Being on annual leave is great, not only do I get to prance around in my PJs all day (not unlike a working from home day if we're honest), I also get to catch up on my fill of pop culture, and respond to it in a timely manner.
Earlier today a friend shared a clip from the Victoria Darbyshire show on Instagram Stories. The segment was of a man talking about his experiences taking SSRIs. The same drugs I take to manage my anxiety disorder. The same drugs that have immeasurably improved my quality of life, and the quality of life for many many other people. In this segment this man was talking passionately about the dangers he believes these drugs hold and his own experience of violent outbursts while taking these drugs. The segment was a warm up for tonight's Panorama show which is billed as an investigation into the link between anti-depressants and violence.
Statistically there does appear to be a very small risk of psychosis as a side effect of taking an SSRI. But it is a tiny minority of people who experience these side effects. Something that Panorama acknowledges, before going on to, rather sensationally, ask 'if enough is known about this rare side effect, and if doctors are unwittingly prescribing what could be a prescription for murder'.
Stop for a minute. Think about what would cross your mind if you read that sentence in isolation. If you didn't know me beyond the fact that each day I take a tiny dose of a drug? What are you thinking?
I don't deny that SSRIs have side effects, and some of them are nasty. I know, I've had them. They are not always easy drugs to take and both doctors and patients need to be fully aware of the risks when they take these drugs. There are reasons I have regular check ups and keep tabs on my how I'm feeling. However, my problem is with the stigma that these types of headlines, segments and programmes create. It is still a big deal to be 'out' about your mental health. It is still a big deal to say 'hey I take medication for this' or 'I go to therapy' or 'I'm not well and it's to do with my mind not my body'. Throughout history people with mental health conditions have been demonised and often segregated, and if anything is going to create the image of danger that is. I had hoped we were moving away from this nonsense, but rather depressingly (I really want to make a joke right now) it doesn't feel that way.
Mental health is a huge issue, and we do need to explore it. I also believe we do need to question the use of anti-depressants, I don't think they should be a first port of call, but equally I don't think we should sensationalise one very rare side-effect because so often when we do that is all people see.
I am all for talking about mental health. I will talk about all day every day. But please can we move away from sensationalism and look at the people behind these issues. We need more documentaries like Mind over Marathon and the really excellent My Baby, Psychosis and Me rather than bloodthirsty headline grabbers.
Check out More Than My Diagnoses' excellent post on the issues surrounding this programme.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and if you have any questions you know where I am - always happy to talk about my brain!