by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

As a person who has suffered for more than 20 years from recurring, difficult-to-treat, severe depression, I find articles like this frustrating. I have done multiple rounds of talk therapy and mindfulness training, both of which help sometimes, but they are often not enough for people with depression like mine.

Unfortunately, Lehrer and the hundreds of other science journalists out there who do better by being contrarian typically fail to report that the very studies they reference do show a statistically significant benefit over placebos for people with very severe depression – i.e., the people for whom depression can be a life-threatening emergency. 

Frankly it strikes me as irresponsible to leave out or gloss over this little detail. In her article for Newsweek, Sharon Begley cites the information that antidepressants have significantly better-than-placebo effect for severely depressed people, then points out that 13% of people with depression fall into this category, and then still goes on to call antidepressants "the emperor's new clothes," no better than "expensive Tic-Tacs." 

If patients deserve to know the truth about antidepressants, then surely those with the most immediate need for help have the most immediate need for the full truth, not just the truth that suits the popular "patient vs. Big Medicine" narrative. Expensive Tic-Tacs have meant that my girls won't grow up with a dead mother, and the available science cites supports that causal link. Severely depressed people need to hear that.

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