and a half times more than in England, it turns out that the Northern Irish are being medicated to address anxiety and
depression more often than in almost any other region in the world.
Journalists have been quick to make knee-jerk observations about use by patients who are too young to be directly affected by the Troubles. "The disparity is so huge that it warrants closer examination," said Steven McCaffrey of The Detail.
The insinuation in both The Irish Times and the BBC is that the Health Service in Northern Ireland is over-prescribing.
Health care professionals in Northern Ireland have noted for several years that patients who come to see a professional about mental health concerns tend to expect a prescription and are averse to alternative therapies. There are good reasons for this. A society that functioned on silences and secrets for over forty years might not race to embrace talking about and through complicated emotions. A conservative society with a large rural population may not find holistic remedies or eastern mind-body-spirit practices welcoming. Prozac is far less invasive than a therapist, far less sweaty and well, compromising, than yoga.
Those issues notwithstanding, I see some good reasons antidepressant use may be up that have nothing to do with patients opting out of other therapies for mental ill health. There may simply be more people seeking help. Why? Well, here's my take:
- An acknowledgment of the psychological costs of dealing with the conflict and post 'extreme-life' funk
- A shift away from self-medication