The irresponsible prescription and use of antidepressant medication is one of the great tragedies of humankind unfolding before our eyes, internationally and in Aotearoa New Zealand. For years now, scientists specialised in psycho-pharmacy yell out that most of these chemicals don’t work, and are often dangerous. The status and commercial success of antidepressants are based on inadequate information. Vulnerable people are given hope in the form of a chemical substance that largely works by coincidence and awful side effects. The root cause of depression is not known by science and pharmaceutical companies, let alone addressed.

Antidepressants are not conducive to life, but really only geared towards the economic machine. Perhaps that is why more and more people get seduced to swallow them. Literally. And they are younger and younger. Just over a year ago [April 2008]*, 17-year-old Toran Henry died in Auckland from suicide. He had been diagnosed with depression and was medicated with fluoxetine, the generic form of Prozac. Mainstream media have treated the story as an isolated case. They simply described Toran as a “troubled teen” and didn’t seem to dig much deeper.

In the meantime, study after study confirms that antidepressants perform only a little better than sugar pills, or placebos. In some studies, they even turn out to be less effective. What’s more, the world-renowned psychopharmacologist, Dr David Healy, found that when healthy volunteers were given antidepressants in tests, the drugs made a number of them belligerent, fearful, suicidal and even pose a risk to others. Dr David Healy estimates that worldwide at least 250,000 people have attempted suicide because of Prozac alone and that at least 25,000 have succeeded.

As recent as October last year [2009], the government’s pharmaceutical agency in Aotearoa, PHARMAC, approved funding for yet another type of antidepressant drug, mirtazapine, taking the total number of government-subsidised antidepressants to seventeen. Interestingly, when submitted to the FDA for licensing in America, the reports of clinical trials of this drug showed an excess of suicides and suicide attempts. All PHARMAC stated in its press release was that mirtazapine “has a different action on chemicals in the brain to those antidepressants we currently fund. One of the views put to us during the consultation was that this could provide benefits for people who have not had a good response to other treatments. ”

Other recent attempts by the New Zealand authorities to tackle “the problem of depression” include websites such as It recruited former All Black and Rugby union player John Kirwan to assure the public that depression “is not a weakness, it’s just an illness”. Relative to anti-depressant medication, the website offers false hope by stating: “Anti-depressant medicines can help to correct changes in your brain involved with depression. There are several options that can be effective, and your doctor or psychiatrist will help to find the one best suited to your needs.”

The view that “a chemical imbalance in the brain” may be causing depression in humans (and that depression, therefore, is an illness that can be treated with medication) is popular and prevalent. However, it is based on a fundamentally flawed hypothesis in neuroscience. In a recent interview on Dutch television, Dr David Healy explained: “There is no good evidence that there is anything wrong with the level of serotonin in the brains of depressive people”. In his view, some people who are depressed simply get better as a side effect of antidepressant drugs. Dr Healy has also pointed out that for companies to market them as antidepressants rather than as “agents that cause agitation”, is a business decision rather than a scientific matter.

While the pharmaceutical genius of the modern age has served the bodily health of humankind in many wonderful ways, greed has now taken hold in the industry. An example is that they spend more money on marketing than on research and make billions of dollars of profit a year from selling antidepressant medication alone. Generally speaking, people with “mental health issues” have not been served since pharmacology married psychiatry, a profession based on a lot of guesswork, and more error than trial spanning a few hundred years.

But rather than to blame pharmaceutical companies and its supporters for distributing or cashing in on dodgy chemicals disguised as quick-fix magic happy-pills, it would be more mature and helpful for humankind at large to not blame anything or anyone at all, and simply acknowledge that the human tragedy of anti-depressant usage is a stark symptom of our disconnection from Real Life or Love.

In truth, we all suffer from depression while living outside of wisdom. Only the extent to which this is the case varies per person. The most potent antidepressant treatment does not come from a blister pack and is not prescribed by a medical professional or another authority figure. It is the life-long practice of the realisation that you are not a problem, never were a problem and never will be a problem. This is the basis of a wisdom community. Not as a solution to our problems, but as the natural basis of life.

In a wisdom community, depression is not diagnosed but understood. It is understood as suppressed life-force or joy, and “treated” accordingly. There are always human-beings appearing who have realised wisdom fully and completely and come with all the abilities to pass on the fundamentals of a wisdom community. And what’s more, the fundamentals for it are inherent in each and every one of us. Surely we are allowed to walk away from our Western cult of affluent consumerism as the basis of life.

Artist and mental health expert Sally Johnson has first-hand experience of approaching all of life as “no-problem”: “I was on anti-depressants when I stayed for the first time at Tushita Ashram, the Wisdom Sanctuary of Sri Bhagavan YanchiGuruji. While there, I found I had no need to take them. It made me think about what I was doing to my life that caused the need for this medication. Being with a sat-guru master who has fully realised and lives the Unproblematic condition is very powerful. While I found the antidepressants I took useful, no-one is going to recover unless they become personally responsible for all aspects of their life. Though I can see that one could make a case for antidepressants for anyone who persists in living the conventional and most prevalent problematic way of life. At the time, in my own case, the medication flat-lined my emotions, so that I was able to function 9 to 5 because I had to work. But I also felt that there was something fundamental and essential missing while I took them. I was not aware of the research that there is little difference between the effect of placebo’s and antidepressants.”

The initial realignment with the principle of knowing that you are already completely okay needs to take place in intense contact with human-beings that have gone before you in that same process. People who have foregone all quick fixes and put each and every earthly satisfaction back into its rightful context. They have become the master of life. Upon complete realisation of who they really are (and therefore, what the true nature is of every sentient creature on this earth), they are then able to pass this on to others and lay the foundations for a culture based in Love rather than mortal fear.

© Sitara Morgenster

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*)This piece was first published in The Vessel in 2009, titled “Suppressed facts about antidepressants in Aotearoa and the world”.