Maybe there IS a market for nuanced writing about mental health

Manufacturing Depression: the Secret History of a Modern Disease had been in my “to read” pile for a few months. I was in no hurry, assuming from the title that it was a re-hash of the “marketing by pharmaceutical vested interests” arguments of David Healy and others.

But after a patient recommended it, I had a look. The author Gary Greenberg is a psychotherapist, who has episodes of severe depression himself, possibly related to his “inexhaustible penchant for dithering”. He tells a very interesting story, especially about taking part in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of an antidepressant. I will not reveal the ending, but do think the book should come with a bit of a health warning because the lack of black-and-white conclusions may make some readers irritated or even depressed.

Another thing I liked about Manufacturing Depression was Greenberg’s willingness to say that pharmaceutical companies and medication prescribers are not the only vested interests in the mental health “industry”. For example: “…even though I am a psychotherapist, I don’t think the only alternative is what I sell in my office one hour at a time”. And, as what Greenberg calls a “depression doctor” myself, I agree with his view that “Depression is surely an affliction, one that at least in some cases may well have a specific, although still undiscovered, brain pathology – a disease in the usual sense of that word.”.



Quotations from Manufacturing Depression: the Secret History of a Modern Disease (2010, Bloomsbury hardback): pages 365-6, 297-8, 13

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About Dr Neil MacFarlane MRCPsych

Independent Psychiatrist providing culturally informed mental health opinion, advice, and a few new facts. Based near London, UK. Main qualifications: BA MBBS MA MRCPsych.

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