Taking an anti-depressant shouldn’t be looked upon any differently than medication for a physical ailment, says Jim Duffy
What makes you jump out of bed? Fifty per cent of the population allegedly jump out of bed happy and rearing to go. So, I guess the other 50 per cent are not happy and rearing to go - right? Which one are you?
Let’s look at the happy people first. I used to be one of them. You wake up and cannot wait to get started. You are chatty from the word go, happy to meet others, whether it be family or colleagues, and you are filled with pretty positive vibes. Even the acid attacks in London might worry you, but they don’t phase you. You don’t need a coffee to get you kick-started, no sugar to fire up your metabolism and no real need for nicotine via a cancer stick or vape device. Yes, you are one of the happy bunnies who has a big swoosh of serotonin flowing through the synapses of your brain. You fire up your smartphone and are scanning news sites, emails and texts right away. You post on Facebook and send out a happy tweet. Nothing is a problem and you smile at the train conductor, the student serving your takeaway coffee and to anyone who catches your eye. Life is not a bad place to be. Now, let’s consider the others… the grumpy people.
If like me, you wake up and wonder what life is about and it takes you a few minutes to throw off the covers, thinking to yourself, I cant wait until I’m back here pulling the covers over me again tonight, then it’s a very different world to the happy people. Your first thought may be a coffee to jolt your system. In short, you need external chemistry to wake you up. Caffeine and sugar may indeed do the trick. On that note, I met a guy last week in London, who was Mr Happy, but I noted he had 12 coffees during the day. No wonder he was buzzing! So, a coffee or two helps you face the day. One coffee used to do it, but now it takes two. Gives you time to wake up and ponder. You scan the internet on your tablet and it shows you terrible and terrifying acid attacks in London. Greenfell residents are still not being looked after and that community is angry and feeling let down. Moped riding thugs are using knives to attack people and even worse - Chris Evans is being paid over two million quid by the BBC. You’re generally not happy. You are part of that 50 per cent who have to coax the serotonin to start pumping.
Forgetting personality types and whether a person gets energy from within or from others, many of us out there have a lack of serotonin and it causes us start-up problems. My understanding is that one in four patients attending a GP these days is there are as they are feeling low, have low mood or feeling lost in life with no sense of purpose. Anti-depressants in the form of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRI’s are big business for many pharma companies, but are a necessity for anyone who generally lacks that chemical imbalance in their brains. Yet, it makes them feel branded as inferior or mentally ill if they ever admit to taking them. I bet each of you reading this know of someone in your family or workplace who has had to take an anti-depressant at some point.
Let’s look at it this way. If you develop diabetes and you require to inject insulin, you pick up your script and give yourself a jag when needed as if you don’t bad things can happen. I see people living with diabetes and openly injecting into their thigh after they have eaten lunch. It’s commonplace and in general we accept it as an okay thing to do to work through an ailment. An ailment that can be life changing if not addressed. So, taking an anti-depressant is just like that as it treats an imbalance in body chemistry also. But, for some reason, we treat it differently in society. There are pejorative and uncomfortable undertones associated with not having enough serotonin circulating around our bloodstreams.
Now, I’m not saying that the “unhappy in the morning” 50 per cent all need an anti-depressant to liven them up. In many instances, coffee does the trick. But I am in favour of us addressing what gets us down, makes us feel low or in need of a pep me up. And I’m advocating that we should be more cognisant and understanding of family members or colleagues who at times need brain pharmacology to function, just as a diabetic needs body pharmacology to live a fuller life.
We all accept that the world is complicated place. It is becoming more complex, fast paced and a bit more volatile than any of us would really want. Functioning in this world can be hard for many of the 50 per cent who lack a bit of spark in the morning. Let’s keep developing an understanding of what makes them tick.
And if they need to visit the GP and then tell us they are on Prozac, then treat it the same as a patient with diabetes. It’s internal chemistry and every now and then it needs topped up.