fade to the same person, medicated and smiling, emerging into sunlight to pick flowers, ride a bicycle or serve birthday cake to laughing children.
A voiceover gently suggests, “Ask your doctor if [name of drug] is right for you.”
The message — all sadness is depression, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, this pill will make you happy, your doctor will get it for you — could not be clearer. The fact that the ad appears on television, the ultimate mass medium, also implies that depression is extremely common.
Yet a study published in the April, 2007, issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, based on a survey of more than 8,000 Americans, concluded that estimates of the number who suffer from depression at least once during their lifetimes are about 25 percent too high. The authors noted that the questions clinicians use to determine if a person is depressed don’t account for the possibility that the person may be reacting normally to emotional upheavals such as a lost job or divorce (only bereavement due to death is accounted for in the clinical assessment). And a 15-year study by an Australian psychiatrist found that of 242 teachers, more than three-quarters met the criteria for depression. He wrote that depression has become a “catch-all diagnosis.”
What’s going on?
It’s clear that depression, a real disorder, is being exploited by consumer marketing and is over-diagnosed in our profit-driven medical system. Unlike hypertension or high cholesterol — which have specific, numerical diagnostic criteria — a diagnosis of depression is ultimately subjective. Almost any average citizen (particularly one who watches a lot of television) can persuade him or herself that transient, normal sadness is true depression. And far too many doctors are willing to go along.
The solution to this situation is, unsurprisingly, complex, cutting across social, medical, political and cultural bounds. But here are three major changes that are needed immediately:
Medically, thousands of studies confirm that depression, particularly mild to moderate forms, can be alleviated by lifestyle changes. These include exercise, lowered caffeine intake, diets high in fruits and vegetables, and certain supplements, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Physicians need to be trained in these methods, as they are at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. See Natural Depression Treatment for more about these low-tech methods, or the “Depression” chapter in the excellent professional text, Integrative Medicine by David Rakel, M.D. (Saunders, 2007).
Politically, if Congress — which seems hopelessly addicted to watering down all aspects of health care reform — can’t manage to ban all DTC ads in one stroke, it should start by immediately ending those for antidepressants.
Personally, be skeptical of all DTC ads for antidepressants. The drugs may turn out to be no more effective than placebos. Many of them have devastating side effects, and withdrawal, even if done gradually, can be excruciating. While they can be lifesavers for some people, in most cases they should be employed only after less risky and expensive lifestyle changes have been tried.
Finally, recognize that no one feels good all the time. An emotionally healthy person can, and probably should, stare sadly out of a window now and then. Many cultures find the American insistence on constant cheerfulness and pasted-on smiles disturbing and unnatural. Occasional, situational sadness is not pathology — it is part and parcel of the human condition, and may offer an impetus to explore a new, more fulfilling path. Beware of those who attempt to make money by convincing you otherwise.
Are anti-depressants the cure . . .or the problem?
With record numbers of people being prescribed the drugs, doctors on the frontline are divided over their use. Anita Guidera reports
Monday November 28 2011
Anti-depressant use is at an all-time high, yet there is evidence the detrimental effects of these drugs outweigh the benefits. It is estimated that as many as one-in-five Irish people are taking anti-depressants, but serious side effects are now being linked to the drugs.
The prevailing theories that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and low serotonin levels, on which current drug treatment is based, have also been called into question by research.
While many people believe anti-depressants work for them, researchers argue that it could be a placebo effect.
David Healy, a professor at Cardiff University medical school, believes that the evidence shows that “more people are harmed than are not.
“Anti-depressants can be useful and I use them but for a lot of people the risks of the treatment far outweigh any benefit they could get.
‘People may appear to get well on the pills but often they have a condition that is going to get well within eight to 12 weeks anyway.
“Often when people, who are mild to moderately depressed, appear to respond, it is because of the placebo factor,” he said.
He also shares the controversial view of US psychiatrist Dr Peter Breggin that so-called ‘next generation’ SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) anti-depressants can cause bizarre behaviour.
Professor Healy appeared as an expert witness in the inquest into the tragic death of Shane Clancy (22) at which the jury returned an open verdict. Mr Clancy stabbed Sebastian Creane (22) to death in Bray in August 2009 before turning the knife on himself.
Prof Healy testified that behaviour, such as suicidal or violent thinking, seen in some patients prescribed SSRIs, such as Seroxat or Cipramil, arose not from the patient’s condition but from the drugs.
He has called for the warnings to be strengthened to emphasise that the drug can cause the problem.
His position is sharply at odds with the Irish College of Psychiatry (ICP) which issued a statement in the aftermath of the inquest claiming there was “no evidence” to link the use of anti-depressants with violence.
The ICP also pointed out that anecdotal cases of suicide “sometimes mistakenly” attributed these events to the treatment rather than the illness.
Drogheda-based GP and board member of Aware, Dr Harry Barry, remains convinced that anti-depressants have a role to play as part of the overall treatment of someone suffering from depression.
“Depression is a physical illness as well as a psychological illness that may require drug therapy treatment.
“The person has to be feeling better before they can get involved in talk therapy which helps them get better.
“In the initial stages, if a person is not functioning properly, anti-depressants are very helpful to help a person’s mood and energy levels come up. Then you can bring in the lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet,” he explained. A GP training programme in mental health education, being rolled out by the Irish College of General Practitioners, is also placing more emphasis on alternatives to medication.
The approach is three-pronged, including a recommended reading list, exercise and counselling.
“Anti-depressants work very well for some people but should they always be the first port of call? And is the chemical masking an underlying condition?” asks Pearse Finegan, director of the Mental Health Project with the Irish College of General Practitioners.
Former Glenroe actress Mary McEvoy, who is training for a mini-marathon to raise funds for Aware, remains convinced depression is caused by low serotonin.
“I think there is a chemical element to my depression. I have been on and off anti-depressants over the years. I would come off them with doctor advice, but then after a while I would up my medication with my doctor’s advice again, so that is how I survive” she said.
Groups such as MindFreedom Ireland and Mad Pride Ireland, whose members have been through the drug regime with detrimental consequences, advocate a drug-free approach. Cork grandmother Mary Maddock (64) — a founder member of MindFreedom Ireland — was on a cocktail of drugs, including antidepressants, for 15 years. Mary is now drug-free and feeling better than ever.
“It was a huge re-awakening. I noticed straight away that I was able to think and feel again,” she said.
This is what SSRI drugs like Seroxat (Paxil) does to people …