Yesterday a study claimed, amid a wave of media frenzy, that there is ‘no evidence that serotonin abnormalities are associated with depression’. As the lead author may have intended given the money she makes from criticising medication, the media has taken her study to mean that anti-depressants (many of which target serotonin) are unnecessary. HOWEVER, as we have discussed in the anti-psychiatry section of the website, such statements are exceptionally dangerous.
While medication is certainly not the only treatment for depression (and can occasionally be over-prescribed), a potentially life-saving treatment should never be entirely written off (especially as it turns out, on the basis of faulty methodology and understanding). As all experts know, depression is an exceptionally complicated disorder with many potential and inter-related causes, and it is irresponsible to categorically rule out or dismiss any of them (indeed, one should be cautious of any ‘expert’ that makes any definite statements!).
The problems with this piece are multiple; not only have the authors misrepresented the idea that they are claiming to ‘refute’, they have also used inappropriate methods, and drawn the wrong conclusions from these methods (for damning expert reactions to this paper, see here). To this extent, this piece perfectly illustrates the very real dangers caused by ideology being allowed to seep into health care.
These issues are complicated however, so if you’re ever unsure of whether a study can be trusted, try to look at the author’s background. If it is ideological, be careful to check the claims they make. A ‘conflict of interest’ statement is also a useful clue – all research papers must include them, and they consist of a statement from all authors regarding whether they are receiving funding or other rewards that might bias their work. In this case, all but one of the six authors declares that they have a vested interest in the promotion of the ideas in the paper.
If you are unsure about any aspects of your mental health treatment, please consult with a healthcare professional who has no stated ideological leanings.