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Mental Health

Why we need to stop stigmatizing psychiatric medication

SSRIs, antidepressants, anti anxiety meds… You probably know someone on them, or maybe you take them yourself. 

There are countless psychiatric medications out there, all with their own usages and effects. I began taking antidepressants when I was 16 years old. This was after years of struggling with depression, and not thinking I was ‘that bad’. 

Through the years I’ve heard people say that antidepressants are a ‘cop-out’, that they think it’s healthier to cope with negative emotions without medicating. None of my close friends--or anyone who cares about me, for that matter-- would ever say something like this, but I’ve seen my fair share of people with very strong opinions on social media. 

According to a 2019 briefing by the CDC, 15.8% of adults in the United States had taken prescription medication for their mental health. 

If 15 out of every 100 Americans take prescription medication for their mental health, why is there such a stigma against these medications?

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 Author Glennon Doyle, one of my personal superheroes, has candidly spoken about her appreciation for antidepressants. In her bestselling book Untamed, Doyle writes, “I am on Lexapro, and I believe it to be -- along with all the personal growth sh*t -- the reason I don’t have to self-medicate with boxes of wine and Oreos anymore.” (Doyle 275)

Doyle frequently repeats her satirical take on a religious hymn, thanking God for her medication. “Jesus loves me this I know, for he gave me Lexapro.” (Doyle 275)

Her advice for addressing people who are judgemental? “If there are people in your life who judge you for taking prescribed medicine, please ask to see their medical license. If they show it to you and they happen to be your doctor, consider listening. If not, tell them to f*ck all the way off. They are two-legged people who are calling prosthetics a crutch.” (Doyle 276)

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People don’t go on antidepressants just for fun. Finding the right medication and the appropriate dose is an exhausting process. I was lucky to match perfectly with the first SSRI that I tried, but I have friends who have tried every antidepressant and experienced every possible side effect in the book. Psychiatric medications can be a financial burden. Lots of people don’t have the resources to access the medications that they need. Layering social stigma on top of all of those barriers just makes things worse. 

Antidepressants don’t provide depressed people some sort of unfair advantage. They just turn the light on bright enough so we can see what we need to work on. They bridge the gap enough so that we can do the work we need to do to get better. 

Let’s support others in doing what helps them become happier, brighter, more content humans. 

Don’t forget to take your meds :)

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Sarah Dwyer

U Mass Amherst '21

Sarah is a psychology and English double major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is hoping to become an English teacher. Sarah is a writer, a runner, and a registered yoga teacher. On campus Sarah is a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, a member of the UMass chapter of CHAARG, writes articles for the UMass chapter of Hercampus, and teaches yoga classes at the campus recreation center. Look out for Sarah’s posts on mental health, fitness, study abroad, and all things wellness.
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