“Pill Shaming”

I have worked as an NHS psychiatrist for quarter of a century and when I prescribe medications I try to do so as carefully and appropriately as I can. In doing so I try to share all that is known and unknown about psychotropic medications, including the strengths and limitations of the supporting evidence. I also give the necessary context that any intervention, not just medications, has the potential for benefit, harm, and a range of effects in between. Finally, I suggest that consideration is given to the fact that most of the evidence supporting psychotropic medications is based on short term studies.

In my time as a doctor I have never experienced anyone being mocked for deciding that medication is their best course of action.

I do however share concerns that how we use language is important. I am of the view that we are less able to learn if we polarise experience thus encouraging a divide into two opposing camps. This approach fails to recognise the complexity of human life.

Following the publication and media reporting of the Lancet meta-analysis the term “pill shaming” has again come to the fore and has frequently been used by senior representatives of my College, the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely briefly explained the origins of “pill shaming” and the “BINGO card” in this debate:

It was the anonymous, and highly influential blogger “@Sectioned” who developed this BINGO card.

Following the publication of the Lancet meta analysis on antidepressants @sectioned said:

“Here, go amuse yourself with the #pillshaming buzzword bingo card, which was created years ago in response to the endless, endless repetition of extreme scaremongering tropes that have been repeatedly debunked but nevertheless keep being revived. Now go away.” This was then followed by “Fuck off”.

Professor Wendy Burn, as President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said of the pillshaming  bingo card; “Love the card!”

To really improve the science of well-being I do so wish that we could find a way of respecting all experiences without resorting to a polarising debate.

3 Replies to ““Pill Shaming””

  1. Indeed. And nothing could be more polarising than trying to dismiss facts experiences and opinions one finds uncomfortable with silly labels like ‘pill shaming’ ‘anti psychiatry’ etc., rather than listening and engaging in sensible discussion.

    And how about this for polarising… the head of a professional organisation and the organisation’s leading expert on an issue making an inaccurate and dangerous statement in the media and then suppressing research on its own website because the findings prove the statement to be false, and then lying about why the study was removed. (See Mad in America for the facts of this matter)

    When are RCPsych members giving to speak up and get their leaders to engage in sensible discussions with their critics rather than polarise and suppress? I believe most psychiatrists are not as irresponsible as Profs Burn and Baldwin but you all seem very quiet about the unethical conduct of your current leadership. Except for the 10 (including a Fellow of the RCPsych) who signed the Complaint and our recent letter to the Health Secretary.

    1. Thanks John. I was one of those who signed the complaint. I share your concern about the unethical and unscientific approach that my College has taken on this and other matters, such as transparency about competing financial interests in key opinion leaders . I will politely continue to speak up about these matters.

      aye Peter

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