On Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson appeared on CNN for an interview with Anderson Cooper in which he confronted the self-help guru for her past comments about medicine — in particular, the use of antidepressants. The Daily Beast reports that Williamson apologized for calling clinical depression a "scam" and said she was "pro medicine" and claims to have never told anyone to stop taking their medication.
Afterward, Rolling Stone reports that many took to Twitter using the "INeedMyMedsMarianne" hashtag from people that believe Williamson is feeding the stigma surrounding mental illness and depression.
"Without my meds I would be crying out of pain every day again and contemplating whether it's really that bad to be dead," one user wrote.
The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) reports that major depressive disorder affects almost 7 million adults in the United States, and The New York Times article by Aaron E. Carroll reports that a 2018 meta-analysis showed that antidepressants are modestly effective overall compared to placebos.
But despite Williamson's controversial comments, not everyone is saying she's completely in the wrong.
Carroll wrote that the problem is that even as more data about antidepressants increases medical understanding of them and continues to show that they do work for many people, many unanswered questions remain, and whether drug companies are motivated to answer them is unclear.
"It's unclear if drug companies would be interested in the results, or indeed why they would be," Carroll wrote. "The drugs are already being widely used, and no regulatory agency is requiring more data. If patients want answers, they will need to demand the research themselves."In an article for The Spectator USA, Theodore Dalrymple, a writer, retired prison doctor, and psychiatrist, agrees with Williamson's position that unhappiness can not only be diagnosed as depression, but treated as depression. He claims that — unlike physical illness — psychiatric diagnoses lack biological markers to distinguish the severe, debilitating cases from the trivial ones.
Dalrymple says that there are risks of both under-diagnosis and over-diagnosis in psychiatry, but the former is more likely to lead to legal action for negligence, which is why he says the latter is more common. He claims that most doctors would rather treat 99 non-cases than miss one real case.
Dalrymple also believes that the way doctors are approaching depression and mental illness shows the "increasing pseudo-sophistication of human credulity."
"We don't believe any more in spirit possession, but we do believe in serotonin — too much or too little or in the wrong place — as the root of all our troubles."
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.