DEPRESSION: Are Antidepressants Overrated?
In light of the recent rash of high school shootings, more "of the nation's 1,200 school health centers are including mental health in their mission," the Los Angeles Times reports. Mental health advocates estimate that 10 million of the country's children between the ages of 10 and 17 "lack proper mental health care." On average, there is one teacher for every 17 students, while there is only one counselor for every 513 students. Executive Director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals Gerald Tirozzi, said, "Many students bring problems to school that principals and teachers are simply not equipped to handle. They need the help of qualified professionals." Education Secretary Richard Riley agreed, stating in his annual policy speech Wednesday that "we need to have many more counselors and mentors in our high schools and not just to help young people get ready for college" (McQueen, 9/16).
Depression at Work
More than half -- 56% -- of human resource managers said employees suffering from depression had a negative impact on company productivity in the last three years, according to a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management and the National Foundation for Brain Research. Of the 406 companies represented in the study, six in 10 research managers indicated that they had recommended an employee for counseling. While nearly 66% of the companies surveyed had programs to assist employees seeking help and 98% had health plans that would cover treatment for mental illness, the survey indicates that some managers and co-workers "may not know how to approach someone who needs help." The Society suggests that companies train managers to recognize and deal with depression, provide employees with access to confidential depression screening and establish outside employee assistance programs to deal with mental illness (Love, Associated Press, 9/10).
Downer for Antidepressants
A study challenging the effectiveness of antidepressants was featured on ABC's "World News Tonight" Wednesday evening. ABC's Deborah Amos said, "Depression-fighting pills are 60-70% effective in bringing relief, according to medical literature. But, Thomas Moore, who studies drugs at George Washington University, says the numbers are misleading." Moore analyzed all drug company placebo tests submitted to the FDA prior to market approval for Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Serzone and Prozac. Moore said, "Millions of Americans believe that the benefits of these drugs are much greater than they are. ... The effect of antidepressant drugs on depression is only very little different than the effect of a completely inactive placebo." Moore stated, "At the very least, the FDA product labeling should include a more balanced picture of all the information that it received about the drug, about all the clinical trials." University of Connecticut psychologist Irving Kirsch said that the study "suggests that frontline treatment for depression should be psychological rather than chemical." Amos concluded, "The highlight of Moore's findings is the case of Prozac, with more than two billion dollars in U.S. sales. About 90% of Prozac's overall effectiveness was the same as patients taking nothing stronger than a sugar pill" (9/15).