The news today that NHS spending on antidepressants has risen by one third in a year makes fairly, well, depressing reading. The medicalisation of normal human emotional suffering has continued apace over recent years, the only winner of which is Big Pharma. I like to think that I have a reasonably informed perspective on these matters, having worked for years in psychiatric care, for the Mental Health Act Commission, and as a Chinese medicine physician with 15 years experience of treating various severities of mental distress. Don’t get me wrong, antidepressant medications – when appropriately prescribed – can be a very useful tool to provide a person with a break from their internal suffering, allowing them to hold down a job or look after their family or just get themselves together. They are also provide a vital intervention in severe cases of psychiatric disturbance. But the prescription of drugs as a solution for human sadness, grief, anger or frustration – all completely normal aspects of the human experience from which we learn and grow – demeans both patient and doctor, and keeps people trapped in their suffering. Such interventions are based on an over-simplistic modern materialistic paradigm that reduces human beings to chemical-filled skin-bags whose experience can be pharmaceutically manipulated with impunity (oh Brave New World, that has such treatments in’t …). Beth Murphy from the UK mental health charity, Mind, labels the increase ‘staggering’ pointing out that other therapies such as counselling/psychotherapy and – I would add – acupuncture (see this factsheet from the British Acupuncture Council), can in many cases be more effective than drugs. Unfortunately, mentions Murphy, access to such therapies is ‘patchy’ (an no prizes for guessing why this is the case … see my previous blog post on this here).