“Anxiety, depression,” he explains, “all of these things are caused by a lack of serotonin in your brain. It’s a chemical imbalance… People have this idea about depression; that it’s a ghost, it’s a mythical, magical thing. It’s not. it’s science.”
…“I decided to humanise my issues and gave them a name I hated – Jeoffrey,” he said. “Humanising it meant that I could start to talk to it, and do things that I knew wouldn’t make it happy. I know it sounds so strange, but by normalising it, I knew I could begin to deal with it and treat it. “
“This huge panic attack took hold of me literally minutes before I was due to go on stage. I managed to go on, but to this day, I still don’t know how I did it,” he said”.
Some listeners took to social media afterwards to say they were “very impressed” with Bressie for speaking out about his issues.
“Very impressed with Bressie on this thoughts re depression,” said one twitter user.
Dr Terry Lynch:
Mainstream medicine is “vehemently defending” anti-depressants which may in time been seen as addictive and troublesome drugs and will not have the same level of use as they have now.
Limerick-based Dr Terry Lynch, author of the controversial book Beyond Prozac, told the Irish Examiner that just as the medical profession had admitted that benzodiazepines were addictive and harmful in some cases, he believed the same could happen with commonly used anti-depressants known as SSRIs.
Dr Lynch said he had dealt with several cases where people were trying to withdraw from the tablets.
“It is common for people to experience withdrawal symptoms. People find it very difficult to come off the drugs and it is not supported in society. Doctors don’t support. They don’t want people to come off them and there is no plan for people who do.”
Dr Lynch, who also trained as a psychotherapist, said he only took people off medication when he was satisfied they could cope.
“It would not be uncommon for a psychiatrist not to recommend counselling or psychotherapy because they feel the person is not ready for it. The long-term use of medication without a focus on recovery is highly questionable.
“There is clear evidence people can recover and this should be the focus — instead the focus is on maintenance.”
Dr Lynch said the theory of a “chemical imbalance” was simply a lie, and a reason given to legitimise the widespread prescribing of pills.
“Drug companies learned a long time ago the way to sell their drugs is to persuade the medical profession there is something wrong.
“The only thing SSRIs have been demonstrated to do is to interfere with the uptake of serotonin between brain nerve cells.
“We have no idea if that is a good thing or a bad thing, what normal levels should be in the first place, so no idea what abnormal levels are. It’s a great story and a great way to sell the idea.”
Dr Lynch said that although it was difficult to speak out against the medical “brotherhood”, his only interest was the truth.
“If you do speak out you become quite alienated, but I am OK with that— I know I am very unpopular in certain circles but I don’t care.”
(Terry Lynch 2012)
There are two books out at the moment from two very different Irish mental health activists, Bressie (Niall Breslin), and Dr Terry Lynch.
Dubliner Bressie, is a media darling in Ireland; and he has the looks, the model girlfriend and the rock star/rugby player image to back that status up. He has also just written a book about his own mental health issues; in particular, his struggles with anxiety and depression. It’s called ‘Me and My mate Jeffrey‘ because apparently Bressie named his anxiety problem ‘Jeffrey’, and this helped him battle the demon of panic. I haven’t read it, but it is being very highly publicized in Ireland at the moment, because Bressie, it seems, has a very high profile in the Irish celebrity arena.
The other Irish mental health activist, with a book out at the moment, is Limerick man Dr Terry Lynch. Terry is a former GP, and currently he works primarily as a psychotherapist and author. He might not be a celebrity in the traditional sense, but for those of us who have been harmed by psychiatric drugs and psychiatry- he is more than a hero. He is an utterly genuine patient advocate and he is highly respected in the Irish arena of mental illness discourse- and beyond. The eminent Irish psychiatrist, Ivor Browne, said of Terry that:
“…For the past ten years or more, Terry Lynch has been one of the very few doctors within the medical profession in Ireland who has been prepared to question the psychiatric understanding of and approach to human suffering. He has consistently called for a reappraisal of how human suffering and distress is interpreted and responded to within modern western societies, a reappraisal that I support, that I believe is urgently required in the public interest…”
Terry has just released his third book on depression and ‘mental illness’, it’s called ‘Depression Delusion: Volume One- The Myth of The brain Chemical Imbalance. Terry’s book focuses on the great Serotonin myth of Depression. This is a myth which was, invented by pharmaceutical companies, and promoted widely (with the help of the psychiatric profession). However, Terry’s book thoroughly debunks it once and for all (the theory itself has long been discredited but the myth seems to remain quite potent in the public mind). My review of Terry’s book can be found here, and although the book has literally just been released, it seems to be causing quite a stir already (and I’m sure over the coming months it will cause even more controversy- as the truth often does).
The problem I have with Bressie’s views that depression and anxiety are due to ‘chemical imbalances’ is not merely because this view is false and incorrect, but I also believe that it is quite dangerous to promote the (now fully discredited) chemical imbalance approach of depression to vulnerable people. Vulnerable people need, first and foremost, to understand, that what they are suffering is valid. The ‘chemical imbalance’ idea solely relates to the prescribing of drugs, it has no other purpose other than validating taking drugs to treat depression (it was originally a pharma marketing scam after all). It also distracts people away from thinking that they have any agency in rectifying their depression and anxiety because they are led to believe that their mood, or emotional difficulties, or stresses etc, are merely down to brain malfunction of some sort (and the myth then promotes the idea that of course we have pills which fix this malfunction). This is dis empowering for the individual in distress. The chemical imbalance fraud (and make no mistake it is a fraud) plays straight into the psychiatric/pharmaceutical profit driven view that medication should be the first line (and superior- in their view) treatment for depression and anxiety (this makes billions for Pharma and does a great disservice both to the illness and the patient). It does nothing for the advancement of a deep understanding of depression in society, and it nullifies any attempts that good people such as Terry Lynch (and others) are trying to make towards a more compassionate and humane response towards depression. How are we to achieve any real holistic progression in the understanding of depression when this scientifically unsound theory continues to be promoted?
Depression is not simply a chemical imbalance, there is no scientific test to measure these chemical imbalances. There is no scientific foundation for this claim. It’s simply an outdated, ignorant and irresponsible claim to make. Furthermore, the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory has hooked millions of people over the years, world-wide, on drugs which they now cannot come off, and for many they shouldn’t have been prescribed them in the first place. There is now an epidemic of long term SSRI (anti-depressant) addicts who- despite horrendous side effects- cannot come off their ‘medication’ because the withdrawals are too severe. (see Surviving Antidepressants Forums for countless harrowing stories of SSRI addiction/dependence etc).
Many of these unwitting addicts were told they had a ‘chemical imbalance’ for life and that SSRI anti-depressants were like taking insulin for diabetes. I was one of these people, I was told this, I was conned. I am now off them, but after 3 years on antidepressant’s (Seroxat) they utterly fried my brain. It took me a few years to recover after Seroxat. I wasn’t warned of side effects, and now, I spend a lot of time warning others about them. But it’s difficult to get the truth out when celebrities, such as Bressie, don’t adequately warn people, but instead- utter outdated nonsense about ‘chemical imbalances’ (a theory which even some hard-core biological psychiatrists are trying to move away from now because they know the game is up).
Even some pharmaceutical companies themselves, such as GSK for example (manufacturers of Seroxat/Zyban and Wellbutrin) have moved away from research into chemical compounds for depression. They claim it’s too risky, which means in other words- not viable, and perhaps also due to the amount of lawsuits for failing to disclose side effects of SSRI etc… perhaps drug companies just couldn’t be bothered with the risk anymore? Nevertheless, this begs the question, if psychiatry have abandoned the claim of chemical imbalances, and the drugs industry no longer bothers to research further into the notion, who will tell all the patients that have, and continue to be- duped into believing they have an utterly unprovable faulty brain with chemicals out of whack?
Websites such as Mad In America contain many insights into the human condition, psychiatry, anti-depressants, and every other conceivable angle that transverses these themes. Mad In America is written by highly educated, professional people; most who work at the stark interface of mental heath. Mad In America wouldn’t publish anything as ridiculous as promoting the defunct ‘chemical imbalance theory’ because the authors there know that the issues surrounding depression are vastly more complex and nuanced. Authors (and doctors) such as Dr Terry Lynch, Dr Peter Breggin, Dr David Healy, Dr Paula Caplan, Dorothy Rowe, Richard Bentall, James Davies, Joanna Moncrief, Prof Peter Gotzsche, and many others have been expressing highly insightful views on depression treatment, the nature of depression and how it should be tackled, and the dangers of SSRI drugs for years. These people are honest, genuine patient advocates. They are concerned at the damage which the medical model is causing vulnerable people. Anti-depressant usage, particularly long term, is causing immeasurable harm. The ‘chemical imbalance’ myth perpetuates this harm.
Another problem I have, with how celebrities such as Bressie, promote their view of depression as a chemical imbalance is: they tell people to go and seek help but they don’t tell people that the main help which they will receive (if they seek it) will invariably be anti-depressants because it is SSRI antidepressants (such as the drug I was prescribed- Seroxat) that are the first line treatment by GP’s. So even if hypothetically- say 50 young people (for example) heed Bressie’s advice this month, because they hear him on the radio, or TV, and they go and seek help, how many will receive adequate treatment such as talk therapy? How many will be even offered it as an option? How many can even afford it? Even if they request some counseling, the waiting list for therapy in Ireland is over 6 months long (at least it is publicly), and in some cases (in some areas, such as rural areas etc) its non existent. For those that can afford it they will be lucky, but many young people in deprived areas etc, what are they supposed to do? just take meds? and be content with that? Are they to be satisfied that their doctor has given them some chemicals to fix their faulty brains? What if, for example, some kid is being bullied in school or college, and they become stressed or anxious, does Bressie think that their anxiety is due to an imbalance? or due to the bullying? Or how about an young adult male, for the sake of another example- with low self esteem- who breaks up with his girlfriend, and feels down, and depressed? has this guy suddenly developed a chemical imbalance that can be fixed with a drug? or should he be seeking some proper talk therapy?
So realistically, when someone like Bressie (unwittingly or ignorantly) promotes the idea that depression is simply a ‘chemical imbalance’, and he tells depressed and anxious (and very vulnerable) people to seek help, he is (perhaps misguidedly) leading them either towards the highly medicalized psychiatric system or their GP. In either case, he is pushing people towards a choice of an SSRI anti-depressant (or whatever their doc recommends) as opposed to any real choice in their own holistic treatment (such as psychotherapy/nutrition/counselling- advice etc). Even if Bressie really does believe that depression is a chemical imbalance, he admits himself that he doesn’t take medication to treat his ‘chemical imbalance’ (he uses exercise) so why is he promoting that model to everyone else who is depressed and anxious in Ireland?
This is Bizarre..
Bressie’s website My1000hours also contains some very dubious ‘advice’ from Dr Jim Lucey.
Some of it is completely outrageous.
I am sure that Dr Terry Lynch would have a field day with the nonsensical blurb which Jim Lucey has provided in explaining psychiatric drugs and illnesses for the readers of Bressie’s website (bear in mind that Bressie’s opinion resonates and influences many young people’s perspectives of how they see themselves- and their depression and anxiety). Terry has deconstructed literally hundreds of examples of misinformation about anti-depressants and depression- similar to the blurb above -in his brilliant new book ‘Depression Delusion’. Therefore, I won’t go too far into the content which Lucey has uttered here, but lets just say it’s rife with misinformation- for example, he says that ‘anti-depressants are not addictive’. They might not be addictive in the traditional meaning of the word- but they do cause dependence though (people can’t come off them so they are in a way addicted). Lucey doesn’t warn of that. They also can cause severe withdrawals when you try to come off them (I’m talking soil your under-pants, drenched in sweat, suicidal feelings, vice like headaches for months on end types of withdrawal), and even on them- the side effects can be unbearable. Lucey fails to mention any of this.
He also says that anti-depressants rarely need to be taken for 12 months, however, I – like many others- was prescribed Seroxat for over 3 years. It’s very common to be prescribed these drugs longer than a year. Many people are actively encouraged by their doctors, or psych, to remain on these meds for much longer than a year. Some are even on them 20 years are more, and worse still- they simply can’t come off them; even though the meds are now causing them more problems than the condition that they were initially prescribed them for. Jim Lucey doesn’t warn of any of this, and neither does Bressie. I think this is highly irresponsible of both of them, particularly considering a lot of Bressie’s fans would be young people. Does Bressie know, for example, that the antidepressant, Seroxat, is banned for under 18’s because it makes them suicidal? Does he also know that GSK (the manufacturers of Seroxat) even warn now (after immense public pressure) that Seroxat can cause suicidal thoughts, and that they advise particular monitoring of young people (under 29) because of the danger of suicide from Seroxat? All the SSRI’s have similar dangers. Bressie either doesn’t know this, or maybe he hasn’t done his research, but Jim Lucey would certainly be aware of this, yet he fails to warn, why?
I think it’s very lazy of Bressie that he can’t even seem to be bothered to educate himself about SSRI anti-depressants, their deleterious side effects, their history, how they were marketed, and the controversy which has surrounded their use (and abuse) for over two decades now. Instead he has left it up to Jim Lucey to explain, and in doing so he has helped Jim Lucey (and his biological psychiatry agenda) spread absurd mis-information about depression and anti-depressants (despite the fact, that we know that Bressie has said he doesn’t take them himself).
Dr David Healy and Robert Whitaker have written extensively on these drugs, they are both eminent experts in their respected fields. Bressie should read Robert Whitaker’s Mad In America, and then he should read Dr Terry Lynch’s ‘Depression Delusion‘. If he does, he might realize then, that the misinformation he is promoting is highly dangerous, and can lead to many vulnerable people ending up in medication traps, and medication merry go rounds. Oftentimes, those who suffer mental distress such as depression and anxiety have had extremely traumatic experiences. It is this trauma which leads to their anxieties, and depressions. They are human responses to life events, and not everyone has an ability to use methods like exercise as a means to counter their trauma, and certainly leading them towards a clinical response such as psychiatric medication can often lead to disaster.
This is Dr David Healy’s website should Bressie wish to educate himself a little deeper into this highly complex arena of pharmaceuticals and depression marketing, and how these issues impact greatly upon real people’s lives:
And this is Dr Terry Lynch’s Website -should Bressie need to delve further into intelligent ways of tackling depression: Ways which do not hinge around pseudo scientific imaginings of immeasurable chemical imbalances in people’s brains, but rather ways that offer deep, meaningful, and compassionate approaches to this highly complex, and highly individuated, distressing aspect of the human condition and experience.
Medication does have a place perhaps, but that place should be a last resort, not first line treatment. And if medication is offered, it should be with full informed consent, the side effects should be highlighted, not dumbed down, and withdrawal symptoms discussed (this rarely happens) and telling someone they have a chemical imbalance is just fraudulent, it’s a lie, because there is no test for it.
I also have a serious issue with Bressie’s involvement with the Aware organization, and the various mental health promotions he does for St Patricks psychiatric hospital (of which Lucey is linked- to both Aware and St Pats). However, that is a post for another day.. or I might add to this one in the future…
But for now..
I will leave some interviews and videos from people that know what they are talking about when it comes to depression, anxiety and the notorious ‘meds’…
An interview with Dr Terry Lynch (Part 1)
Why do you think mental health and mental health problems are such difficult areas for society to understand? In what way are attitudes changing in Ireland and across the globe?
There are a number of reasons why mental health and mental health problems are poorly understood within society. As a society (in keeping with most Westernised countries), we have made the fundamental error of judgement of believing that mental health problems are fundamentally biological in origin. This has not been established (for example, there are no physical or biological tests for any mental health problem, because the often-stated chemical and/or neurological abnormalities have not been proven or established). Yet because society’s appointed experts (principally, psychiatry) say that mental health problems are primarily biological in origin, people are at a loss to truly make sense of and understand mental health problems.
What is needed is a revision of our understanding of mental health and mental health problems, to include a far more comprehensive understanding of emotional and mental health, and mental health problems, than currently prevails. A key starting point is to understand why emotional and mental health problems make sense, how they can be understood. Pathologizing human feelings and experiences is not necessarily the most productive way forward. It is also necessary to revise what we interpret to be normal and abnormal. This needs to be the platform from which emotional and mental health problems are responded to. In addition, stigma, fear and prejudice surrounds mental health and mental health problems. These issues would become far less and might indeed disappear if, as I outlined above, we had a far more comprehensive understanding of emotional and mental health, and emotional and mental health problems.
Regarding attitudes in Ireland and across the globe, one of the most striking developments in mental health worldwide including Ireland has been the growth of the mental health service user movement. This movement is gathering pace internationally and Ireland. This movement calls for a greater emphasis to be placed on recovery, on greater involvement of the service user in their own care decisions, on alternatives and other options to medication, on having choices, and on human values such as respect and dignity. I hope that this movement continues to grow, in strength and in number. In Ireland, the speed at which mental health policy changes nave been introduced over the past six years has been disappointing, only partly due of the recession
You have a strong focus on mental recovery. What are the main issues you meet as you campaign to raise awareness of mental wellbeing and how do you overcome them?
Strange as it may seem, there is considerable resistance and reluctance to properly address the issue of mental health recovery in Ireland, as in many other developed countries. Mental health recovery was a key recommendation of A Vision for Change, Ireland’s official mental health policy since 2006. I have been involved in A Vision for Change for the past 9 years, having been on the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy (2003-6) that formulated A Vision for Change, and having been on the Independent Monitoring Group (2006-12) that monitors the implementation of A Vision for Change. In each of the past six years, this Group has reported considerable disappointment at the lack of progress on mental health recovery within Irish mental health services.
A recurring issue I encounter is the belief that mental health problems are frequently considered to be life-long; once a person has had a serious mental problem, the presumption is often made that they now have a life long problem. I have regularly found that this often need not be the case. I have repeated found that what is fundamentally emotional distress is frequently misinterpreted, and repackaged, as mental illness. As a society, we really need to re-evaluate how we interpret and package emotional distress as mental illness. I use every opportunity I can to promote a more comprehensive and accurate understanding, of emotional distress and mental health.
You say the science of psychiatry needs to be questioned in detail, asking ‘where is the science to back up this biological of mental health module we operate?’. Where have your investigations led?
In the public interest, as a matter of considerable urgency, the science of psychiatry needs to be questioned in detail. For decades, psychiatrists and GPs have confidently informed their patients that their mental health problems are caused by known brain disorders, most commonly, by chemical imbalances in the brain. These statements have been made so frequently and for so long that the public have generally come to accept this as truth, as gospel. The truth is that chemical imbalances have not been identified for any mental health condition, including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, despite what you may have heard about serotonin. Yet, no person ever has their supposed chemical imbalance confirmed by any test, ever, anywhere in the world. No such tests exist, because no chemical imbalances have been established. This is misinformation on a grand scale, something which should not be allowed or tolerated, particularly in a modern, well-educated and generally well-informed country such as Ireland.