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Happy Pills


At the end of last week, the Daily Mail made a big splash of news about the substantial increase of antidepressant prescriptions in the UK over the past 15 years. In round terms, about 10% of the population take medication for depression each day; if you are in a room full of people, more of them are probably taking such pills than the number who were born in the same month as you. How did I come across that story? A hat tip to Jill who posted a link on Facebook to the blog of John Sutherland, a senior police commander, doing an admirable job in a demanding role… and one of those “pill poppers”.

If you read the article in question, Dear Daily Mail, he gently takes them to task for running such a negative story. As he explains, it is easy to sensationalise the figures but society – and our media – should take responsibility to exercise compassion and understanding.

It did make me wonder though about the source of the rise in the use of such medication. Are we less inclined to tough it out than our forebears? Probably, although the ‘stiff upper lip’ approach isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Are there better drugs, available more widely? Certainly – just as smartphone usage has markedly increased over the same time, we use what is available. However, I wonder if it is a sign of a failure in the health of society as a whole? What would be needed from our media, our authorities and ourselves to find better ways of living without becoming dependent on such aids.

It would be good if, in future, the Mail could report a decline in the use of antidepressants… but not because those who need them are shamed into trying to do without but because kindness, compassion and lives with sufficient space for rest have become more normalised. No little pills for me yet, but I wonder what I can do to ensure that ‘busy’ stops being a stock answer when people ask me how I’m doing?

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