My contention is that Dr Mercola is Dead Wrong about Depression, Dangerously Wrong. It is a big claim, especially because Dr. Mercola is a well-known and well-respected health guru. However, not only is he wrong, but I need to set the good doctor straight. Who am I? My name is William Jiang, Master of Library Sciences and I have written 63 books to date about mental and physical health. I LOVE much of Dr. Mercola’s information. In fact, I am an avid and enthusiastic follower of many of his health writings. However, I saw his article titled Depression Treatment Drives Users to Murder, Suicide. It painted antidepressant medications in a very unfair light by using broad paint brush strokes, arguing that they are basically bad for everybody because of the possible side effects of murder and suicide. Yes, these side effects can be very real; and people who start thinking about suicide or homicide need to go to inpatient status, immediately in some cases, to keep themselves and everybody around them safe. However, for literally millions of people, antidepressant medicines are a necessary life-line. Indeed, psychiatrists would NOT use them if they were all bad. Psychiatrists swear by something called the Hippocratic Oath, to do no harm to their patients. Modern psychiatry is based on neuroscience for the greater good of the patient. In addition, the FDA would not allow their sale, and drug companies would go BANKRUPT if they did not help most people who use them most of the time. But, I did not write an article criticizing Dr. Mercola after reading his ridicule of modern psychiatry. My tolerance was not yet exceeded.
Now, I am writing this warning to Dr. Mercola to keep his psychiatrist colleagues in higher esteem, as well as the entire field of psychiatry and to warn him to stop writing in this inflammatory and dangerous way to the general public because of the article he recently published titled Depression Not Caused by Chemical Imbalance where he just keeps digging himself in deeper. He is so popular that he can possibly be killing people. This is not an exaggeration. I am not sure why he does not stick to physical medicine. Let me review the major points of his article, and let me explain why he is dead wrong on all counts.
Let me deal with the summary of his article:
- Many people believe depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain; this chemical imbalance theory has been widely promoted by drug companies and psychiatrists alike — without evidence to back it up.
Antidepressant drugs work to increase serotonin, a “happy molecule”; and that in turn promotes neurogenesis- the true reason antidepressant drugs work. Psychiatrists and drug companies know this. Maybe the general public does not. The whole premise to his article seems to be an appeal to ignorance, and it is not helpful.
- Pharmaceutical companies were instrumental in bringing the chemical imbalance theory to the mainstream, heavily promoting it as a marketing gimmick to sell antidepressant drugs
What? I dealt with this argument already and explained the science behind it in the previous paragraph. Let me reiterate my point. The reason antidepressant drugs work is they increase serotonin, a “happy molecule”; and that in turn promotes neurogenesis- the true reason antidepressant drugs work. They increase the number and quality of vital neurons in brain regions like the hippocampus.
- Studies have repeatedly shown antidepressants work no better than placebo for mild to moderate depression, yet carry a significant risk of side effects
I find this point crazy and irresponsible. It is hard enough to live with the side effects of a drug without a respected health guru telling you that “Studies have repeatedly shown antidepressants work no better than placebo” for mild or moderate depression. When you use the words mild or moderate to describe depression, you are not talking about depression. Depression, major depression, is dangerous. It can lead to murder, suicide, jail, or death in another way. Dr. Mercola’s article is misleading by suggesting here again.
- Depression is likely the result of multiple environmental and biological factors, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, nutrition, medications and medical problems, among others
It is true that depression can be triggered by any of these causes that he lists above. Then he gives a few naturopathic techniques like fish oil and exercise that, I agree, can help many. However, for those with serious major depression with constant thoughts of suicide, the number of approaches he lists is woefully inadequate. I feel a book like my Guide to Natural Mental Health, 3rd edition is a beginning. One can not learn enough to combat depression or even to help antidepressant medications to do their job in 1,000 words or less. That is just impossible. I know. I have not been taking antidepressant drugs for 5 years now, after taking them for years for constant and powerful suicidal thoughts. I now am totally medication-free for my major depression for 5 YEARS. I talk about that milestone as well as others in a recent article praising Columbia Psychiatry. The thought I want to leave you with is that I still love much of Mercola’s body of work; however, I feel he should leave psychiatry alone until he has a better understanding of the field. The human brain is truly a miracle. I feel we will understand the inner space of the human brain fully after we understand outer space fully. Maybe never.
See Author William Jiang, MLS quoted in the
NEW YORK TIMES
William Jiang, MLS is currently the Author of 63 books, including the bestselling books Guide to Natural Mental Health , 3rd ed and his critically-acclaimed autobiography A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope. You can see a selection of his books about mental and physical health nicely laid out on his blog at http://www.mentalhealthbooks.net