Ill-thought-out, dangerous and way too simplistic
I came across this programme because, as she very often does, my mother had ripped out an article from the Daily Mail for me to read that she thought I may find interesting and/or useful (they very often are neither of these things, but I gave this one a go).
Within the first couple of paragraphs I was infuriated by the fact that Dr Van Tulleken is grouping antidepressants (drugs I have been taking for three years now, give or take) with other medication that is used for an entirely different purpose:
“I’m talking about the drugs we take because the world we live in makes us unfit, unhappy and overweight – antidepressants, painkillers and drugs like statins.”
Oh so us depressed folk take antidepressants to make us feel better cause the world makes us feel sad; it just gets us down sometimes, y’know? It’s exactly the same as having high cholesterol due to a bad diet and lack of exercise.
As a doctor of medicine I would assume you know it is much more complicated than this, Dr Van Tulleken? Not everyone who has clinical depression/anxiety or any of the other numerous disorders people take these life-saving drugs for can be treated using “non-drug alternatives such as exercise”.
Also, why are we classing mentally-ill people as ‘healthy’? He didn’t make the definition of ‘an average healthy person’ clear in his experiment, where he poured lots of fake pills into bowls to demonstrate how many this ‘average person’ will take over a lifetime. Feels more like a visual aid more invested in the shock-factor than actual facts and research.
This theme of carelessness when it comes to language used when talking about these issues continued in the documentary. In the introduction a clip was shown where Chris stated he felt “intensely depressed” at the enormity of the challenge. My jaw literally hung open. I’m guilty of using phrases such as this in a light-hearted manner, even though I know I shouldn’t because it perpetuates misconceptions and therefore the stigma surrounding mental health, but to hear not only a doctor, but a doctor who is claiming we need to stop prescribing so many antidepressants because “their effect is feeble”compared to basically just exercising (I didn’t hear or read any other alternatives apart from swimming in some cold water)…
It just shows how naive and ignorant this man clearly is, despite his arrogance and smugness, and this disgusts me. He essentially said that one woman’s chronic pain wasn’t getting any better because she was too lazy to do her exercises. Nice, huh?
Of course I recognise the dangers in prescribing so many antibiotics because bacteria are becoming immune etc., and I definitely don’t agree with just throwing antidepressants at anyone who shows signs of depression; other options should be explored and discussed and a joint decision made with the GP/psychiatrist and the patient.
The tone and attitude of both the article and the documentary was patronising and derogatory towards a wide and diverse range of patients; from the depressed to the chronic pain sufferers to those with infections.Which I would like to reiterate, shouldn’t be put into one big bundle and compared to one another.
Dr Chris Van Tulleken may have had the best intentions going in to this, but really, if you’re that clueless about the things you want to so drastically change, maybe do some research before spouting rubbish? People look to you for advice as a doctor, at least make it accurate.
At this point in my life, I need my antidepressants to keep going, get me through day to day and earn a living. Someday I really would love to come off them, but until then, I refuse to be made to feel belittled, weak and ignorant by anybody. And so should you. Whether you take antidepressants, painkillers, statins or any of the other drugs demonised by this programme.