At the risk of angering some people and sounding holier-than-thou, I will say that I am bothered by the usage of psychiatric medications around me, especially that of the SSRI depression pills and sleeping aids. Specifically, I am bothered by the widely spread usage of those aids in order to cope with stresses of busy life. Not so much by the fact that people can be traumatized by said stresses enough need pills to recover — though that is fucked up in its own way too — but by the way that said pills are so very often used to cope with the stresses, not to recover from them.
Common sense (well, my sense anyway) suggests that:
- If your work conditions are so bad a psychological hell that you cannot sleep at night, you might take a sleeping pill simply to feel better the next morning, but if you take that sleeping pill because otherwise you are not able to work at your psychological hell the next day, something is wrong. I don’t know about the countries with zero employee protection laws, but in Finland, if your work is really making you sick, you do not take a pill and go back to work, you call in sick and alert your occupational health care contacts.
- If you are a basically healthy and happy person whose work and life and schedules are so stressful that you exhaust yourself and need a pill to go on, you are using that pill not as medication but as a drug. With maybe less side effects than the amphetamine used by combat pilots, but with the same idea. If drugging yourself in order to complete your schedules sounds like a good idea to you, by all means, go ahead, but be honest about it. (On the honesty front: I hereby confess that I use caffeine as a performance-enhancing drug.) If it does not, edit your life, not your brain chemistry.
- Having a diagnosed depression (or another mental disorder) and pills to “take care of it” does not excuse you from identifying which parts of your life and habits are contributing to it or making it worse, and working to fix those parts. If anything, it makes the necessity to do so greater. If a person with a mild allergy kept on calling sick every other day and eating a ton of allergy meds a month instead of trying to avoid the problem substance and staying healthy, we’d call him a moron. For some reason we do not call burn-out cases who keep on burning themselves out nasty names, but pat them on the back understandingly and give them another prescription. Yes, I am fully aware it is harder for a person suffering from depression to change their lives or work than it is for someone allergic to onions to not eat onions. This was not a comparison, it was an analogy, and it does hold.
- The wide-spread practice in health care of giving burnt-out, depressed people depression meds without offering frequent- and long-enough counseling (at least once a week for a couple of months) at the same time or as an alternative is total fucking crap and needs to stop. (I challenge you to direct me to research that says that pills alone are as effective as counseling or counseling and pills in new, stress-induced depression. If you manage to convince me, I promise to consider changing my mind and starting to advocate putting the whole nation on SSRIs to enhance happiness and productivity. Emphasis on consider, because I still think that a society that requires us to drug the population to keep going is crap.)
Finally, a disclaimer: note that I am not anti-medication, merely anti-no-other-means. I do not believe we need to aim to be natural and pure and not use those evil drugs. Chemistry is pure, nature is dirty, and I am absolutely in favor of “better life through chemistry”, and I would altogether rather not go back to the times where I would be dead four times by now without the evil pharmacological inventions of the 20th century. I am also generally quite ok with chemical mind-enhancing, be it therapeutic, ambitious, or recreational, as long as people make informed choices, know the risks involved, and take care that in the worst case they only screw their own lives, not those of innocent bystanders. The above is absolutely not to be read as encouragement to any individual to stop using their current medication, and especially not without consulting about it with their treating professional.
It is to be read as encouragement for people who need these medications, or think they might need some, to examine their lives to recognize factors that make the symptoms worse, and to work for alleviating or removing those factors, putting focus from “coping” with undue stress to first eliminating as much of it as possible.