Challenging normative orthodoxies in depression: Huxley's Utopia or Dante's inferno?

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Cutcliffe, JR & Lakeman, R 2010, 'Challenging normative orthodoxies in depression: Huxley's Utopia or Dante's inferno?', Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 114-124.

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Although there appears to be awidespread consensus that depression is a ubi- quitous human experience, definitions of depression, its prevalence, and how mental health services respond to it have changed significantly over time, par- ticularly during recent decades. Epistemological limitations notwithstanding, it is now estimated that approximately 121 million people experience depres- sion. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that the last two decades have seen the widespread acceptance of depression as a chemical imbalance and a massive corresponding increase in the prescription of antidepressants, most notably of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, questions have been raised about the effectiveness and iatrogenic side effects of antidepressants; related questions have also been asked about whose inter- ests are served by the marketing and sales of these drugs. Accordingly, this ar- ticle attempts to problematize the normative orthodoxy concerning depression and creates a space in which an alternative can be articulated and enacted. In so doing, the article finds that the search for a world where the automatic re- sponse to depression is a pharmacological intervention not only ignores the use of alternative efficacious treatment options but may also inhibit the per- sons’chance to explore the meaning of their experience and thus prevent peo- ple from individual growth and personal development. Interestingly, in worlds analogous to this pharmacologically induced depression-free state, such as utopiaslikethat in Huxley’s Brave New World, no properlyconditioned citizen is depressed or suicidal.Yet, in the same Brave New World, no one is free to suffer, to be different, or crucially, to be independent.

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