Thursday, September 2, 2010


I don’t know where to begin.

A few weeks ago (ok, so I’m a little behind the curve. It’s still July, right?), AOL News published an article about a South Carolina mother accused of killing her two young children. Police are considering postpartum depression as a possible factor in the killings.

The article originally contained the following statement by investigative criminal profiler Pat Brown:

Generally speaking, I don't buy the chemical imbalance theory for any depression; I believe people just don't want to deal with real life issues and the fact that sometimes life is simply depressing and damn difficult. It isn't about chemical imbalance but tough times and our own issues.

AOL has since edited the article to remove that statement, but the damage has been done.

Ms. Brown also posted the following comments on her Facebook page:

For all those who are angry with my opinion that postpartum depression is not a result of brain chemistry, forgive me; I have a chemical imbalance and cannot control my thoughts and behavior.

Apparently, Post Adoptive Depression Syndrome has the same symptoms and even higher occurrence than Postpartum Depression. What hormones cause this?

What we NEED to do is help women with the overwhelming job of motherhood, not tell them something is wrong with their brains.

There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t know where to begin.

Ms. Brown is not a psychiatrist, a doctor, or even a therapist (nor does she claim to be.) She is entitled to her opinion, but shame on her and shame on AOL for publishing such a statement in a news article (as opposed to the opinion column).

Recently, SSRI’s, such as Prozac, have come under attack. It is said they are over-prescribed, over-advertised, and since the biological causes of depression have not been scientifically established they are nothing more than a placebo for deeper personal issues best left to psychological therapy.

But, although we don’t know how and why a disturbance of the serotonin pathway affects depression, there is a vast body of empirical evidence that it does. Furthermore, there are other types of antidepressants (SNRIs, trycyclic antidepressants), the benefits of which have been proven compared to placebos. And most physicians seem to agree that a combination of drugs and therapy is the best treatment of all.

I could go on and on. About how there are many unknowns in the science of medicine that go unquestioned; we don’t know how tylenol works - tylenol! - but no one questions its validity as a pain reliever. About how victims of depression go to extreme lengths to hide their symptoms; they don’t want people to pay them attention. There isn’t enough space in one post to say all I want to say.

Except this:

Women with depressive disorders already face an internal stigma, which makes it harder for us to seek help. We don’t need doubters, deniers and armchair medical experts confirming our shame.