After the Defeat Depression Campaign

The Defeat Depression Campaign of the 1990s , entirely funded by the pharmaceutical industry, was an “educational campaign” organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in association with the Royal College of General Practitioners.

I was a trainee psychiatrist at this time and the impact this campaign had on the prescribing of antidepressants, particularly of the (then) recently introduced SSRIs, was huge. Most of the “educational” material was provided by the manufacturers and was saturated with “Stahl diagrams” of neurotransmitter-endings “explaining” the “chemical imbalance”.

In December 2016, Vanessa Cameron, as CEO of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:

Please note: 
It is my understanding that the archive of the Defeat Depression Campaign is kept by the Royal College of Psychiatrists but has never been made available through their digital platform. In a similar way, the British Journal of Psychiatry archive does not include the full page commercial adverts that have featured in the Journal from its earliest days.

Nearly two decades after the Defeat Depression Campaign and Scotland has nearly 1 in 5 of its population taking an antidepressant and in England and Wales the volume of prescribing of antidepressants has doubled in a decade.

The following newspaper articles are from the 1990s. What is represented is just a tiny fraction of the public coverage. Two of the prominent Experts involved (Professor David Baldwin and Professor David Nutt)  have worked extensively for – and been paid by – the pharmaceutical industry. It seems that, at the time of writing, this is still the case. Professor  Baldwin is the current Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Psychopharmacology Committee

From 18 January 1993:

From 19 October 1994:

From 15 April 1993:

From 10 December 1993:

From 23 June 1996:

From 23 July 1998:

From 11 October 1998:


Professor George Ikkos [22 April 2020]: “P Gordon says Defeat Depression campaign had diagrams of chemical imbalance. I don’t remember that. The material should be available in the Royal College of Psychiatrists archives . .  .  interesting what turns up; may not confirm PG statement”

When it was pointed out that such requests have been repeatedly made to the College for the archive material for the ‘Defeat Depression Campaign’, Professor Ikkos said: “I am surprised but have to take his word in trust. Back then, I thought the campaign was well intentioned but obviously very much of it’s time, riding the SSRI crest . . campaigns have reflected President’s enthusiasm, with RCPsych council support”