The Risk Society and the Germanwings Tragedy: Stigma on Both Sides of the Psychiatry Wars

Timothy Kelly
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Andreas Lubitz’s apparent intentional crash of Germanwings flight 9525 has brought discussions of the intersection of violence and mental disorder back to the front page.

As the story unfolded I anticipated two reactions that typify the polarization of public discourse surrounding mental health issues. First, news reports that moralize about ending “stigma,” but that characterize people with mental health diagnoses in ways that perpetuate negative stereotypes.

Gretchen Carlson from Fox News offered a particularly Orwellian example saying:

“I’m just wondering today if it’s, once and for all, time to take on mental health as a serious medical issue — and stop stereotyping it as something we just want to brush under the rug and not really discuss. As a victim of a stalker who was mentally ill I can speak to this. I know for the most part the law is on the side of the mentally ill person — not the victims. I think it’s time to revisit mental health once and for all. Bring it out of the darkness. Call it what it is. Get people help. Get rid of the stigmas. Time to move forward.”

Second, I anticipated that there would probably be speculation on Mad in America and related spaces about the potential causal role of psychiatric medications in a tragic event like this. Indeed there has been not one, not two, but three such posts.

In my view, whether one seeks to blame psychiatric symptoms or psychiatric medications the result is often a deepening of pervasive negative attitudes towards those whose experiences often fall under the description of mental disorder.

As much as we might like a simple explanation for such an unfathomably destructive act, I do not think tragedies like this are reducible to such explanations. What I would like to see is for all of us who care about these issues to cultivate spaces that can accommodate the complexity, uncertainty and humility that will be required of us in creating communities that neither promote shame and fear of these difficulties, nor deny how difficult it can be to effectively and compassionately respond.

Cultivating a space like this will require moving beyond polarizing rhetoric, and engaging with the messiness and grey areas that can more credibly contain these issues.

When we deny that states under the description of mental disorders are “real,” deny that psychiatric diagnoses describe—however imperfectly—actual patterns of experience and behavior…we cease being credible to many who experience such states, or their families and others who would try to be of help. Likewise, when we deny that both these patterns of experience and behavior and the language that has been developed to name them are, in large measure, socioculturally determined…we cede something of all human experience to biological reductionism.

I wholeheartedly agree with Gary Greenburg who wrote in The New Yorker that “ Our experience and our theories don’t allow us to predict who the next Andreas Lubitz will be.”

Indeed, Smuckler and Rose—in a 2013 paper I was dismayed didn’t receive more public discussion — wrote a detailed account of the problem of such risk assessment from a statistical standpoint, concluding that it was not possible to predict who will carry out such acts, that the desire to predict them arises out of “moral outrage” rather than rational deliberation, and that the focus on risk management “offer new markers for discrimination and social exclusion.”

We do not know why Lubitz destroyed that plane and took so many lives with him. But I do not think a single variable can explain it, be it psychiatric symptoms or psychiatric treatment. Nor do I understand why, if we are seeking single variables, male gender, for instance, isn’t more often discussed by those who would seek such explanations for these heinous performances of violent spectacle.

Male gender socialization may well play a role in these sorts of acts (and I for one think it’s quite obvious that it often does) and yet as Greenburg wrote of Lubitz, “the multitude of vectors that move someone to heinous and incomprehensible acts cannot be apprehended with the inexact instruments of diagnosis deployed by imperfect people like me.” Just as the vast majority of people who experience psychiatric distress or use medication will not engage in these acts, nor will the vast majority of men.

But if such experiences were diagnosable by laboratory test, could we then conclude that biological abnormalities they were the cause of such violent acts?

A 2013 This American Life piece, Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde, provides some insight into this question. (spoiler alert) Dr. Gilmer went to prison for killing his father. He complained for years of neurological and behavioral symptoms which he said explained the murder and required a very specific treatment with an SSRI. Prison authorities concluded he was malingering. However, after much protest Dr. Gilmer acquired genetic testing that confirmed a diagnosis of a neurological illness, Huntington’s Disease that indeed is associated with psychiatric symptoms.

In other words, it turns out there was a biomarker for Dr. Gilmer’s illness. But does it really explain what happened? In the end, does it resolve how we might untangle where Dr. Gilmer ends and Huntington’s Disease begins?

I don’t think this is a question that can be resolved in a straightforward way, even when there is a clear biomarker. I point this out because I think we can embrace biology without caving to biological reductionism. But also that explaining complex human behavior with appeal to psychiatric drugs also amounts to biological reductionism.

The truth is either one may be a factor in any given case, but that the vast majority of persons who experience “extreme states” or take psychiatric drugs will not engage in such acts.

Smuckler and Rose characterize a “risk society” as one in which popular consciousness and media become obsessed with some types of risks and irrationally focus on predicting and preventing them. They suggest that such attempts may actually result in contributing to contexts of harm. They recommend some ways forward including speaking out against recommendations that broadly discriminate against persons who experience mental health difficulties, as can be seen in the “risk approach” that many call for in response to these sorts of tragedies. Population level approaches should be focused on communicating acceptance rather than fear of struggling persons, and creating the kinds of supports that the broadest number of persons will find acceptable. At the same time, on an interpersonal level, we must also be more creative in responding collectively when someone’s capacity is diminished or overwhelmed with distress.

51 COMMENTS

  1. Lovely, and what I feel is a highly relevant, exploration of the interconnected themes of ‘responsibility’ and ‘self-responsibility.’ I very much feel this is central to debates regarding so-called ‘mental illness’ and related issues, for the purpose of achieving clarity.

    While a specific condition or trauma may unwittingly cause sabotaging thoughts and actions, which are painful to the mind and body, not all with these conditions or traumas allow themselves to go there, as there is some sense of responsibility to self and others. Anyone in the world can be overtaken with rage, grief, or feelings of abuse, neglect and abandonment, but not everyone turns to violence, sabotage, control, and manipulation to compensate for it.

    Self-responsibility is being able to harness some kind of self-control and self-awareness when desiring to sabotage or even destroy others. I’m sure that on some level, this is universal. Who doesn’t feel this way at times?

    When that self-control is not there, and when someone argues to justify sabotage of others, then we have a problem. To me, sabotage is always the culprit, and that which creates extraordinary fear, paranoia, and lack of trust, really closes the heart. This can affect us in so many different ways, and creates chaos for the saboteur as well as for the ones being persecuted, and usually, for everyone around them. Some become diagnosed and medicated, others become power abusers. From there, dual stigma takes over. How can clarity occur when each group is facing the other with fear, scorn, and mistrust?

    • —Alex, Excellent post. Please consider expanding upon your central tenet of “self control,” irrespective of mental health issues, and submit for this site….. I, for one, would be very interested in hearing more of your thoughts in this area….

  2. Hm, I think this somewhat missses the point.

    We know alcohol increases the risk of violence, crime and sexual assault. We know that the bad behaviour is also socially determined and sex is part of that (drunk men are more likely to be violent for example than drunk women). So we limit it’s avialability. We also know alcohol companies fight this and try to influence government so they can sell as much as possible to maximise profits.

    We know anti-depressants can have nasty effects on behaviour. However we have little data on how often or how much they increase violence, suicide or other unwanted behavriour. Clearly there is some risk to people and the public by people taking SSRI’s but we do not know how big a risk. It needs investigating.

    • We know that alcohol causes bad judgement, mental and physical impairment and sometimes contributes to violence and suicide. We don’t ban alcohol but we ban drunk driving. We know the same thing about SSRIs yet it’s a OK to drive/pilot passenger planes on them?

      It’s not about blaming the “depressed” but there has to be bounds of reason. The problem with these drugs is they do not really do any good if one trusts the so-called “evidence based medicine” – even pharma’s own trials show they are not really “anti-depressive”.

      Not all drunk drivers will cause accidents and neither will all people on SSRIs but we should not allow people on SSRIs to operate dangerous machines anymore than we allow drinkers. Maybe that would make some people re-think if they really need these drugs in the first place.

      Btw, I wonder if anyone ever looked at the influence of SSRIs on otehr, less newsworthy, accidents like say car crashes?

      • Yes, I think it’s undeniable that some drugs, even some that aren’t psyche meds, can essentially deprive a person of judgement and make them act out of character and do drastic and/or bizarre things that they wouldn’t have normally done. Whatever the personality or other problems of the person experiencing such an effect, they likely wouldn’t have acted on it without being in such a radically different altered state.

        That may not explain this one pilot, but it needs to be considered a very real possibility and the issue needs to be addressed truthfully. No one has a hard time believing that a person does things they wouldn’t have under the influence of street drugs; but people on street drugs KNOW they’re in an altered state.

    • “”We know anti-depressants can have nasty effects on behaviour. However we have little data on how often or how much they increase violence, suicide or other unwanted behavriour. Clearly there is some risk to people and the public by people taking SSRI’s but we do not know how big a risk. It needs investigating.””

      Exactly John. I definitely agree that no one should be automatically assuming that this pilot committed the horrific atrocities due to being on SSRIs since there are still alot of unknown facts. But based on past history of some horrific events that definitely had a link to these meds in my opinion, this definitely needs to be looked into along with the other suspected reasons for this atrocity.

      And by the way, for outsiders reading my post who think I blame SSRIs for every horrific event that occurs, I definitely do not so please don’t even go there. But to keep denying they have any possible role in tragedies like this is also not a good thing either.

      A thorough unbiased investigation should occur to see exactly what happened. Many people doubt that will happen which is sadly not surprising.

        • —-Many, MANY people (such as myself) have taken antidepressants for many years, with little, to no side effects (in my case, over 10 years)…..While undoubtedly some people are negatively affected by them, I would wager the vast majority feel marked improvement…..

          —-I have long felt that individuals who experience marked negative mental/cognitive side effects from SSRI’s were misdiagnosed, and that many were suffering from other psychiatric conditions (particularly Bi-Polar, which is usually adversely effected by administration of SSRI’s)….

          • If that is true you’re extremely lucky. Most people experience side effects (just check up with the leaflet and look for frequency of side effect – and keep in mind that these are most likely under reported).

            “particularly Bi-Polar, which is usually adversely effected by administration of SSRI’s”

            A source for that claim? Other than pharma propaganda pieces?
            The problem is that SSRIs can cause mania so then you have people who get diagnosed as bipolar and this is labelled as “underlying disorder” which is the worst logical fallacy on a planet.

          • Or how about suffering from NO psychiatric conditions? Most depression is situational, or a side effect of physical ailments. Not something you throw a pill at.

  3. Right. There’s a middle ground between “it must have been his ‘mental illness'” and “it must have been his psychiatric medication.” And beyond the “middle ground,” there are so many other common factors (yes, why not focus on the male factor? It is the most common factor, is it not?). It’s irresponsible to promote any singular causality reason for murder-suicides (or just plan murder, or just plan suicide). Furthermore, anyone using any international tragedy to promote their own particular theory of “why things like this happen” really ought to have a quiet moment or two of introspection before they continue. Or if that doesn’t work, find a way to dialogue across perspectives and get out of whatever particular echo chamber they’re residing in. Thanks for continuing to speak across silos.

  4. Mercury poisoning from 15 so called silver amalgam (more fraudulent pseudo science) dental fillings (actually each one contains 53% mercury) (in retrospect mainly responsible for getting me the label schizophrenia , then manic depression, then bipolar depression.) Perfect storms do happen to every day human beings even more often then they would otherwise , considering the fury with which powerful interests force pseudo science down our throats and into our bloodstreams and into our brains (ECT) via the fraudulent psych pharma medical dental government industrial gulag archipelago complex .( Of course even that is only a partial picture) (It would be wise to distill your water) .
    (This is the short version.) My wife and I divorced and my only child was just out of 2 consecutive foster care situations since the age of 18 months and with me agreeing it was best for her , the judge decided she at the age of 4 was adopted into an intact family. I ended up in a new place to me across the country with no friends or family that knew me, anywhere close. Combined with ( do to poverty ) traded my ride for a $600 car with a difficult to spot undiagnosed gradually worsening carbon monoxide leak into the passenger compartment .
    Constant roller coasting with insomnia , hearing voices,hearing carryover from earlier conversations in the day ,repeating partially again and again, and even partial trace outline images of the people I had talked to just previously appearing in front of me in the air. Feeling good walking down the beach , like someone hit a light switch , that fast. And I’m like the light went out inside of me. Two days no sleep ,walking down the side of a 2 lane highway feeling dead inside, I reached the end, I could feel nothing inside I stepped out in front of an oncoming semi truck . The driver swerved around me. For less then 10 minutes I felt alive again. Then dead again . I did it again . A second semi truck driver swerved around me. For a few minutes glad to feel alive again . But too out of it to realize what I had done to those truck drivers. Soon the police picked me up and I was taken 100 miles away to a mental hospital . My dad at age 73 flew out from Arizona to Oregon and intervened at the hearing and saved me from going to a state institution the cocoo’s nest. I lied to the psychiatrist and told him that Haldol 2mg. was what worked for me in Illinois where I came from. He gave it to me and benadryl for sleep and I was stabilized and was free again in 2 weeks . It worked for a time along with other stuff till I finally got to the root of the problem , the mercury poisoning taken care of by advanced Hal Huggins dentistry.

    You know my teacher Joseph Liss ND ( to get away from complexity for a moment ) of Traditional Naturopathy used to say and teach: ” There’s much in little.” Then he’d almost jump into the air and emphasize ” And How”!

    So even the answer to complex problems is not always complex solutions . Something simple can sometimes solve a complex problem . Like anti psychiatry or honesty solving the problems of psychiatry and pseudo science. A real free press and democracy wouldn’t hurt either.
    Like telling the truth about there being substances , heavy metals like mercury or chemicals or even poisons someone calls medicines that can make a person violent, murderous ,or suicidal.
    And that not letting the truth come out facilitates for the oligarchs control to their selfish ends outside the interests of the people.

  5. Other questions spring to mind- about patient confidentiality for example and communication between doctors and airlines. Also Lubitz could have committed suicide without killing other people, why did he have to take other innocent people with him? Something to do with his character? About Lorazepam and his eyesight problems which seems to have worried him. While on Lorazepam my mother went blind now and then out of the blue etc..

  6. I agree there is a middle ground, but in many of the mainstream articles there is absolutely no mention of the possibility that the murder / suicide could have had to do with the depression treatment rather than the supposed illness. I hope some day the mainstream media, which no doubt makes a great deal of their advertising income from the drug companies, will end their psycho / pharmaceutical industry biased journalism some day.

    • Mainstream media will never touch that third rail: medication induced madness. Sanjay Gupta (CNN) broached the subject after Sandy Hook massacre and he was promptly quashed, so he never mentioned it again. Those of us who have personal experience with the insane behaviors brought on by SSRIs and benzos have very few avenues for discussion besides safe havens like this one. Unfortunately, I think we will see more and more cases of possible psych med induced mayhem before someone with influence in the public realm can finally put a stop to it.

  7. “Second, I anticipated that there would probably be speculation on Mad in America and related spaces about the potential causal role of psychiatric medications in a tragic event like this. Indeed there has been not one, not two, but three such posts.”

    Speculation? Potential? The evidence is way beyond that point. For many, the truth may be even harder to swallow than psychotropic drugs: psychiatry is the main culprit in the Germanwings flight 9525 tragedy.

    “In my view, whether one seeks to blame psychiatric symptoms or psychiatric medications the result is often a deepening of pervasive negative attitudes towards those whose experiences often fall under the description of mental disorder.”

    Here’s a thought experiment. Can you think of a way that labeling people with so-called mental disorders would create a positive attitude toward those people? (Hint: the answer has to letters)

    “As much as we might like a simple explanation for such an unfathomably destructive act, I do not think tragedies like this are reducible to such explanations. ”

    Why not. There are thousands of precedents to this tragedy. The common factor is psychiatry and psychotropic drugs. http://ssristories.org/ (see also http://www.breggin.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55)

    “What I would like to see is for all of us who care about these issues to cultivate spaces that can accommodate the complexity, uncertainty and humility that will be required of us in creating communities that neither promote shame and fear of these difficulties, nor deny how difficult it can be to effectively and compassionately respond.”

    True humility requires that someone stand up for the truth. When the emperor had no clothes, the only humble person was the child who pointed it out. It is psychiatry that promotes shame and fear. It is psychotropic drugs that cause these tragedies. The only way to effectively and compassionately respond is to tell the victims the truth: Lubitz’ actions were in large part influenced by the traumas of psychiatry and the chemical havoc of psychotropic drugs.

    “When we deny that states under the description of mental disorders are “real,” deny that psychiatric diagnoses describe—however imperfectly—actual patterns of experience and behavior…we cease being credible to many who experience such states, or their families and others who would try to be of help. ”

    When we claim that “mental disorders” are real, and that psychiatric “diagnoses” describe actual diseases, we cease being credible to truth seekers. If it weren’t for psychiatry and its attendant drugs, people who experience suffering and painful symptoms would not be led into the lie that they have some sort of a “chemical imbalance” in the brain, or the lie that psychiatry and psychotropic drugs can somehow fix a fictitious disease. The symptoms are indeed real, and many of them are the direct result of psychotropic drugging and psychiatric labels.

    “I wholeheartedly agree with Gary Greenburg who wrote in The New Yorker that “ Our experience and our theories don’t allow us to predict who the next Andreas Lubitz will be.””

    Gary Greenburg wrote an excellent book, ‘The Book of Woe.” This should have been enough for him and for psychiatrists in general to understand that we can predict who the next Andreas Lubitz will be. Follow the drugs. Follow the psychiatric “treatment.” The next tragedy you see in the news, the next seemingly inexplicable crime or death (like that of Robin Williams or Andrea Lubitz), simply take a deep look into the psychiatric history of that person and most likely you will find the same story: drugs, drugs, drugs, and psychiatry. Are there other reasons for violence and tragedy. Of course. These are also terrible. But let’s stop pretending like psychiatry and psychotropic drugs are somehow helping the situation.

    “We do not know why Lubitz destroyed that plane and took so many lives with him.”

    Yes. We have a pretty good idea. In fact, it is almost certain that psychotropic drugs are the main cause of this tragedy. Looking for other possible causes is useless until we acknowledge this fact.

    “I don’t think this is a question that can be resolved in a straightforward way, even when there is a clear biomarker.”

    Here’s the biomarker, for any who are still confused. In Lubitz’ now dissintegrated brain you will find the chemical damage inflicted by psychotropic drugs. Psychotropic drugs turn healthy, normal brains into chemical wastelands and toxic dumps. The history of psychiatry is that of the futile quest for biological causes of behaviors that psychiatrists find objectionable. But be careful, if you disagree with a psychiatrist, you might have “oppositional defiant disorder.”

    “The truth is either one may be a factor in any given case, but that the vast majority of persons who experience “extreme states” or take psychiatric drugs will not engage in such acts.”

    The vast majority who are drugged are the walking dead, real-life zombies whose brains and nervous systems are so caked with chemicals that they hardly know what’s going on. These people then get labeled as “mentally ill.” (It would be hard not to be ill with a body saturated with toxic chemicals) As soon as there is large scale recognition of pharmaceutical and psychiatric lies, and as soon as the victims start withdrawing from the toxic drugs cold-turkey, be ready for a lot more tragedies like Germanwings flight 9525.

    “At the same time, on an interpersonal level, we must also be more creative in responding collectively when someone’s capacity is diminished or overwhelmed with distress.”

    The creative way to respond to the diminished capacity of psychiatrists and drug dealers is to abolish psychiatry and ban psychotropic drugs. The reason Lubitz’ “capacity” was “diminished” and overwhelmed with “distress” is that he had been subjected to psychiatric “treatment” and his system was riddled with psychotropic drugs.

    In order to have compassion upon the victims of psychiatry, whether it be the victims who commit crimes or the victims who are harmed by crimes, we need to tell the truth about psychiatry and psychotropic drugs. If we truly wish to prevent such tragedies in the future, we need to slay the dragon of psychiatry.

  8. This is a good article. Thank you for writing it. I have one problem. You state,

    “What I would like to see is for all of us who care about these issues to cultivate spaces that can accommodate the complexity, uncertainty and humility that will be required of us in creating communities that neither promote shame and fear of these difficulties, nor deny how difficult it can be to effectively and compassionately respond.

    Cultivating a space like this will require moving beyond polarizing rhetoric, and engaging with the messiness and grey areas that can more credibly contain these issues.”

    It is not communities like MIA with its voices of survivors and consumers who are polarizing. It is big Pharma that is polarizing with their dumbed down ‘paid’ voices.

    Do you know how difficult it is to create spaces that move beyond rhetoric when big Pharma pays salaries to individuals whose sole function is to troll the internet and post thousands of dumbed down comments on popular blogs and news dailies? They actually pay people to fake a ‘lived experience’ so they have the street credibility to defend the attributes of medications. If you don’t believe this, you are incredibly naive.

    Big Pharma also pays people with ‘lived experience’ to start blogs, write books, and infer that medications ‘saved them’. Do you know how difficult it is create spaces for the dialogues which you are promoting given the incredibly corruptive influences of an industry that has more marketing might behind it than the military, alcohol and tobacco industries combined?

    Big Pharma exploits consumers and family members and uses their stories selectively to promote the status quo. Those of us who are not paid to speak about our experiences, those of us who are critical of psychiatry are usually silenced by default, we are too busy battling social exile and poverty to build an audience for our stories. In this background, how are we supposed to create the balanced dialogue you are promoting? From the point of view of the media, we are like David and big Pharm is like Goliath.

  9. It doesn’t help the cause of psych reform to have that HBO documentary about Scientology come out right after this incident..I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve been called a Scientologist simply for criticizing psych meds. It’s a way to shut down conversation by people who don’t want to hear the truth.

    • This happen to me, too, when I first started talking about having come off of psych drugs. I was ‘accused’ of being a scientologist– not just asked if I was associated, but totally accused. This was years ago, before I knew that scientology even had a position about this, so I had no idea what this guy–a law professor–was talking about, and told him this.

      Communication can really go south when we take just a little bit of information and run a-muck with false conclusions, which is common, btw, in clinical relationships. It’s common all over the place. Indeed, it’s how truth is blocked from coming to light. That’s why I won’t allow the conversation to shut down. Keep talking, regardless…

  10. Andreas Lubitz has the insanity defense. As long as we are going to excuse behavior on “mental illness” grounds, we are going to be exonerating people committing atrocities. This goes along with the erroneous notion that some peoples’ age of consent citizenship rights, without a qualifying IQ deficit, need revoking.

    A risk society is what we live in regardless of whether anyone admits it or not. You have no assurance, after getting up in morning, that you are going to make it to bed in the evening. Some irate motorist could mow you down, and that is that. I ask you. Should the irate motorist be allowed to walk because he or she has managed to come up with a “mental disorder” diagnosis?

    People in the mental health system are the scapegoats for the violent acts of a very few. Violent acts are criminal acts and, therefore, subject to prosecution. Violent acts should get the victims, not the offenders, medical attention. If I had, say, a broken leg, and an automatic weapon, which I fired into a crowd of people, nobody would be saying that I should be excused from prosecution because I had a broken leg. Of course, the broken leg might need attending, but it couldn’t be said that I fired into a crowd of people because I had a broken leg.

    Treat people like second class citizens, or worse, excuse them from accountability for their actions, excuse them from moral agency, pretend that they haven’t reached maturity, even if they have, and I assure you, you can expect more and more of this type of thing in the future. It’s only a matter of people living down to expectations. They don’t cease to be human just because you are labeling and drugging some of them, but you can scapegoat them because you are also doing away with their rights. If you tell a certain portion of the population that they are irresponsible, and undeserving of freedom, you can expect a good portion of that population to live down to expectations. You might make them all wear yellow stars, and live in a ghetto, too. It’s the same thing. They (us) are not the cause of all our (their) problems. They, fundamentally, are us. Scapegoating and paternalism are the problems here, and it is this scapegoating and paternalism that we should be addressing.

    • Exactly. Violence and irresponsibility are two sides of the same coin of psychiatry (and the coin is an appropriate symbol for what motivates psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry). Psychiatry provokes violence through drugging and damaging labels, and psychiatry promotes irresponsibility by exonerating criminals. The irony is that psychiatry facilitated (and most likely caused) Lubitz’ horrible crime, but psychiatry also pretends to have the power to absolve him of responsibility for the crime. The culprits of psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry need to be held accountable for these atrocious crimes.

  11. I generally agree with all that is said in the article. It is kind of obvious that most people who take SSRIs never experience anything like this, and it is equally clear that the overwhelming majority of depressed people would never even consider such an act, regardless of whether or how they are being “treated” for their condition. So blaming either SSRIs or depression simplifies an obviously extremely complex situation.

    However, I don’t think this absolves us of raising the possibility that SSRIs may have been a contributing factor. I believe the evidence supports that under the wrong circumstances, taking SSRI antidepressants can lead to a person doing things that they might otherwise not do. There is evidence that many people taking SSRIs experience a sense of disconnection, a “WTF” attitude toward others, which I believe may be a large part of why they seem to work for a lot of people. If you’re constantly worried about what others think of you and it consumes your day and you feel like no matter what you do, you’ll never gain approval in others’ eyes, this WTF effect could be quite a relief! To be able to say, “You know what, I really don’t CARE if my mom is upset with me, I’m not going to suffer through another dinner with her this week!” could be quite freeing and empowering.

    The dark side is this: if a person is fantasizing about doing something dangerous or deadly, the “WTF” factor could take away the social inhibitions that are preventing him/her from taking this action. Obviously, the person would have to be in a place where they had such fantasies, and equally obviously, some people don’t have that kind of inhibition in the first place and don’t need any drugs or alcohol to get there. But if, say, Eric Harris was fantasizing about shooting up the school, but normally would have thought, “No, I can’t do that, there are too many innocent kids” or “I’m sure I’d get caught and spend time in jail – fun to think about, but I can’t really go through with it,” it is possible that the SSRI might make those social impediments seem less serious. Or encourage him to come up with a novel “solution” like killing himself after shooting the rest of the pe0ple, hence avoiding the jail problem.

    Of course, that’s a lot of speculation, but my point is that this effect would not seem adverse for most people – only those who are holding themselves back from some kind of vengeful or rageful feelings would end up acting out as a result, and most highly anxious/depressed people would experience some sense of relief, or maybe feel no big effect, just like most people who get drunk feel more relaxed and socially uninhibited, while a percentage of those with underlying rage/violence issues are likely to act out violently when drunk.

    So violence doesn’t have to be CAUSED by SSRIs – the point is, like alcohol, they can be a contributing factor, a catalyst, as it were. There is enough evidence that this should be thoroughly investigated, but it hasn’t been, and I see it as very proper, and not “stigmatizing” in any way, to demand that this rare but potentially deadly side effect be discussed and taken seriously by the medical community and the public at large.

    —– Steve

    • As usual Steve you’re absolutely right :).

      I’d only add that such fantasies – both violent and suicidal are actually quite normal for most people and even more so for people who are in severe psychological distress. I’ve had a conversation about this with my co-workers recently – weird, I know 😉 – turns out a lot of people “normal” feel fleeting urges to throw themselves from a balcony or swallow toxic stuff or strangle their boss. We almost never do it because these are just thoughts which are of course inhibited and may only leave a confused “what the hell am I thinking about?”. For some people fantasizing about violence and suicide also has a therapeutic value – imagining your evil boss ripped to pieces and you may find it easy to get over a particularly nasty meeting. The problem is when some people become so alienated from the rest of humanity that they lose empathy towards others (alienation seems to be one of the most defining features of most school shooters). Add to that disinhibition, which may be easily caused by drugs and here we go. And as far as SSRIs go – the science is there. They do cause more suicides and aggression. They may not cause it in every instance but they surely push a lot of people over the border.

    • “It is kind of obvious that most people who take SSRIs never experience anything like this”

      If the world population of SSRI addicts were simultaneously and suddenly withdrawn from these toxic chemicals, we would witness Lubitz-like tragedies on a massive scale.

      Some pretend that these sort of crimes reveal an underlying condition of a mysterious “mental illness” when in reality there are more than ample cases of perfectly normal and polite citizens becoming raving lunatics while on (or withdrawing from) these drugs.

      Of course violence doesn’t have to be CAUSED by SSRI’s, but it greatly increases the likelihood that it will be. Of course there are violent people who take drugs and become more violent. There are also violent people who don’t take drugs. But until we understand that these toxic chemicals are much worse than alcohol, and that they can cause innocent people to do horrific things, we haven’t quite come to grips with reality.

      Even for those who don’t commit crimes, the evidence of suffering that they endure while on the drugs (or while trying to withdraw from the drugs) should be enough to convince the public that such substances should be eliminated.

      This has already been thoroughly investigated by many people.

      http://ssristories.org/

      http://www.breggin.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-peter-breggin/medication-madness-how-ps_b_223922.html

      • @Slaying, et. al: “If the world population of SSRI ‘addicts’ “….were suddenly withdrawn from these drugs, “we would see Lubitz-like tragedies on a massive scale…”

        —-Poppycock! I’m truly sorry that you have obviously had bad experiences with SSRI’s in the past, BUT….Stating that people who regularly take SSRI’s are “addicts,” or that crazy acts WILL follow the withdrawal of such drugs, is simply ludicrous. The VAST majority of people with mild to moderate depression are HELPED with SSRI’s (including myself)…Also, the VAST majority of people taking SSRI’s stop taking them at some point with no ill effects at all (again, myself included)…..

        —-As with ANY medication, side effects DO occur (particularly for people who were, perhaps, Bi-Polar or schizophrenic, and were misdiagnosed)…..We don’t need to “Throw the baby out with the bath water….” And, btw, German papers are reporting that Lubitz did NOT TAKE ANY of the psychiatric medicines prescribed to him; pill bottles were FULL (perhaps if he HAD……)

        • Shineon83,
          My perspectives on SSRIs were developed over a five year period (’05-’10) as a staff nurse working on a Harvard affiliated adolescent psychiatric unit. My first encounter with an adolescent called, “classic bipolar” occurred within the first few months of my affiliation with this renowned institution. So happens, the “kid” who was presented to me via change of shift report had her *classic* bipolar *unmasked* during the first few days of taking an 5mg increase in her Prozac dose. She had only been taking Prozac for a few weeks for *mild depression*. I had not heard of the phenomenon of having a major mental illness *unmasked*–and was particularly concerned about the dismissal of the adverse effect she had definitely experienced. Mania with psychotic features was the adverse effect. The worst part for her was a horrific police assisted ER admission to the locked adolescent ward of another hospital, where she was both physically restrained and injected with Haldol. The dystonic reaction from Haldol had caused her neck muscles to tighten, forcing her head backwards. I will never forget this frightened and very angry young teen’s description of her first encounter with *acute psychiatric care*. It was plain to see her parents were grateful to have arranged a transfer for their traumatized daughter– right next door to Harvard Medical School. For all intents and purposes, this seemed like a fortunate opportunity for me as well. I was eager to learn all about the major breakthroughs in discovering and treating juvenile bipolar disorder,heralded by my new colleagues. This first case was, in fact, the beginning of a failed attempt to indoctrinate me with the teachings of Dr. Joseph Biederman, the literal godfather of juvenile bipolar disorder.

          I saw this young adolescent as a veritable trauma victim in the *classic* sense. I voiced objection to the treatment plan that centered on administering mood stabilizers and finding the right antipsychotic *medication*. My idea was to allow her to detoxify from the drugs that had caused *classic* adverse reactions. Very medical way of approaching the problem IMO. The uncooperative patient’s idea was to insult and intimidate the young psychiatrists who found it nearly impossible to engage her in discussion about the need to” treat her serious mental illness while she was young; to save her from the devastation of the illness that had been *unmasked*; that this severely mentally ill teenager could not possibly comprehend”.

          Her tantrums and spot on scathing verbal attacks on the drug pushing clinicians were reported as *symptoms* of her — you- know- what. This drove the treatment team into battle. The coercion tactics to gain this defiant teen’s assent to taking drugs started with the drugs being analogous to her ticket to freedom, but quickly progressed to the withholding of anything determined to be of value to this poor kid. I became ruthless in the pursuit of medical evidence to support the ever increasing violations of this patient’s human rights. All the while only a stone’s throw away from Harvard Medical School, in an atmosphere of intriguing displays of superior authority, I kept hope alive that I would solve this mystery.

          Much to my surprise, my nursing colleagues were openly annoyed by my questions, and more annoyed when I gave them quizzical looks for the answers they passed off as *evidence*. The scant number of professional journal articles they proffered read like a chapter out of Harry Potter. To my credit, I learned to stifle my affect, though deep inside of my own mind, I was thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding. This is ridiculous!” Referring to exhibit A: Dr. Biederman’s so-called study in the late 90’s that was more of a musing on how poorly some of his young patient’s with ADHD responded to stimulants, leading him to conclude THEY were misdiagnosed. He suddenly realized they must be bipolar. (Like Hermione believing Snape was cursing Harry’s broom during a Quidditch match, because his eyes were fixed on Harry, he was mumbling and clearly had it in for Harry). Some of the *classic* symptoms Biederman had missed were, excessive disruptive and aggressive behavior- hard to get out of bed in the morning- to name a few. Hey, wait a minute, might those symptoms be adverse effects of the stimulants? (Hermione was wrong, Snape was trying to interfere with the curse Professor Quirell was putting on Harry’s broom) … and Dr. Biederman apparently never considered adverse effects of amphetamines as the culprit. My nursing colleagues boasted about a clinical trial conducted by Biederman’s team over at MGH. Gold standard RCT type proof. Sure enough, when given Risperdal or Zyprexa, these kids chilled out, or so the symptom check lists ticked off by lay person’s had determined. There you have it! Proof– these kids were bipolar all along. Obviously, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, but I wasn’t so ready convinced that it was me who wasn’t smart enough to put all these random insignificant factors together and comprehend their state of the art pediatric mental health treatment protocols. None of them seemed capable of providing answers to simple direct questions, no matter how carefully, respectfully and even scholarly I addressed them…

          I did have a lot more to learn, that much is true. It was not until a year after being forced to resign this position that I read David Healy’s book, “Mania” and began to perseverate on one particular line from page 193: “…at least as early as 1995, Lily had firmly established bipolar disorder as a target for which it would seek an indication.” Regular readers here are well aware that Bob Whitaker documented Dr. Biederman’s email pitches to J&J , promising to open the pediatric market for Risperdal–.

          I may be one of the few who frequent this site who has met the team that reified child /juvenile bipolar disorder\and worked with the disciples of the child psychiatrists whose names have made billions for pharmaceutical companies with a paradigm of care that was grounded in counter intuitive reasoning and devoid of either professional or simple human insight and compassion for the suffering of hundreds of kids — that I witnessed over a five year period.

          It isn’t just the scientific proof that is lacking in the rhethoric used to promote theories , such as “misdiagnosed bipolar”–or “unmasked bipolar disorder” as opposed to “adverse effects of SSRI’s”. I have heard this groundless theorizing from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, so I am not wondering why a lay person, satisfied SSRI user would believe it. What’s missing in addition to the science, is evidence of clear perceptions of human suffering, the human condition and human responses to stress, fear, abuse. After this tragedy, no different than many before it, all we hear from psychiatry and it’s satisfied customers is how nearly impossible it is to really know the * psychiatric patient* who has made headlines for committing mass murder and suicide All that is NOT known is used to promote seeking the professional help of psychiatrists who deny all that IS KNOWN about the potentially fatal adverse effects of SSRIs and other psychotropic drugs. It is hard not to notice what is wrong with this picture.

          But, you might want to wonder why it is that the explanations for anything that goes wrong with their drug treatments just happens to be something that can become an indication for another drug? And why is it that only after SSRIs and stimulants were given to the pediatric population did bipolar disorder reach epidemic proportions? When I graduated from nursing school in 1974, *mania* in children and adolescents was quite rare, and psychiatric diagnosis wasn’t assigned before age 18 years.

          I have met thousands of people from age 3 years to 102 years on psychiatric units over the past 20 years. I cannot honestly agree with your perception of the MANY who are helped by SSRI’s or the vast majority who experience NO severe withdrawal syndromes when stopping them. Since I have worked mostly with adolescents and young adults, it is the sexual dysfunction side effect that is by far the most often cited with total outrage. But it is the rare and always agonizing case of SSRI induced suicide that has put me squarely in the camp that is becoming intolerant of the rhetoric passing for support of what can only be called, grossly irresponsible prescribing of these drugs– especially to children and young adults, based on the ever expanding and equally misunderstood experience of people suffering from *depression*.

          You say that German papers are reporting Lubitz did not take any of the psychiatric medicines– whether or not that is true, he was under the care of psychiatrists who prescribed them for him, oblivious to his deep suffering, or so it seems– and still not moved to rethink their theories about faulty brains as the cause for depression? or prescribing potentially harmful drugs for people they hardly trouble themselves to get to know?

          Maybe short term emotional numbing works for some– but lately, on these comment threads under blog posts about this incident, I cannot help but notice the number of satisfied long term SSRI users who come off as disconnected from the human, emotional responses evoked from this tragedy. Hardly seems like the time to be tooting your own horn–, but maybe time to rethink what SSRIs are doing to you?

          Best,
          Katie

          • Wow, I had no idea you had been so close to “the belly of the beast!” Your story completely comports with my experience helping foster youth recover from the devastations of an impossibly difficult and inadequate upbringing by abusive and neglectful parents followed by an often abusive and neglectful foster care system. All issues that come up are blamed on the child, including any adverse reaction to psychiatric treatment. Kids often are started on stimulants for “ADHD” and have aggressive reactions, which are then regarded as signs of “bipolar disorder” and medicated with antipsychotics, while still being prescribed stimulants. Biochemically, this makes not the least sense, as stimulants increase dopamine availability while antipsychotics decrease dopamine availability – raising dopamine with one hand while lowering it with the other! Not surprisingly, this often leads to further behavioral or emotional symptoms, similarly blamed on the patient and similarly treated with yet more drugs. Sometimes we end up with kids on 4, 5, 6 or more psychiatric drugs who are still breaking windows, throwing furniture, and assaulting people. At no time during this process do the mental health professionals ever seem to say, “Gosh, our treatment plan seems to be making this kid worse! Maybe we’re barking up the wrong tree!” No, it’s always a new diagnosis and usually a new drug to boot. It is up to our advocates or the kid’s attorney or parents or social worker or foster parent to put their foot down and demand a different approach.

            SSRIs clearly have their advocates, but to suggest that they are effective for the vast majority with minimal side effects is just not true. Kirsch’s work has shown marginal effectiveness for mild to moderate depression, most likely due to an active placebo effect. And the stories of withdrawal difficulties are legion. Shineon is entitled to her opinion about her own treatment, but it seems unfortunate to invalidate the experiences of so many who come here for a little dose of sanity.

            —- Steve

        • “The VAST majority of people with mild to moderate depression are HELPED with SSRI’s”

          Not if you look at the published studies (metaanalysis of studied submitted to FDA by I. Kirsch and others). SSRIs have no efficacy for mild-moderate depression.

          “Also, the VAST majority of people taking SSRI’s stop taking them at some point with no ill effects at all”

          Can you back this up with any studies? Even the drug leaflets warn against stopping the drug abruptly though they give ridiculously short safe withdrawal times.

          “particularly for people who were, perhaps, Bi-Polar or schizophrenic, and were misdiagnosed”

          There’s no reason to believe that side effects are any different for “depressed” as opposed to other people not to mention that these categories are anyway made up and meaningless labels (I don’t want to go to the criticism of the DSM right now but you can look it up).

          “And, btw, German papers are reporting that Lubitz did NOT TAKE ANY of the psychiatric medicines prescribed to him; pill bottles were FULL (perhaps if he HAD……)”

          Could you give some source on that? Btw, even if it’s true that may only mean he was in withdrawal which is just as if not more dangerous than being on the drug (and it’s known that he has consumed these drugs before). Secondly, even if he didn’t take them at all (which isn’t the case) SSRIs have zero efficacy against suicide and in fact they make chances of someone killing oneself bigger (you don’t have to take my word for it – FDA says so too).

    • Steve

      You’ve very adequately described the exact reaction that I had to massive doses of these toxic drugs. This “WTF” attitude can lead to some very dangerous things. I’d be walking along the street to go to work when all of a sudden I’d walk out into traffic; I’d just execute a right face and walk right out into the street. Thank goodness that my actions never led to anyone else getting hurt. I was yelled at and was the recipient of lots of obscene gestures but I deserved every last bit of it due to my reckless behavior that put others in danger. One of my good friends tried to help me with the behaviors because he was worried about my welfare and that of others and I told him to mind his own business. I lost a lot of good friends with this kind of behavior. I was never impulsive before I got on those damned things and never have been since getting off of them.

      The one thing that interests me is that you don’t find women going out and committing mass murders. Why is this. Now you do have some women on SSRIs who kill all their children, but you don”t find them going into schools or movie theaters and mowing people down right and left. What is it about men and SSRIs that may be causing these terrible things? I remember all of the publicity when Prozac came out about how men on it could become violent. Of course, this was all hushed up very quickly by the drug companies and psychiatrists.

      • Women and men are (statistically) different. They have different hormones and different basal levels of aggression. It’s easier to push men over the line in terms of violence – that is why there are more or even exclusively male mass shooters and only few women murder someone and usually in less “spectacular” ways. But certainly SSRIs lead to an increase in these destructive behaviours even if they may have somewhat gender-specific expression. For every mass shooting or crashed plane there are countless other little acts of individual violence, suicide or even careless accidents or psychological abuse that go below the radar because they are harder to measure and to even notice.

  12. Thanks Steve for voicing what I have always suspected about SSRI’s, how they work for some, but for others, they seem to dismantle empathy and concern for oneself. I think human beings are ‘hardwired’ to feel empathy. It makes sense for the survival of the tribe for members to have a sense of connection. It (empathy) fosters teamwork and cooperation and interdependence is arguably one of the keys to survival of our species.Who knows? For individuals who experience abuse or neglect at an early developmental stage, or others who feel alienated and marginalized, decades of social conditioning and logic can take the place of natural empathy but what if these social inhibitions are removed? I just don’t think the manufacturer’s of SSRI have a clue at the kind of Russian roullette they are playing with our loved ones. I also agree with the second poster, ‘B’ that it is quite normal to have violent or hostile fantasies but in this fear based environment, it is becoming increasingly risky to reveal violent or hostile fantasies to a therapist. The thought police are watching and listening. Anyone who has been the victim of an overly aggressive mental health worker making assumptions about an individual’s frame of mind or anyone has experienced the system on a typically bad day, knows that it is rarely safe to express what one is really feeling and it is very risky to seek ‘help’.

  13. I am deeply troubled by the attitudes expressed in this article.

    It has been well established that SSRI’s may set off homicidal and suicidal impulses. The FDA, hardly a bunch of anti-drug radicals, list this as one of the “side” effects of these drugs. In virtually every one of the mass shootings that we are hearing about now, the perpetrators were on psychiatric drugs. The increase in mass shootings and the increased use of psychiatric drugs since the Eighties have gone hand in hand.

    Even if only one in ten thousand of the people taking these drugs has this reaction,(and it is unlikely that the figure is this small) that is one hundred people per million. In the US now, there are tens of millions of people taking the drugs. Let’s say that (very conservatively) there are forty million Americans on SSRIs. That is four thousand people who fall into a homicidal rage. Of course. some people can check themselves, but others won’t.

    How is pointing this out somehow “extremism”? Since when has it become a virtue not to take a stand?

    I think this position is immoral.

    In Germany in the 1930’s, the “centrist” position would have been that only half of the Jews should be killed. I know there will be an uproar about what I just said, but it’s true. I think that anyone who claims that what I have said was too “extreme” should say what position THEY would have taken at that time and place. Because what I have just described WAS the “centrist” position.

    Sometimes one has to have the courage to speak out about what is right. And sometimes people have to look at the practical effect of refusing to take a position. We are not discussing some interesting philosophical problem. We are talking about the lives and suffering of millions of people.

    There are times when it is correct to find right and wrong on both sides. This is not one of them.

    • Ted

      I worked with a German woman who was a child during the Nazi regime. She said there were numerous Jewish people in her neighborhood. She stated that you would go to bed one night with everyone doing the same thing in the neighborhood but when you got up in the morning the houses of the Jewish people were all empty and their belongings were strewn around in disarray but not one person ever talked about or even acted as if they noticed how all of their Jewish neighbors just “disappeared” overnight. If more Germans had spoken out against what the Nazis were doing perhaps half of all Jewish people in the world would not have died in the gas chambers and the work camps or in the labs where horrible experiments were carried out.

      She also mentioned that everyone in town knew that there would be fresh soap when the clouds of smoke billowed out of the “ovens” located at the edge of town. The soap was made from the fat rendered from the bodies of the murdered Jewish people. She admitted that they knew where the soap was coming from but it didn’t seem to bother anyone very much! She told me these things very matter of factly, as if it was no big deal. No one was willing to take a stand for the right thing.

      I must agree with you. I’m not willing to give the SSRIs one little bit of leeway in all of this. This seems very much like another attempt to get people to gather in a circle, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya, while letting the SSRIs off the hook in all of these things.

      • How does taking personal responsibility for our actions, regardless of anything, translate to “Kumbaya?” Even when there is some common external factor involved, whether it’s SSRIs or some kind of life trauma or condition, there is a core level of self-responsibility that everyone can take for themselves. Otherwise, there is endless conflict about who or what is at fault when someone commits murder, and nothing gets solved here, in the way of clarity and alleviating this rapidly growing crisis.

        Who is to decide when it is actually the murderer’s fault or the fault of some little pill, to which are giving a lot of power, here? The pill’s not going to own anything, and neither will Big Pharma or those who prescribe. We have the choice to own our lives and actions, and expect other to, or to blame others, their actions, and their choices for our collective grief and suffering. At some point, we have to own ourselves, or we are simply relinquishing control to outside influences. In the end, that renders people powerless, including to make change.

        I’m anti mental health industry in just about any respect, as per my experience. To some, this would seem extreme, while to me, based on 20 years of this, I feel it is highly reasonable. For me, it was life-saving to have disengaged altogether with it, other than on here now, as someone trying to move things along my way, from my little corner of the world.

        In that sense, however, I don’t compromise or appease, I think all of these systems are dangerous to people and society, and are beyond repair, if only because they will not allow themselves to be repaired. That would mean relinquishing their notion of ‘power,’ and I’d imagine that’s just too much change to bare, voluntarily. Change is inevitable, however, these systems are burning out on their own corruption, sabotage, and house of cards deceitful ways.

        But honestly, to my mind, even though SRRIs, etc., do put us into unnaturally vulnerable states that can lead to tragedy, I do know this, insisting on blaming a pill for this epidemic violence, I think, dis-empowers individuals and empowers the pill and Big Pharma. I would think it pleases BP to know that they have this kind of power, which they do, as long we blame them for the foibles of humanity. That’s exactly what gives them so much power, and takes it away from individuals. Once we own it, we have the power to make changes. Until then, though, I imagine it stays a bloody battle ground to the bitter end, whatever that will look like…

        I just say this because I felt that your comment was a bit misleading and somewhat demeaning to those of us who perceive the human responsibility aspect of this, which I feel is the intention of the article, at least this is what I got from it. I don’t take this personally at all, but very neutrally, I believe it to be mis-characterizing into a negative stereotype, which I think in these discussions is important, because to my mind, we’d want to set a different example.

        I’m an obvious optimistic type person, but I’m no pollyanna nor Kumbayaer. This is where I feel we can most benefit from a middle ground. Not sharing perspectives is no reason to demean. This was a big issue in mental health services, so I mention it here, as an awareness, with all due respect.

        I feel my perspective is unpopular here, but it is strongly my opinion at this point, and I know I’m not alone in the world with this, so I appreciate voicing my truth, here, regardless.

        • —@Alex: Here, here. I couldn’t agree with you more (and am glad you expanded on your earlier comments)!

          —-While dismissing SSRI’s out-of-hand as “violent instruments of destruction,” and hypothesizing how MANY potential shooters/madmen are created by consuming them, too many people are attributing “cause and effect” to a pill, rather than placing responsibility in its rightful place: the individual…

          —For the same reason that a pill cannot bring happiness, nor can a pill cause an individual to wantonly murder innocent people, if the will and desire didn’t already exist. For the same reason we do not “excuse” the drunk driver the carnage he leaves in his wake, nor can “blame” for atrocities be blamed on a pharmaceutical. (And, incidentally, while hypothesizing about the number of potential “victims” one can attribute to SSRI’s, too many people fail to also factor in the number of people “saved” by them: people who would have ended up committing suicide)….

          —-I don’t like “pat” answers; they tend to cause more problems than they purport to solve. SSRI’s have helped many people, have harmed some, but, ultimately, it is the individual himself that holds the keys to his actions…..

          • Shineon83,
            As a nurse, I would like to expand on how philosophical perspectives, based on where one sits, will determine where one stands with regard to the issue of correctly categorizing SSRI’s.

            My perspective on the rights I believe my patients inherently possess and the duty I willingly assumed to apply sound knowledge and skill in accordance with the professional and ethical standards of my nursing license, is key to my position regarding all psychotropic drugs. It is no small matter that these drugs have been advertised and prescribed under a very dark cloud of dubious claims and contrived efficacy. What some have called, the myth of chemical, specifically neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain, I view as the lie that should have incurred criminal prosecution , as fraud of this magnitude, replete with ostensible financial gain, is illegal in our country. The fact that this seems highly unlikely is another matter of grave importance, that is; psychiatry prospers in a completely unregulated utopia. If you want to throw a flag on any of their plays, the arbitrating referee is the president of their professional organization. So it goes.

            Within the mental health system, throwing a flag is career suicide.

            The flag that has been thrown on the SSRI’s is a well documented narrative of a very ugly story that calls into question the character and ethics of medical doctors who are psychiatrists and pharmaceutical company executives, who are businessmen. Of these two groups of professionals, my philosophical perspective as a nurse, informs my belief the doctors prescribing SSRI’s are accountable to the standards set forth for the license they hold and the moral duty they vowed to uphold upon graduation from medical school. Pretty straight forward. Their professional obligation to continue their professional development leaves no excuse for ignorance with regard to that ugly story about SSRI’s– how they came to be dispensed like Pez – from the cradle to the grave, despite bells, whistles and flags in response to scientific proof that they are neither safe or effective to the degree they have been advertised, prescribed and defended on comment threads of late.

            IF a person seeking relief from depression or any of the off label complaints now being targeted with SSRI use, were to be told in specific detail what is known and what is not known about these drugs, I cannot imagine anyone who is not hell bent on self destruction accepting a prescription. The truth is that patients are NOT given all the known facts about SSRIs– not by a long shot. The fact that psychiatrists cannot predict who will be stricken with any one of the adverse effects of either taking, increasing the dose or discontinuing these drugs has generated a dangerous discourse on the method of playing the odds– and claiming no harm no foul if a diagnosed psych patient goes *psycho* while taking or withdrawing from these drugs. Philosophically speaking, as a nurse, I have no words to express what this means, though I am hoping to convey that my belief that every patient as an individual with inherent rights and innate dignity will NOT allow me to sit back and pretend that playing the odds with little to lose and huge financial profits to gain is an acceptable philosophical foundation for the practice of medicine–.

            It isn’t your duty or responsibility to diligently research claims like “the MANY who are saved”, so I am not by any means intentionally slighting you, personally for spewing this dangerous distortion — the fact is TOO MANY are being thrown into the pool where statistically more will drown. The only sound scientific evidence regarding long term use of any psychotropic drug paints a dismal picture of deteriorating health and functioning for anyone who has been ensnared by the myriad lies that abound regarding *mental illness*.

            Maybe you really are an emotionally and cognitively numbed out long term satisfied consumer of antidepressant (using the term loosely), through no fault of your own and with all good intentions that you are performing a great good– the same profile fits the pharma shills- businessman and doctors alike. The concept of our shared humanity may be fading from memory, but the ramifications of it cannot be diminished by ant prevailing counter beliefs–. Or rather, saying I’m Okay, to hell with you, is akin to tilting back your head and spitting straight up. Philosophically speaking, of course.

            Best,
            Katie

          • Shineone, I am afraid the evidence that SSRIs prevent suicide in the aggregate is completely lacking. It appears that they actually increase the overall risk of suicide, especially in adolescents and young adults, but really for all users, according to the scientific data.

            And admitting that SSRIs do cause aggressive and manic reactions in some people is not blaming the drug – it is very simply informing people honestly about what can and does happen to some people. It is admittedly a minority of people who experience this reaction, but it is hardly rare. It is, after all, on the label of the drug. So what’s the big deal about letting people know this can happen so that clinicians and patients and family members can watch for it and take the patient off as soon as any such side effects are evident?

            —- Steve

  14. I respect every opinion here, but this isn’t really a philosophical discussion. It is a scientific reality that in some cases, psychotropic drugs cause violence and suicide. These aren’t “pills” or “medications.” They are psychoactive drugs that alter the brain and can lead to distortions in thinking and behavior. This is a well documented fact, not a speculation. These aren’t hypotheses. Many people assume that they are getting better on the drugs because they are experiencing the spellbinding effect of the drugs. (see Dr. Peter Breggin http://breggin.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=243)

    Of course people are free to choose. It would just be nice if pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists were honest about the potentially lethal effects of these drugs.