Massacre of the Innocents

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December 23, 2014 | 4 Comments


  1. I saw two Psychiatrists who both assured me Seroxat was safe to use in pregnancy. My own inner doubts prevented me from upping my dosage as advised, but I knew to ignore them would be to go against doctors orders. It was my own research which led me to feel my concerns were justified.

    There are a lot of angry comments coming through from mothers on social media and in forums saying that to question the safety of antidepressants in pregnancy is ‘scaremongering’ and that GP’s who suggest pregnant women stop an antidepressant are irresponsible because they don’t understand the significance of the illness. It’s tricky to have a conversation around this which empowers not patronizes and which doesn’t leave new mums feeling guilty about their treatment options.

    There have been two recent blog posts around SSRI’s which have left me uneasy. The first a piece by mother Hayley Carter which came off the back of the tragic Charlotte Bevan case in Bristol. The author makes no reference to risks versus benefits and doesn’t acknowledge that these types of medications affect people in different ways. I doubt very much the blog author intended it to frighten women, but it reads to me like a sort of pharma propaganda- unless you want to harm yourself and your baby in pregnancy you had better stay on your medication etc.

    Whilst not directly talking about pregnancy I was also forwarded a post today written by Professor Jim Lucey (medical director of St. Patricks Hospital Dublin) who wrote a recent intro to SSRI’s. In his defence it is only an introduction but even so statements like “Antidepressants save lives” and “Antidepressants are not addictive” are bold statements which leave little room for discussion.

    If we want to encourage women to make smart health choices we have to give both sides of the story and allow a dialogue between patient and doctor which factors in their individual needs. It can’t be a one size fits all approach. I’m worried that in trying to reassure women around issues of safety we could potentially be doing more harm than good.

  2. Sarah,
    Well meaning people like the writer of that blog, Bressie, can unintentionally misinform their numerous fans. He says when it comes to depression and anxiety, it can be quite frightening and confusing – as there is so much information on the internet. He says his friend, Professor Jim Lucey, is one of the most respected Psychiatrists in the country.

    He also said in a previous article – ” “Anxiety, depression,” he explains, “all of these things are caused by a lack of serotonin in your brain. It’s a chemical imbalance, and the one thing sport and physically challenging yourself does, is it gives you serotonin — that’s a fact, no matter who you are. People have this idea about depression; that it’s a ghost, it’s a mythical, magical thing. It’s not. it’s science”.

    Despite the lack of any scientific evidence, and however well-intentioned, Bressie obviously believes in the tale of the chemical imbalance. I can’t honestly say whether Jim Lucey believes it too, but he might find a longer chat with his friend may prove beneficial.

  3. Hi Leonie,
    I must admit I hadn’t heard of Niall Breslin until recently when I saw a talk he gave in Dublin about his experiences of anxiety and depression. I don’t know a great deal about him but I thought his talk was very moving and very brave. If he is able to use his public profile to encourage young people to seek help and to reduce stigma around mental health then I applaud him. I’m sure his experiences will resonate with many.

    The potential pitfall is what happens after you ask for help. I worry that there’s a tendency to write out a prescription and we sometimes forget to treat the individual. Its easy to put people into a box. ‘depressed’ ‘anxious’ or whatever. A friend of mine left a concert early recently, she felt weak and unwell and vomited on her way home. Her GP diagnosed anxiety and prescribed a beta blocker. She wasn’t anxious! She explained this to the doctor but they insisted she took the prescription.

    From my own experience I have heard GP’s often say things like “This drug is effective for most people.” and “most people don’t have any ill effects.” What happens if you’re not most people? I’m not against medication but I think people ought to be warned about potential side effects and to be encouraged to revisit their GP if they have concerns. The pregnancy debate is a difficult one of course because instead of treating one person you’re now effectively treating two. Whereas mum can voice concerns baby cant and we might not know if any damage has been done until its too late.

  4. When I was pregnant I was taking zoloft for PTSD. I told the doctor I wanted to taper off for the sake of the baby but he became angry and adamant that I keep taking the drug. I asked him if it was safe and he said he didn’t know. Next thing I know he’s making me sign some kind of waiver freeing him of any fault if the baby is harmed or born addicted. How is that legal? It was like he was saying “You HAVE to do this, but if something goes wrong its on you not me.” Ive never heard of this before! I feel so deceived and guilty even though I know I didn’t cause this. but that never ever ever takes the guilt away.

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