Poppin’ the happy pills

People with depression are just overly sad. Get some sleep, you’ll feel better. Depression isn’t really an illness.”

These are just some of the misconceptions that lead to stigmas according to Tom Gaither-Ganim, KHS educational support counselor. These stigmas are apparent in both the mental illness itself and taking antidepressant pills he said.

Depression is an imbalance of neurotransmitters, usually serotonin or norephedrine, in the brain. In order to help steady the chemical scales, Renae Reynolds, pharmaceutical doctor, believes medication can be a good idea depending on the patient.

“A lot of people think depression is just feeling sad, but often it’s an underlying issue of how your brain recycles the chemicals in your brain and genetics,” Reynolds said. “Medication can sometimes help your brain use the chemicals the way it’s supposed to.”

Although in many cases prescribing medication can be beneficial, Gaither-Ganim thinks adolescents are often prescribed medication too early before other courses of treatment are explored. According to Gaither-Ganim, his opinion is influenced by the kids who need to go through multiple medications before finding the right matchup and the contemplations that come with that search. Because children are not fully developed, they react differently to medication than adults he said. It is also difficult to predict how a child will react to medication as it can only be tested on adults, according to Ceci Bodet, KHS educational support counselor. 

“A person’s unique body chemistry affects whether or not a medication is effective for them,” Gaither-Ganim said. “It’s a really difficult process to observe because they take [a medication] expecting to get better and hoping to feel better, but when results aren’t shown immediately it can break their spirit a little bit.”

According to Reynolds, antidepressants can often take between four and six weeks to show results. Finding the perfect combination over a long period of time can contribute to a person declining and they ultimately could feel more depressed or anxious as an effect, according to Gaither-Ganim.

“Our society wants instant results and if something’s not right we often say ‘I’ll just fix it with medication,’” Gaither-Ganim said. “In my opinion, that is jumping the gun and using medication too quickly before therapy or changing one’s life circumstances, life decisions and/or one’s outlook or approach to life’s difficulties.”

Gaither-Ganim feels a combination of psychotherapy and medication can bring about the best results for treating depression. According to Gaither-Ganim, the psychotherapeutic aspects are crucial, as it helps to ensure the medication is working effectively. Despite the success of medication and therapy, Bodet believes that because of the stigma that comes with depression, people can live in fear of even asking for help.

“In general, mental health is very stigmatized,” Bodet said. “[People believe] you have something wrong with you and a lot of people don’t want to get help because of that negative connotation.”

According to Mental Health America, 35.3 percent of those suffering from severe depression seek treatment from a mental health professional. Gaither-Ganim also understands the personal drive of working toward asking for help and encourages people with depression to have the courage to ask for help.

“If someone has diabetes we don’t begrudge them for taking insulin or someone receiving radiation for cancer treatment,” Gaither-Ganim said. “If one is clinically depressed there should be no stigma attached to them taking medication, as well as the counseling piece.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 2.20.33 PMClaire Wever