Thursday, June 7, 2012
Subtitle: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are
Author: Katherine Sharpe
Genre: Non-fiction; sociology/psychology; memoir
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: June 5, 2012
Although I'm not as passionate about the topic of medication as I once was, it's still a subject I find interesting and that, at times, still does enrage me. It's not that I think medication is bad. On the contrary, I think it is very beneficial for some people. But I have also found that we live in a society that relies on them too much and that has allowed medication to become a quick fix (specifically as it relates to children). My first job out of college was as a case manager in a foster care group home, so I sometimes had to take children to appointments. I will never forget the maybe three minute conversation that the psychiatrist had with a child I took there. He literally said, "are you sad?" and received a shrug in reply. He prescribed this child an antidepressant. The group home I worked in was a regular foster care group home, but "med checks" were a regular thing, and most of the children were on medications. That was several years ago and now I'm a mental health therapist so I feel much more justified in my now "clinical" opinions and still find that people are way over-prescribed medication. Keep in mind that my issues are mainly regarding children, but I find the topic interesting overall which is why I was drawn to this book about antidepressants.
Katherine Sharpe's Coming of Age on Zoloft is part memoir, part interview, and part expose on the history and current trends of antidepressant use. Sharpe's motivation stemmed from her own experiences with antidepressants throughout high school and college that left her wondering about how using these medications for an extended period of time affected her personal development. She also interviewed many other individuals about their experiences and thoughts of how they were affected both by the use of medication as well as the stigma of their mental health. She also provides the history of mental health, specifically depression, and of antidepressants.
Overall, this book was informative, and I'm sure every reader will get something different out of it based on their backgrounds and personal experiences. I do think that for those who are considering starting the use of antidepressants or putting their children on antidepressants that this would be a beneficial read. Not only does Sharpe provide her viewpoints, she provides a plethora of quotes from other people in their 20's and 30's who have used antidepressants, many from a young age. Their thoughts are varying so this would be a good way to gain a thorough understanding of the different factors that might affect you or your child. I also like that she included her experiences with therapy and really provides her evidence for why therapy can be completely beneficial in its own way, maybe even more (or at least differently) than medication.
I do wish, though, that this book had included a larger variety of sources. The interviews for this book were mainly done with college students, likely upper middle to upper class. I think that there are whole populations of people whose input would have added a ton to this book and for whom there are different types of implications. There were times when I felt the information or arguments in this book became repetitive, so I think there would have been room to add those other sources. I also had a couple personal gripes with the clinical information provided... while it was technically accurate, I didn't always agree. She remarks on how easy it would be to be diagnosed with "depression" when really it might just be a normal reaction to a stressful event. She states that this person would fit the criteria for the diagnosis. But my thought is that yes, someone could justify that, but a good clinician would make a better judgment and use critical thinking skills to provide more accurate assessment. And another thing is yes while, technically, the new diagnostic criteria slated for 2013 will be the first to have a rating scale, current diagnoses of depression can be specified as mild, moderate, or severe, so the argument that all depression is depression is depression is the same wasn't quite accurate in my mind.
So overall, I do think there is benefit, for sure, to reading this book, but I would only recommend it to those who have an invested interest in the topic.