Can “Shafts of Joy” Pierce the Darkness of Depression without drugs?

There are many, many reasons why we’re giving more and more psychiatric drugs to children. Probably the most important reason is simple marketing. The drug companies, like the tobacco industry, like the alcohol industry, are highly competitive, and are always searching out new markets. The adult market has been saturated for anti-depressant drugs. How many millions and millions of people can take Prozac and Zoloft and all the other drugs? We have more adults taking anti-depressants than the National Institute of Mental Health estimates there are depressed people in the United States. The market is saturated, so the pressures move automatically to other markets. And the biggest next market is children. So you have drug company representatives, you have drug company-sponsored conferences examining this issue, or encouraging this issue of marketing to children. …


SA Mind
Mental Health

The Hidden Harms of Antidepressants

Data about the true risks of suicide and aggression for children and teens taking these drugs have been suppressed

By Diana Kwon on May 1, 2016

Diana Kwon is a freelance science writer with a master’s degree in neuroscience from McGill University.


In the latest and most comprehensive analysis, published in January in the BMJ, researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen showed that pharmaceutical companies have not been revealing the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports, which are detailed documents sent to regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) when applying for approval of a new drug. The researchers examined reports from 70 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of two common categories of antidepressants—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)—and found that the occurrence of suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior doubled in children and adolescents who used these drugs.

The fact that antidepressants may cause suicidal ideation has been shown before, and in 2004 the FDA gave these drugs a black box warning—a label reserved for the most serious hazards. The EMA has issued similar alerts. There are no labels about risks for aggression, however. Although hints about hostile behavior existed in case studies, the BMJ study was the first large-scale work to demonstrate an increase in aggressive behavior in children and adolescents. “This is obviously important in the debate about school shootings in the [U.S.] and in other places where the perpetrators are frequently taking antidepressants,” Moncrieff says. (Joanna Moncrieff, a psychiatrist and researcher at University College London)


Can “Shafts of Joy” Pierce the Darkness of Depression?

As a promotional exercise, coffee houses with “the Leonard Cohen vibe” were sent a free copy of the Tower of Song album. “I’d like to go to some of those,” Cohen later said. “I can rarely locate my own vibe.” After years of mental illness, though, the folk-poet did finally find his groove, and that can encourage the rest of us.

Posted on September 2, 2013 at 7:37am EDT

By Tony Lobl  –  Christian Science practitioner


Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s latest UK tour is in full swing and getting rave reviews.

His personable presence and his poetic and melodic songs are bringing joy to many.

Yet along with his now iconic status as one of the great veterans of the live circuit he brings with him an open secret – for decades he suffered from ‘acute clinical depression’.

To alleviate the suffering Cohen took all kinds of prescription drugs but ‘none of them worked’ and all ‘were disagreeable, in subtly different ways’ he told journalist, Mireille Silcott.

‘I was told they all give you a ‘bottom’, a floor beneath which you are not expected to plunge.’

‘And?’ – the reporter asked.

‘I plunged.’

Cohen is not alone in failing to find a value in antidepressants. The tide of medical research has begun to turn against the flood of pharmaceuticals, especially for mild and moderate forms of the disease. A recent JAMA study of antidepressant medications concluded that ‘there is little evidence’ they are more effective than placebos ‘for patients with less severe depression’.

As a result of such findings the government has set aside £400 million from 2011 to 2015 for the greater availability of psychological therapies, increasing access to treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy. The NHS can also prescribe self-help books and exercise instead of the pills.

Even when antidepressants are beneficial they can give with one hand and take with the other. Novelist and “profound depression’ sufferer Amanda Craig recently confided to fellow author Alex Preston that Prozac (now in its 25th year) enabled her to function. Yet she also said ‘it dulled everything’ including what she described as ‘the shafts of joy that gradually pierce depression’.

That imagery of something as meek as joy-beams inexorably breaking through something seemingly so dense brings to mind saplings quietly pushing against concrete until it cracks and breaks apart.

It was in that deeper direction Leonard Cohen turned when drugs failed to make a dent in the darkness.

‘What happened was that somewhere along the line I understood this question had to be addressed at the fundamental level of consciousness’, he told an LA broadcaster.

Finally, 14 years ago, after five decades of suffering, his depression lifted in a sweet moment of unfamiliar normality. He doesn’t offer a definitive take on what finally brought the change, but his words point in a direction many have found pivotal to both mental and physical healing – he broke free from self-preoccupation.

‘When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you. It happened to me by imperceptible degrees’, he concluded.

It’s encouraging to know such a mental shift can occur, and it can take place in different ways. Something many have found to be a powerful aid is gaining a different mental focus, a more spiritual outlook.

That was the way a friend of mine found release from a clinical depression that had endured with suicidal tendencies for eight years despite receiving top medical care and taking almost 10,000 drugs. In his case an idea from the Bible triggered an unexpected recognition that he was divinely loved. That conviction gained ground in his thought over several months until first the drugs and then the depression itself gave place to a secure, spiritual sense of self-worth. That opened the way for him to have a normal family life and a successful business career.

Maybe it’s a similar process of letting a more spiritual sense of oneself emerge that Cohen poetically describes in ‘Come Healing’ on his latest album, Old Ideas. He sings of a ‘troubledness’ that’s concealing an ‘undivided love’ – a love which ‘the heart beneath is teaching to the broken heart above’.

Perhaps that ‘heart beneath’ is what Mary Baker Eddy’s poetry calls the ‘gentle beam of living Love’ that is the Christ, the compassionate awareness of the divine presence by which Jesus healed.

A love whose ‘shafts of joy’ not only pierce, but at times can even disperse, the darkest of depressions.







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