Friday’s issue of the Daily Mail (29th December) came with a harmful and ignorant headline, as usual. ‘A Nation Hooked on Happy Pills’ was stamped across the front page, titling an article about the increased distribution of anti-depressants by GP’s in Britain. The article states that prescription rates trebled in the last 15 years, putting Britain at the top of the world tables. While not factually incorrect, the reference to Anti-depressants as ‘Happy Pills’ is inaccurate and dangerous.
Firstly, to refer to anti-depressants in such a colloquial way is to trivialise depression itself and perpetuate the problem that article tackles, that drugs are seen as a ‘quick fix’. The article further downplays depression by simply describing the mental illness as ‘feeling down’. The is a prime example of the media not taking mental health seriously, stigmatising depression and not encouraging open discussions that are conducive to mental stability.
‘Happy Pills’ could not be a more inaccurate description of Anti-depressants. A course of the medication should not be taken as lightly as “I am feeling sad, so I will take this pill and it will make me happy.” In fact, in the first few weeks, anxiety can be increased as a side effect. As time goes on, happiness is not increased by Anti-depressants. Photographer Poppy Marriot described her experience on Anti-depressant Citalopram as follows;
“All my Anti-depressants did was numb me so I wouldn’t kill myself. They don’t make you happier, if anything I’m 1000% happier without them because I’m actually feeling. It was enough to knock the edge of my anxiety, but after coming off them I realise how numb I was to everything around me”
The Guidelines for responsible reporting on mental health and mental illness as set out by the National Union of Journalist (NUJ) specifically states that the colloquialism ‘Happy Pills’ should never be used to describe Anti-depressants. Furthermore, the terminology of ‘feeling down’ to describe depression dismisses the mental illness, which is also irresponsible reporting as per the NUJ’s guidelines. The Daily Mail’s ignoring of these rules are indicative of their ignorance towards the issue of mental health as a whole.
Depression is not a temporary psychological phase that can just be fixed with medicine, and it is not the same for every person. In fact, the NHS has found that people under 25 have an increased risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts when they take a course of anti-depressants, so to refer to them as ‘Happy Pills’ is simply as untrue as it is reckless and thoughtless. It is clear that in the publishing of the article, the experience of those who have depression and have taken the pill, as well as the perception of mental illness the article will present, were never taken into consideration. That’s the best way to describe the Daily Mail’s approach to the matter of depression in the article; inconsiderate.
In the UK, 1 in 4 people suffers from depression. If you suffer, healthy, open discussions with your peers are so good for your mental health. If you do not have somebody you can contact, find a list of UK helplines here.