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12 years not a slave – January 25th, 2023

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New Study Says Maybe You’re Not Depressed, You’re Just Narcissistic

New Study Says Maybe You’re Not Depressed, You’re Just Narcissistic

It turns out being nice can make you happy. Who would’ve thought?

A new study from The Ohio State University published in the Journal of Positive Psychology Tuesday found small, simple acts of kindness were the best medicine to alleviate symptoms of depression.

“Social connection is one of the ingredients of life most strongly associated with well-being. Performing acts of kindness seems to be one of the best ways to promote those connections,” David Cregg, a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

Cregg worked on the study as part of a Ph.D. dissertation with Ohio State Psychology Professor Jennifer Cheavens. Together, the pair examined 122 people in central Ohio who reported “moderate to severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.” Participants were divided into three cohorts, each assigned different techniques to calm their symptoms: planning social activities, cognitive reappraisal, and acts of kindness. Such “acts of kindness” were defined as “big or small acts that benefit others or make others happy, typically at some cost to you in terms of time or resources.”

The researchers found acts of kindness to be the most effective.

“We often think that people with depression have enough to deal with, so we don’t want to burden them by asking them to help others. But these results run counter to that,” Cheavens said. “Doing nice things for people and focusing on the needs of others may actually help people with depression and anxiety feel better about themselves.”

Community connections created by sacrificial acts of kindness were at the heart of the participants’ improvement, Cheavens said.

“There’s something specific about performing acts of kindness that makes people feel connected to others. It’s not enough to just be around other people, participating in social activities,” she explained.

The research underscores the role of social isolation in the nation’s omnipresent mental health crisis. Addiction to screens that offer cheap dopamine hits from the comfort of one’s home has cheapened social interaction, all while polarization divides our neighbors.

The study’s findings, that acts of kindness make for happier people, should not at all be surprising. Humans have understood since the conception of our species that kindness is inherent to what it means to live a happy life. Moral philosophers like Siddhartha Gautama, commonly referred to as “Buddha” in the religion he founded, have preached a similar message for centuries.

A groundbreaking study published last summer rejected the assertion that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. In other words, depression may be entirely circumstantial. With more and more Americans reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression, a trend that was rising even before pandemic lockdowns exacerbated them, something profound is happening in the culture.

The fact that the effects of kindness on depression even needed to be studied is telling. Americans need to normalize kindness again, driven by desires to plant roots and live in harmony with our communities. Instead, many Americans have succumbed to the pitfalls of technology, and are growing narcissistic as a consequence.

Tristan Justice is the western correspondent for The Federalist. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and The Daily Signal. His work has also been featured in Real Clear Politics and Fox News. Tristan graduated from George Washington University where he majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @JusticeTristan or contact him at


Democrats’ “Respect for Marriage Act” Would Hurt Children

Control of the US Senate has been decided, and now we hear that Senate Democrats have scheduled a vote Wednesday on the misnamed Respect for Marriage Act, in hopes of legislatively cementing the mother- and father-loss that the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling endorsed seven years ago.

With Obergefell, the Supreme Court made gay marriage the law of the land and mandated that government institutions and processes could make no legal distinctions between adult romantic relationships.

Two married men cannot be treated any differently than a married man and woman. Indeed, from the perspective of adult emotional fulfilment, there may be no distinction.

But from the child’s perspective, these two couplings are polar opposites.

Children’s Basic Rights

A child who is the product of a married man and woman receives the complementary developmental benefits of a male and female parent, the two adults who are (statistically) the safest, most connected to, and most invested in them, and are granted 100% of their biological identity.

A child raised by married men is deprived of the emotional and developmental benefit conferred exclusively by mothers, is being raised by at least one adult who statistically increases their risk of abuse and neglect, and is deprived at least 50% of their heritage and kinship network. In short, same-sex marriage requires child loss.

Many of us warned that making husbands and wives optional in marriage would result in mothers and fathers becoming optional in parenthood. The past seven years have validated those concerns.

In the name of nondiscrimination, the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that two married women may be listed as parents on a child’s birth certificate, legally erasing the child’s father on the day of birth.

Alongside biology and adoption, some states have added “intent” as a pathway to parenthood for adults who employ third-party reproduction to assemble sperm, egg, and womb, even if they are unrelated to the child. That’s easier than ever.

Infertility” has been redefined so that same-sex couples can have their child “trappings” of marriage covered by insurance. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., proposed legislation that would use tax dollars to subsidise creation of intentionally motherless or fatherless children. Surrogacy tourism is on the rise, and entire industries are devoted to procuring custom-ordered motherless babies.

How will the children of this more equitable definition of marriage fare?

Questionable Research

In the years leading up to Obergefell, social scientists miraculously discovered that children of same-sex parents fared “no different” than their peers raised in intact, heterosexual households. It was indeed miraculous, because few researchers dispute that children of divorce and remarriage, children abandoned and subsequently adopted, and children created through third-party reproduction suffer diminished outcomes, even if raised by a mother and father.

And yet somehow these “studies” found children, who could arrive in same-sex households only through one of those three diminished-outcome paths, fared “no different” despite also missing a mother or father. It seems these researchers had to move at “the speed of science” to prove that gay marriage would be good for children.

It’s now clear that “the speed of science” required cutting methodological corners. In 2016, after examining every single same-sex parenting study, researcher Walter Schumm concluded:

“[S]tudies that show ‘no difference’ often used poor methodology (non-random samples, parental (self-) reporting vs. actual child outcomes, short duration, etc.) to reach their conclusions.”

Unsurprisingly, when you employ the gold standard of the scientific method, “no difference” actually meant “significant difference.”

Severe Disadvantages

One such study found that compared to children with opposite-sex parents, children of same-sex parents:

  • Experienced “definite” or “severe” emotional problems at a rate of 14.9% versus 5.5%.
  • Were diagnosed with ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder] at a rate of 15.5% versus 7.1%.
  • Struggled with learning disabilities at a rate of 14.1% versus 8%.
  • Received special education and mental health services at a rate of 17.8% versus 10.4%.

Perhaps the disparity is a result of the same-sex couple’s inability to marry, you argue. There’s data on that as well.

A review of outcomes for children raised by unmarried and married same-sex couples found that “above average child depressive symptoms rises from 50% to 88%; daily fearfulness or crying rises from 5% to 32%; grade point average declines from 3.6% to 3.4%; and child sex abuse by parent rises from zero to 38%.”

Turns out you can’t legislate away the benefit that children receive from being raised by their own mom or dad, even if you call it marriage.

The judicial redefinition of marriage in Obergefell victimised children. The right to marry predictably morphed into a right to parenthood, or rather, the right to deprive a child of his mother or father in the name of nondiscrimination.

For children of same-sex parents struggling to make sense of their emotional turmoil, a legislated redefinition of marriage simply would communicate that their innate longing for their missing mother or father is wrong, not the definition of marriage that made their mother or father optional in the first place.


Originally published at The Daily Signal. Republished from Them Before Us.
Photo by PNW Production.

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Government Shouldn’t Subsidise Intentional Motherlessness and Fatherlessness

Government Shouldn’t Subsidise Intentional Motherlessness and Fatherlessness

The Equal Access to Reproductive Care Act will use American taxpayers’ money to fund surrogacy and IVF for homosexual couples, deliberately creating children who will be sundered from at least one biological parent from the moment of their conception or birth.

It’s been seven years since the Supreme Court made gay marriage the law of the land in the USA. Those of us who raised objections to this decision and argued that redefining marriage would redefine family and encourage motherlessness and fatherlessness were dismissed. “No one’s going to take children away from their heterosexual parents!” they said — as if our only concern were the children in our home. A just society is concerned about the rights and well-being of all children, regardless of whether they belong to us.

That’s why the Equal Access to Reproductive Care Act is so alarming.

The proposed bill, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and other Democrats, would allow adults to deduct assisted reproductive costs, including for surrogacy and sperm/egg donation, as a medical expense on their tax returns. Many states already allow these types of deductions, but only after a diagnosis of infertility.

But the existing definition of “infertility,” in which a couple must demonstrate they have been unable to conceive after 12 months of unprotected heterosexual intercourse, is not sufficiently “inclusive”, because it doesn’t accurately describe all of the childless adults seeking reproductive services. Single or same-sex adults, for example, have bodies that are likely quite fertile — but their relationship status is not.

Instead of encouraging these adults to reorient their reproductive choices around the rights of children, including the right to be known and loved by both the mother and father who created them, the lawmakers behind this bill are subsidising the separation of children from their mother or father to validate adults’ reproductive choices.

Whose Rights?

As is often the case with marriage and parenthood, this legislation misidentifies the victims. Pushed by a coalition of LGBT groups, including the anti-woman, child-commodifying organisation Men Having Babies, the bill presumes that single and same-sex adults have a right to children, even though they have to cut children off from their natural parents to have them.

And because single and same-sex adults are financially burdened by the reality that their relationship status excludes a man or woman, thus requiring the creation of babies in laboratories, the purchase of gametes, and/or the rental of a third-party womb, Democrats assume they are the victims.

But they’re not. Children, however, are. The end result of this legislation will be children who lose a parent, are commodified, and made intentionally motherless or fatherless, with all the accompanying harms and struggles.

Lifelong Fallout

Children created via third-party reproduction, a predicate for intentional single and same-sex parenthood, do not fare well. The largest study conducted on children created via sperm purchase, “My Daddy’s Name Is Donor,” found these young adults were more likely to experience profound struggles with their origins and identities; have family relationships characterised by confusion, tension, and loss; and struggle with serious negative outcomes, such as delinquency, substance abuse, and depression.

In addition to the harms of parental separation, many are disturbed that their conception involved a financial transaction. That same study revealed 45% agreement with the statement, “It bothers me that money was exchanged in order to conceive me.”

That this commercialisation results in separation from an often desperately missed biological parent(s) only adds to their trauma.

“It bothers me that I cost money, that the one woman I want most in this life is a stranger yet 50% of me,” said one girl. “Sometimes I wish I weren’t born. I didn’t ask for this, and I never would have consented to it.”

Creating Loss

The Equal Access to Reproductive Care Act will inflict another harm on children: the desperate hunger for a mother or father who is noticeably absent from their lives.

I felt the loss. I felt the hole. As I grew, I tried to fill that hole with aunts, my dads’ lesbian friends, and teachers. I remember asking my first grade teacher if I could call her ‘mom,’” wrote one woman who was raised by same-sex parents. “I asked that question of any woman who showed me any amount of love and affection. It was instinctive. I craved a mother’s love even though I was well loved by my two gay dads.

The fact that children are the byproduct of heterosexual relationships isn’t an accident. They are designed specifically for the care of their own mother and father, which is why they reap gender-specific benefits from each parent and crave both male and female love. Insisting that single and same-sex adults have “equal access” to “reproductive care” requires children to sacrifice their right to that love for the sake of adult desire.

We will never be able to subsidise away a child’s need, right, and longing for their mother and father. And a just society wouldn’t try.


Originally published in The Washington Examiner.
Republished from Them Before Us.
Photo by Dobromir Dobrev.

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Psychiatry’s “chemical imbalance” cash cow just dropped dead. Expect the birth of a new cash cow any moment now

Psychiatry’s “chemical imbalance” cash cow just dropped dead. Expect the birth of a new cash cow any moment now

Intro by Steve Cook

The “chemical imbalance in the brain” pseudoscientific drivel is now officially outed as drivel. That particular body of psychiatric disinformation is now dead.
It’s a pity that so many lives had to be destroyed before a scam that had been obvious for decades was finally exposed in the media when the weight of evidence finally became too great for even the MSM to ignore, but better late than never.

Joining it on the festering compost heap of dead conjobs are the pharmaceutical drugs foisted on the People under the pretext of “redressing” the non-existent balance.

The fondness of the mass poisoning enthusiasts for poleaxing innocent people with biochemical agents touted as remedies for fictitious “epidemics” ( viruses, depression etc) is now legendary, having been thrown into stark clarity by the debacle of the fake Covid plandemic.

That  of course will not deter the psychopharmaceutical crime syndicate from pulling the same con again. Hence, we wait with baited breath to see what new pseudoscience is trotted out to terrorise people and thus help with the marketing of whatever new mega-profitable wheeze they  come up with. Having had their cash cow drop dead they are going to want to birth a replacement pretty fast.

The following article from the ever-vigilant, ever courageous Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) UK derives from decades of experience as the leading psychiatric watchdog.

We would be wise to heed its advice and be prepared for the next psychopharmaceutical assault designed to debilitate the citizenry whilst raking in the spondoolies.

CCHR UK 16th August 2022

In the last few weeks, the mainstream media has come out in a full court press to debunk, or at the very least cast doubt on, the serotonin theory of depression. The notion of a ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ has been given a wide berth by those who previously used it as a marketing tool. The media storm has directly invalidated the products of their highest revenue-generating client – Big Pharma.

The pile-on was something to behold: BBC NewsThe TimesSky Newsthe MetroDaily Mail, and the Guardian. And this is but a selection.

Especially disconcerting was they didn’t do the usual subtle job of escorting the delinquent products quietly out of the building. The journalists went straight for the jugular and in so doing, saw the chemical imbalance theory of depression falter and die along with the purported function and purpose of SSRI drugs.

In other words, a person could continue taking SSRIs if they think they are working, but they are not doing what they were intended to do. As an example, Aspirin thins the blood – that is at least one of its actions, and it is a mechanism that is well understood. SSRIs may be doing something, but they are not redressing a chemical imbalance.

This verdict – though long known to many – could not have come sooner for those at CCHR. However, the fact that it was brought to the fore by so many mainstream outlets – all at the same time – when all of them, one for one, are funded, through vast amounts of advertising funds by the very companies whose products they have invalidated, begs the question: what is going on?

In 2020, the pharmaceutical industry spent 4.58 billion U.S. dollars on advertising on national TV in the United States… In 2020 TV ad spending of the pharma industry accounted for 75 percent of the total ad spend.

Are we meant to believe that the mainstream media would renounce 75% of their ad revenue because scientists from University College London published a scientific paper – an umbrella review of SSRIs – that seems to hold water? Did something change, collectively, in the upper management strata of mainstream media organisations? Did they all suddenly grow a conscience?

Unlikely. It makes no business sense, and for Big Pharma and Big Media alike, business is business.

Rather than a good faith take-down of SSRIs, are we not in fact bearing witness to the strategic slaughter of one of Big Pharma’s all time greatest cash cows, the SSRI antidepressant?

Let’s begin by looking at 7 of the 8 SSRIs prescribed by the NHS.

Chemical name Brand name Expiration of patent
Fluoxetine Prozac (Eli Lilly) 2001
Citalopram Celexa (Lundbeck) 2003
Sertraline Zoloft (Pfizer) 2006
Paroxetine Seroxat (GlaxoSmithKline) 2003
Vortioxetine Brintellix  (Takeda) 2027
Escitalopram Cipralex (Lundbeck) 2009
Fluvoxamine Faverin (Solvay) 2000

This first thing that strikes the eye is that their respective patents – with the exception of Vortioxetine produced by Japan’s Takeda – all expired more than 15 years ago, meaning Big Pharma’s SSRI profits became fair game for any generics manufacturer with deep enough pockets to build out a supply chain.

What is the impact of a patent expiration on the profitability of a product? Here’s a snippet: Lilly’s patent [for Prozac] expired in August 2001… generic drug competition decreased Lilly’s sales of fluoxetine by 70% within two months.

Anything above a 50% loss of revenue is a debilitating blow. Surely, similar losses must have been suffered by the other companies cited above when their patents expired.

It takes 10-15 years to bring a new drug to market. So perhaps, before introducing whatever novelty they have up their sleeve, Big Pharma first needed to clear the deck, so as to be in the best position to market new wares when these are ready (and approved). Clearing the deck means removing what is currently there, or to be perfectly explicit: removing SSRIs so that they can be replaced by newly patented products. This is just speculation, but there must be a reason for the concerted about-turn by Big Media after more than 20-30 years of unwavering loyalty.

Enter psychedelics

On March 5, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first new medication for major depression in decades. The drug is a nasal spray called esketamine, derived from ketamine—an anaesthetic that has made waves for its surprising antidepressant effect.

This is worth repeating:  the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first new medication for major depression in decades. The application was made in 2018 by Johnson & Johnson.

As it’s the derivative, what then is ketamine? This is from the DEA’s own website:

Ketamine is a dissociative anaesthetic that has some hallucinogenic effects. It distorts perceptions of sight and sound and makes the user feel disconnected and not in control. It is an injectable, short-acting anaesthetic for use in humans and animals. It is referred to as a “dissociative anaesthetic” because it makes patients feel detached from their pain and environment.

Ketamine can induce a state of sedation (feeling calm and relaxed), immobility, relief from pain, and amnesia (no memory of events while under the influence of the drug). It is abused for its ability to produce dissociative sensations and hallucinations. Ketamine has also been used to facilitate sexual assault.

In short, ketamine is an anaesthetic with hallucinogenic effects, often used as a recreational drug.

What is a psychedelic? From the Oxford dictionary: relating to or denoting drugs (especially LSD) that produce hallucinations and apparent expansion of consciousness.

Even though the word is not used, ketamine is basically a psychedelic, or at least very much an adjacent drug.

Is this just a one off? Well, there’s more, and this time the drug of choice is the magic mushroom: In a landmark exploratory trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year, psilocybin was compared with the widely used antidepressant escitalopram. Although not powered to detect a difference between the drugs, a number of positive findings—levels of response and remission of symptoms—were more common in psilocybin-treated individuals. This has sparked renewed interest in psychedelic therapies as another avenue of drug discovery.

And right here in London, the Evening Standard reported: Inside London’s first psychedelic psychotherapy clinicPsychedelics are being touted as a cure for depression, addiction and many other common mental health disorders… In 2018, psilocybin — the active ingredient in magic mushrooms — was given ‘breakthrough therapy status’ by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), when used as a treatment for depression.

It’s worth repeating this one as well: In 2018, psilocybin — the active ingredient in magic mushrooms — was given ‘breakthrough therapy status’ by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), when used as a treatment for depression.

Where then are we heading? Is Big Pharma clearing the deck to introduce its “new and improved” set of patented drugs for another 20 years of high profits? Will the NHS soon be touting not 8 SSRIs, but as many psychedelics in their stead?

Only time will tell. But only one thing is certain, something is definitely going on. SSRIs lost their “royal favour” almost overnight. If they are removed entirely, the void will need to be filled. And when that time comes, as all good marketeers know, one should best be ready, with new products in hand, and a good story with which to sell them.


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Age Verification And Other Proposals Would Help Protect Kids From Toxic Social Media

Age Verification And Other Proposals Would Help Protect Kids From Toxic Social Media

Even Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, recognizes the potential hazard social media presents for his young daughters. While he wants his kids to be exposed to technology, he says not all time spent on screens is equally valuable. Consuming and scrolling don’t offer the same benefits as engaging and building relationships.

“I want them to use technology for different things, I teach them how to code, I think it is an outlet of creativity,” he said during his Thursday conversation on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

But the youth engagement his company publicly seeks does not always align with these private principles.

During a March 2021 congressional hearing, Zuckerberg responded to a question about children’s screen time by saying that “using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits.”

Months later, The Wall Street Journal’s reporting on Facebook’s internal research revealed the company was aware of the damaging impact Instagram had on a significant portion of teen girls, worsening body image issues for 1 in 3. Teens, it found, also “blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.”

In response, Facebook’s Head of Research Pratiti Raychoudhury wrote that the same survey referenced by the Journal showed that for 11 of 12 well-being issues, girls were “more likely to say that Instagram made these issues better vs. worse.”

It may be true that teens perceive social media as making problems like loneliness and fear of missing out better. But only because their social networks have migrated to these platforms. When every friend is on social media, letting go means social exclusion.

Five Proposals to Protect Teens

The Institute for Family Studies’ new research brief, “Protecting Teens From Big Tech: Five Policy Ideas for States,” correctly identifies minors’ use of social media as a collective problem — one individual parents can limit, but not entirely eliminate, the effects of.

“Social media use by even a few children in a school or organization creates a ‘network effect,’ so even those who do not use social media are affected by how it changes the entire social environment,” authors Clare Morell, Adam Candeub, Jean Twenge, and Brad Wilcox write.

The brief identifies social media as a “prime suspect” for the past decade’s sharp increase in mental health issues among teens. It proposes five legislative solutions for states to consider: age verification, parental consent for all online contracts, full parental access to minors’ social media accounts, a shutdown time for social media platforms at night for kids, and a legal path for users to hold social media companies accountable.

One day, the report says, we will look back and see social media’s dangers as comparable to those posed by Big Tobacco companies, which boosted profits through making dubious health claims and marketing their product as a medical one.

Whatever temporary emotional boosts social media provides teens is vastly outweighed by the damages inflicted.

Big Tech Has a Record of Denying and Justifying Its Damaging Effects

Facebook’s downplaying of responsibility is unsurprising, considering its business model. Social media companies can’t survive without eyes on their platforms, so securing the attention of the next generation is a necessary venture.

While Meta has instituted some noteworthy protections for teens on Instagram, like opt-in parental controls, they still see minors as a large, profitable market. Instagram Kids was temporarily halted, though they still believe it is  “the right thing to do.”

Teens, on some level, feel the problem of addiction. In a recent Pew Research survey, 36 percent said they spend too much time on social media. But teens, and sometimes their parents too, fail to perceive the greatest dangers lurking behind the acceptance and entertainment found online.

The Dangerous and Skewed Reality of the Online World

Accidental exposure to porn, for example, is extremely common. Nearly 90 percent of teens encounter sexual content online, according to a 2021 report by children’s internet safety monitor Bark. A majority have been exposed to porn by just 13 years old. Exposure, even when unintentional on the teen’s part, puts them at a greater risk of addiction.

If not porn, it’s only a matter of time before children encounter some other psychologically damaging content, such as dangerous TikTok challenges and influencers who promise to set young people free by helping them explore their sexual identity.

While Big Tech maintains a clear animosity towards conservative views, it continually promotes the worst of gender theorists and sexual predators. For many adolescents who came to believe they were transgender, the idea started with stumbling upon online groups who provided affirmation and a superficial sense of belonging.

When teen social interactions migrate to online platforms, they are absorbed into an entirely different world, one that skews reality. Influencers, algorithms, and peer groups grow to have a greater sway on a child’s mind than their parents; teens come away imbibing whatever causes the explore page serves up.

Companies’ neglecting to answer for this crisis while highlighting their products’ supposed benefits is no less deceptive than 1950s Camel cigarettes ads leveraging the credibility of doctors to promote their product.

Adults are not immune from the negative effects of social media. The difference is adults have the capacity to assess their own risk and benefits in engaging in behaviors. Protective measures are taken to shield children unprepared to handle the responsibility in other areas, such as driving or consuming alcohol. Laws mandating age verification or requiring full parent access to minor accounts, two of the Institute for Family Studies’ policy suggestions, would be no different.

Most parents wouldn’t dream of handing over addictive drugs to their child, yet they’ll give them a smartphone and unfettered access to Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. Whether legislatures step in or not, parents must remain vigilant.

Katelynn Richardson is an English major at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a correspondent for Campus Reform and contributor to The College Fix. Follow her on Twitter @katesrichardson.

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How we fell for antidepressants

The French novelist, Michel Houellebecq, with his accustomed acuity about modern culture, titled his last novel but one Serotonin. By then, of course, this famous neurochemical had become the key to a perfect human existence, too little or too much of it resulting in all the little problems that continue to plague mankind. If only we could get the chemical balance in our brains right, all would be well, life would return to its normal bliss!

After the commercialisation of Prozac, people started talking about the chemical balance in their brains in much the same way as they talked about the ingredients of a recipe. As Peter D. Kramer put it in his book published in Britain in 1994, Listening to Prozac:

By now, asking about the virtue of Prozac… may seem like asking whether it was good thing for Freud to have discovered the unconscious… Like psychoanalysis, Prozac exerts influence not only in its interaction with individual patients, but through it influence on contemporary thought.

You can say that again. Prozac and its competitors (known collectively as the SSRIs) soon drove unhappiness from the lexicon and replaced it with depression. A relatively rare condition became a common one, so common that up to a sixth, and a constantly increasing proportion, of adults in the western world are now taking antidepressants (prescriptions doubled in Britain between 2008 and 2017 alone). As Dr Colin Brewer once put it, misery increases to meet the means available for its alleviation. Or perhaps more accurately, the reputed means of its alleviation, for it is far from certain that antidepressants alleviate misery, if the question is regarded more broadly rather than on a case-by-case basis. I doubt that anyone has observed the world growing much happier since the introduction of these drugs.

One possible measure of general misery and prevalence of depression is the suicide rate. In Britain, at any rate, it has remained relatively stable, oscillating slightly at around a figure of ten per 100,000 of the population per year. In the United States, by contrast, it has risen almost by a third during the last 20 years in which antidepressant use has also increased. One can say that, at least, mass drugging has not altered the suicide rate very favourably.

Such broad statistics are always capable of more than one interpretation, of course. It might be argued that the rate of depression in the western world has really risen and that in Britain, for example, but for the increase in the rate of antidepressant prescriptions, the suicide rate would have risen rather than remained relatively constant, while in the United States depression may have increased by even more than antidepressant prescription, and therefore the response to the rise in suicide rate should be the prescription of even more antidepressants. Why, on this hypothesis, depression should have increased so greatly is a question that is not discussed as often as its importance would suggest that it should be.

The matter is further complicated by the suspicion that SSRIs themselves may provoke suicidal thoughts, by means of side-effects (and withdrawal effects) such as agitation and akathisia, an intense and deeply distressing feeling of restlessness that results in constant movement and that is associated statistically with suicide.

This is not quite the same as saying that the drugs never work; controlled trials show that they can, though not dramatically well. However, the results of such trials, conducted with a care impossible in everyday practice, are not automatically transferable to what we doctors sometimes call the real world, in contradistinction to the rarefied world of carefully conducted research, especially with an inherently vague (and, dare one say it, fashionable) diagnosis such as depression.

Nor does the variable effect of the drugs prove that the theory on which they marketed is necessarily false, though a recent review of the serotonin theory of depression suggests that it is far from firmly founded on scientific evidence.

This review, which has been itself criticised as incomplete, was published in Molecular Psychiatry, an important journal in the field of the biochemistry of psychiatric disorders. The authors examined the various strands of evidence put forward in favour of the serotonin hypothesis, that depression is the result of a morbid alteration of serotonin metabolism, and found them wanting in scientific conviction. For example, the measurement of serotonin metabolites in the cerebrospinal fluid of those who are depressed fails to show any difference from that in people who are not depressed. In summary, the authors conclude:

Our comprehensive review of the major strands of research on serotonin shows there is no convincing evidence that depression is associated with, or caused by, lower serotonin concentrations or activity… and methods to reduce serotonin availability… do not consistently lower mood in volunteers.

Here it is worth remembering that the first generation of effective antidepressants discovered were believed to alter noradrenaline rather than serotonin metabolism (imipramine was initially tried on patients with tuberculosis, some of whom were noticed to have grown cheerful on it), and in the experience of many psychiatrists they are more effective in preventing severe depression than the SSRIs. But the noradrenaline hypothesis was driven from the field by the serotonin hypothesis for some reason (possibly not unconnected with commercial propaganda) capturing the public imagination in the way that the noradrenaline hypothesis never had. As Einstein said, theories should be as simple as possible, but not simpler than possible.

It is worth reflecting also on the pressures on doctors to prescribe these drugs. Patients arrive in their consulting rooms who believe that their unhappiness is a deviation not only from normal but from health. The doctor has but a short time to expend on such a patient. The reasons for the patient’s misery cannot be gone into deeply and, if they exist, are in any case likely to prove refractory to the doctor’s ministrations.

The doctor has to draw a consultation to an end somehow, and a prescription is a natural way to do it, like the death of the heroine in a tragic romantic opera. He knows that placebos have a powerful effect in elevating patients’ moods, but he is no longer allowed to prescribe coloured water or some such as he once might have done.

In addition, it is probable that the antidepressant exerts an antidepressant effect on at least some patients, but so loose is the diagnosis now that he does not know which. For him, it is safer to prescribe than not to do so, for one untreated patient might cause him more problems than 99 patients treated unnecessarily, many of whom in any case will benefit from the placebo effect.

The patient also benefits in a certain way, even in the absence of that placebo effect. He is pleased that his misery is validated as an illness, thus removing some of the need for self-examination or the making of difficult decisions about his existence. He has successfully transferred some of the responsibility for his life from himself to the doctor and this is always gratifying.

Fortunately for the doctor, antidepressants are said to take some time to work. Moreover, there are various increased doses that can be given a try and that also requires a delay before they can be said not to have been effective. But this is not all: there are many antidepressants on the market, and some people respond to one and not the others. Thus trials of drugs can go on for months, by which time the feeling of depression may have evaporated, as it frequently does. The whole pas de deux between doctor and patient can last for months before drawing to a successful or unsuccessful conclusion as the case may be. At least everything has been tried.

A bonus for the drug companies is that patients often feel worse when stopping the antidepressants that they have been taking for a long time. This, of course, is an indication to stay on them for even longer. It is claimed that withdrawal effects after chronic use can last up to 18 months.

A fundamental problem is that there is no indisputable biological marker to distinguish trivial and fleeting unhappiness from serious depression, the kind that develops into the melancholia that has been described for centuries and which, once witnessed, is never forgotten. The first melancholic patient I ever saw suffered from Cotard’s syndrome, named for the French neurologist, Jules Cotard (1840 – 1889). The patient, a man of about 60, lay in his bed believing that he was already dead, the whole of his body having rotted away except for the tip of his nose, which mysteriously remained alive, though not, according to him, for very long. A successful businessman, he recovered with treatment with amitriptyline, one of the first-generation antidepressants of the noradrenaline hypothesis type.

Melancholia is varied in its manifestations, from near catatonia (patients may literally turn their faces to the wall) to unassuageable agitation. Such patients often believe themselves to be guilty of some terrible moral fault, though they may have lived exemplary lives – insofar as any human lives are exemplary. The cause that allegedly excites such melancholia is often grossly out of proportion to its supposed effects, and the successful in life are as susceptible to it as the failure.

Melancholia easily becomes a medical emergency, but is now rarely seen, possibly because of the widespread use of antidepressants. Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) may produce dramatic effects. One patient I remember went straight from profound retarded depression to a state of mania, overactive, grandiose, and with unstoppable logorrhoea. His wife said to me, ‘Can’t you make him depressed again, doctor?’

Irrespective of the benefits of antidepressants in individual cases, which can be considerable, I suspect that their overall cultural effect, when prescribed almost in the way that hypochondriacs take vitamin supplements, has been, like that of psychoanalysis, negative or harmful. They have reinforced the facile hope that there is a technical or psychological solution to the problems of living, and that any deviation from a supposedly normal state of happiness is always pathological. The American psychiatrist, the late Thomas Szasz, once proposed that happiness should be considered an illness, on the grounds that it was rarely justified by circumstances and was usually based on delusion.

The widespread use of antidepressants encourages a curious form of alienation of patients’ thoughts and behaviour from themselves, insofar as they begin to describe themselves as objects rather than subjects, and as if they were merely an amalgam of chemicals even to themselves. They do not make decisions, their neurotransmitters make their decisions for them, at least when these decisions are bad (no one complains of his good behaviour or ascribes it to anything but himself). They thereby encourage a form of bad faith, special pleading and an avoidance of true self-reflection.


Studies Show Federal Mental Health Programs Make Students Worse

The recent shootings in Uvalde, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and Highland Park, Illinois, led to discussions in Congress about whether to increase gun control. While the left would like to increase restrictions on buying a firearm, many on the right are hesitant to put tighter restrictions, such as red-flag laws, in place.

Aside from the recently passed Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, Republicans and Democrats will continue to struggle to compromise on this issue, but both concede a serious mental health crisis is driving many mass shootings. In response, Congress will most likely pass bills designating money to programs addressing mental-health disorders through established mental-health programs, like the federal Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program implemented in American schools to improve student mental health. But should they?

Millions to Mental Health Programs

In 2014, President Obama launched the Now Is the Time Initiative, which focused on mental health. According to The Mental Health First Aid website, the program received $15 million in federal grants to launch Mental Health First Aid programs in classrooms. One year later, Obama gave the organization another $15 million and a commitment to annually fund the program.

MHFA was intended to train students and teachers to be able to spot, diagnose, and report mental illnesses to trained professionals in order to prevent a future tragedy. In an interview with the Washington Post, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., said, “To be effective, we’ve got to go to where kids are with mental health, emotional health resources, and that means going into the schools.” Early spotting is MHFA’s goal.

But it’s unclear if MHFA is actually achieving its goal. Research shows that in most cases, MHFA training in students does not improve students’ mental health. In some case studies, MHFA has even been shown to decrease the mental health of students.

Research: These Programs Make Things Worse

In a report by the Manhattan Institute, MHFA studies’ results were collected and put into a table showing the program’s ineffectiveness. Out of 46 published reviews, 13 impact case studies were from the official MHFA website, 14 used a randomized control trial design, 7 examined the beneficiary outcomes of the program, and 16 were completed by an MHFA program creator. The results varied between cases, but all of them showed detrimental results as a consequence of MHFA programs.

Some case studies looked at MHFA programs on different college campuses. In one experiment, one-half of the colleges’ resident advisors were given MHFA training while the other half received no instruction. Surprisingly, there was not merely a lack of evidence suggesting MHFA improved students’ mental health in the trained resident advisor’s halls, but evidence indicated that resident advisors with the training had worse results than did resident advisors with none.

The website for the MHFA disputes these statistics, touting their program as highly effective with personal success stories and their own research. But their numbers and anecdotes are from the attendees who receive training on the program, instead of the trainees’ targeted demographic.

The Manhattan Institute study indicates “that of 181 articles on MHFA, 90% focused on the educational benefits for trainees, and none focused on the effectiveness of patient help-seeking behavior. Two trainee benefits that are often promoted include self-reported confidence in the ability to help and improved mental health literacy. Research does not suggest that these outcomes translate into better outcomes for intended beneficiaries.”


MHFA also creates an overdiagnosis dilemma: those who receive training are more likely to be on alert for signs of mental illness. This may lead to perfectly healthy students who merely exhibit occasional symptoms of mental distress receiving unnecessary or even harmful treatments that could have gone to an in-need student.

This phenomenon plays into the ineffectiveness of the MHFA program as a whole—the student mental-health crisis is worsening dramatically, but government programs are not helping. Despite the good intentions of the MHFA program, the results clearly dispute the effectiveness of the training.

This indicates that mass shootings will not be solved effectively through Mental Health First Aid, increased funding for which will only waste taxpayer money. Gun violence is horrific, and it warrants solutions that will actually help Americans.

Corey Kendig writes for The College Fix and is a student at Grove City College.

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