NAMI's recent panel on suicide did an excellent job of highlighting a troubling issue. However, some inaccurate information presented—and then printed—could influence how we decide to address it.
The statements that depression is caused by a "brain chemical disorder," "80 to 90 percent of people can be helped with medication" and "mental illness becomes worse the longer it goes untreated" are unsupported by the research.
The National Institute of Mental Health states, "There is no single known cause of depression." A study by the NIMH found "elevations or decrements in the functioning of the serotonergic systems per se are not likely to be associated with depression." (Serotonin is the neurotransmitter supposed to be "balanced" by Prozac and other SSRI drugs).
Steve Hyman, former director of NIMH, writes that psychotropic drugs cause the brain to function in a manner that is "qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from the normal state." Rather than creating a normal state, they create an abnormal one.
A 2006 study by Michael Posternak of Brown University found that 85 percent of people with untreated depression recovered within one year. He comments, "If as many as 85 percent of depressed individual who go without somatic treatment spontaneously recover within one year, it would be extremely difficult for any intervention to demonstrate a superior result to this." There is significant research indicating that medication actually worsens the long-term course of mental illness.
This misinformation, while probably not intentional, stops us from asking deeper questions. What is going on in our society that is creating so many unhappy adults and children, and what can we do to create a healthier community? Many positive options exist, and the increasing rates of depression indicate we can't ignore any of them.