First it was fear about a brand new lethal virus. Six months later, it’s concerns about a ‘second wave’, which will probably hit us in some form this winter.
But equally worrying – if not more so – is the economic uncertainty many of us now face, as we lose our jobs, our businesses struggle, or our freelance work dries up.
Therefore, it is not surprising that ‘mental health conditions’ have skyrocketed since March 2020. Earlier this week, the Office for National statistics said that incidences of depression had doubled, from one in ten people showing signs of it, to one in five.
All of which begs some questions. Is it really surprising that people are more stressed – or more sad – during a period in which their parents are at risk of dying, and they are about to lose their jobs? That they are nervous of getting on public transport because that hand-rail might be covered in coronaviruses? That all those masked-up faces make us feel jittery and uncomfortable?
I’d say this is pretty normal, and pretty understandable. So why then are we having all these medical diagnoses slapped on us?
Prescriptions of antidepressants have gone up by at least 15 per cent, and anti-anxiety prescriptions by a third.
Earlier this summer, I interviewed a psychologist about all this. ’There is no pill for grief or loneliness’, he said.
But, go to your GP complaining of low mood, or anxiety, and the chances are they will whip out their little green prescription pad.
Now, some people don’t mind taking tablets. They are lucky in that medications make them feel better, they simply finish the packet, and carry on with their lives. But many others do not have this experience.
Some find that even while taking psychotropic medications, they feel groggy, tearful, emotionally numb, fat. Suicidal, even.
So they try to stop.
And they find they can’t. The withdrawal symptoms are so severe.
From 2010 to 2019, I suffered with terrible insomnia triggered by the end of my marriage. But after my heartache had faded, my sleeplessness continued, taking on a life of its own.
I went to the doctor, and was put on a Psychiatric Safari, as consultants threw pill after pill at my condition.
Most of them made me feel worse. Valium, in particular, was a horror. But most people know about Valium.
So when, in 2016, I was offered a newish medication called Pregabalin – my doctor told me he would treat my ‘anxiety’ with no side-effects whatsoever – I thought I would give it a shot.
Four years later, I am well and happy (no thanks to the drugs). I am sleeping again. How I got ‘better’ is a long story, to be told elsewhere. But I am still trying to get off the pregabalin. The withdrawals are pretty bad.
Here’s my story about it in today’s Mail on Sunday.