Why in the UK do we have mass prescribing of antidepressants? Nearly 1 in 5 adults are now taking an antidepressant. It is now being asked if this is a consequence of the 1990s Defeat Depression Campaign? UK prescribing rates of antidepressants have long passed the 1 in 20 prevalence on which the Defeat Depression Campaign was based.
In terms of current prescribing rates, 3 areas of this historical campaign are particularly relevant:
- The Defeat Depression Campaign reassured patients and prescribers that antidepressants did not result in dependence/withdrawal. There was very little evidence on which to base this reassurance and the pharmaceutical industry was very heavily involved in supporting the campaign.
- The Defeat Depression Campaign, both directly and indirectly, encouraged the use of screening tools to identify cases of depression
- The Defeat Depression Campaign was based on Guidelines that advocated prophylactic use of antidepressants to prevent relapse [long-term treatment/maintenance treatment] . Yet there was little evidence provided to support this use [in other words, this was a non-evidenced-based recommendation].
This matters now because:
 Many people are now finding it difficult to stop their antidepressants due to physiological dependence.
 The scale of harm that is emerging as a consequence of medication ‘taken as prescribed’
 Concern that history may repeat itself in current/future “educational campaigns”.
Vanessa Cameron was the Chief Executive Officer for the Royal College of Psychiatrists for nearly 4 decades. She offered [the following] candid reflection on her retirement in 2016. Her full reflection was published in the Psychiatric Bulletin and can be read in full here.