Is a ‘pill for every ill’ culture putting Sunderland top of depression league?

A GP writing out a prescription. Credit Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
A GP writing out a prescription. Credit Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
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It would be nice to think that Sunderland topping the North East antidepressant league is a positive development.

Those putting an upbeat spin on the tale may say that the statistics suggest that everyone suffering from depression is getting the treatment they need, or that people in our community are more open to discussing their mental health concerns than they are elsewhere in the country.

With nigh on two antidepressant prescriptions per head being dished out, surely it means we are quick to diagnose and treat depression! We fear, however, this is not the case and Sunderland topping this league is not good news.

Certainly, antidepressants do play a significant part in helping people cope with depression, but there are concerns these statistics suggest a different problem. While antidepressants are effective in dealing with severe depression, they are not a cure-all wonder drug.

There’s a school of thought that the high volume of pills is due to doctors coming under increasing pressure to prescribe drugs when they are perhaps not the best answer to the condition.

We live in a society which likes the idea of there being a ‘pill for every ill.’ The quick fix is always the preferred option.

As such, patients are pressurising doctors into prescribing drugs when they are simply unhappy, not depressed.

At the same time, alternative treatments - like counselling and talking therapies - are not so readily available or are much more costly.

Far easier for doctors to prescribe a pill than seek out the alternative, particularly when that alternative may be overbooked or overly expensive.

We don’t mind being top of a league, if it means we’re doing well. In this case, however,there are real concerns that the figures are a symptom of a greater ill.