Editorial Note: – This continues our series of the lethal effects of akathisia running on RxISK and davidhealy.org – with special reference to Little Red SSRIding Hood and Even Docs get killed by Akathisia.
Akathisia and treatment induced suicide took a political turn over the weekend, along with the issue of whether teenagers should be informed of these risks, when Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservative party, widely regarded as one of the most formidable political operators in Britain, revealed that she had had mental health problems when she was a teenager.
She had been affected in ways that surprised her by the death of a boy of her own age living nearby. He wasn’t a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, or someone particularly close to her. This was in the mid to late 1990s when SSRI use was escalating rapidly before Panorama raised concerns about their use in children and brought a slow down in the growth of use to teenagers.
Davidson ended up going to her doctor, who gave her antidepressants. She started having weird dreams, became suicidal, and would find herself outside her body. She went back to the doctor several times. Each time the dose was increased and her problems got worse. She took herself off the medication and improved.
From Ruth to Sven
Ruth Davidson comes over as someone who has a mind of her own, unlike the Belgian Minister for Youth Sven Gatz who has been on antidepressants for over twenty years and promotes them as necessary for him and others – every time he tries to stop he learns he needs to continue.
Even if akathisia hasn’t been present first time around, repeated stopping and starting destabilises the system so that someone who was apparently helped to begin with can run into increasing difficulties even on pills they have felt good on before.
This raises a question about whether politicians should be on antidepressants. In addition to akathisia, these drugs can cause an emotional numbing and disinhibition not unlike alcohol abuse. While the civil service – bureaucracy – deep state – compensates for politicians when they are inebriated or agitated, removing documents from their desk to ensure nothing gets done impulsively or whimsically, there is still greater scope for things to go wrong when politicians are chronically destabilised by psychotropic drugs, whether prescription or non-prescription.
The argument that surely its better have a politician with a mental disorder on treatment than not doesn’t hold water in that the number of people with a mental disorder so significant that it might jeopardise their decision-making is dwarfed by the number of people on treatment, who might have mental distress but who don’t have a disorder, whose judgement is compromised by treatment induced akathisia, disinhibition and psychosis.
This argument of course applies also to pilots, fire-fighters, the police and others whose jobs involve judgement calls.
If not Meds, then What?
For the most part, antidepressant use is not going up. The numbers are going up but this is primarily caused by the fact that the people who go on them can’t get off them so the overall numbers rise year on year.
Except that is for teenagers where more and more teens and pre-teens are being put on these drugs year on year.
Why is this? Is it because there is more distress in the world today? The people I ask split down the middle between those who figure life is more difficult now than it was 20 years ago or those who figure the world is an easier place than ever before and to think otherwise is to indulge snowflakes.
Whichever side of this divide you fall on you don’t get an antidepressant if you don’t take your distress to a doctor – so it could be things are more or less difficult but that whichever it is whatever distress we now have we are more likely to take it to a doctor. Fifty years ago distressed teenagers took their alienation to the streets and to politics, now we take it to doctors.
What’s a doctor to do faced with existential distress? Maybe it’s a case of our doctors turning into snowflakes. They throw up their hands at the first sign of distress and dish out pills in order to get people out of their consulting room – pills that 30 out of 30 trials in this age group show are unlikely to help and are very likely to cause significant problems.
Depending on doctors to save us is probably a mistake. But what about parents. Ruth Davidson had some good words for parents.
The Edinburgh University I attended seemed populated by incredibly confident, loud and forceful students, who had all gone to posh private schools, who all knew each other, had all done a gap year building orphanages in Tanzania or shelters for orang-utans in Borneo. They all seemed to have money and cars and an unshakeable belief in themselves and their place in the world.
If I’d known then that knowledge is not the same thing as intelligence and confidence is not the same thing as ability, I might not have struggled so much.
You don’t have to agree with what’s being said here to get the message that faced with a teenager in distress there is a place for an older person whether a parent or a doctor who has been through this whitewater turbulence themselves to craft a message that will keep a floundering teen afloat until they can manage it for themselves.