Young People Question their Antidepressants
Like many eager freshmen this year, Amy* made Northeastern University her home with a burst of optimism and the excitement of a fresh start in a strange, new place. But just over a year ago, while a high school senior, she almost lost her chance for the college experience—her grades plummeted with her as she fell deeper into depressive episodes, putting her life and her academic future in jeopardy.
The scars she etched in her body tell of her battles with depression, a painful mental disease she dealt with in secrecy for four years before finally seeking help. After years of self-mutilation and uncontrollable sadness, the 18-year-old music ...view middle of the document...
S. Department of Health and Human Services, found in a 1999 study that 6.5% of people aged 18-24 have major depression, yet fewer than 25% of those diagnosed will seek professional treatment—those who do will likely end up on antidepressants.
While much about the treatment of depression remains a mystery, information about the illness in children and adolescents is even cloudier. Carol Glod, a local expert on depression and associate professor at the Bouve College of Nursing at Northeastern University, says the only solution is to conduct more research.
“You have to do something for the person that has depression and, without the research, we don’t know what works,” she says. “[Antidepressants are] given out in the absence of a lot of data.”
Though the remedies are uncertain, the symptoms are undeniable.
Amy first felt the effects of depression as a 13-year-old in middle school. Though she knew her life was good—her home life was normal and she excelled in school— she always felt like something was wrong. When her friends asked her to go out, she felt overwhelmed even by the things that young teenagers normally do.
“It’s wanting to be alone, but all the time,” she said. “If you’re asked to be doing anything with anyone else, you’re like, ‘Oh god, can I really handle this?’”
Life became overbearing and confusing, and Amy became more pensive and restless each day. Though nothing was fundamentally wrong, she couldn’t help but feel lost and hopeless.
“Every time I had to do a duty it had become much bigger than it actually was,” she said. “You ended up questioning your existence doing laundry.”
Like others with depression, Amy began to lose motivation and became apathetic—losing interest in things she once enjoyed and succeeded in.
“It was difficult to summon the will to do something constructive,” she said. “I just wanted to waste time.”
Feeling that nobody would take depression at such a young age seriously, she kept her inner torment a secret, writing desperate poetry and cutting herself as expressions of her pain and desperation. When her parents discovered her self-destructive tendencies, they tried to make her stop, but failed to recognize her actions as part of a bigger issue.
“Self-injuring is a physical manifestation of inner problems—some people punch walls, some scream, and some take things out on themselves,” Amy said. “But people don’t take it as a symptom,” but rather the problem, she explained.
Her parents kept her under constant surveillance for years, but wouldn’t consider major depression an option. Even her father, a psychiatrist, refused to believe that his own daughter could suffer from the debilitating mental illness.
A year shy of finishing high school, however, she confronted her doctor, who saw the symptoms as purely chemical and prescribed her medicine.
“I visited my family doctor and told him that I had been in a bad mood for so long that I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed...