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A "common cold" of psychiatric conditions

I read with interest your article “Real insights into antidepressant use” (PJ 2013;291:601). The website is really good. In mental health care, depression is sometimes referred to as the “common cold” of psychiatric conditions. With the condition being so prevalent and with such a high incidence, pharmacy is a focal point for symptoms and an arena where many people with depressive symptoms congregate.

“Depression is a killer” is what one pharmacology lecturer said when I was at college, and it is not a light matter if you come across it yourself or see someone else go through it.

These days people are more open about depression and there is a willingness to consider the patient’s point of view. I remember when the Royal College of Psychiatrists launched the Defeat Depression Campaign, one of the recommended reads was a book called ‘Darkness visible, a memoir of madness’ by William Styron. This was a powerful testimony from the depths of despair and gloom.

I have had experience of antidepressants and the severity of the side effects took me by surprise. There was sleep disturbance and drowsiness. I did talk about these problems with the GP and the answer was that the antidepressant I was on, sertraline, was perhaps “the least of these devils”.

In one article I read in a US pharmacy training guide it was speculated that about 30 per cent of customers at a pharmacy counter exhibit depressive symptoms. That means there is a lot of irritability and unhappiness out there in the community and we as pharmacists are right on the front line. One should do what one can to help.

Andrew Low

Harrow, Middlesex

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11132028

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