A Reaction to Our Teens and Antidepressants Article

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pillsRecently, we received an interesting response to one of our downloadable articles, which addresses the topic of teens and antidepressants. Board Chair of Wellness Wordworks, Ken Braiterman, wrote that he was upset by some of our advisory board members' opinions on the use of antidepressants on teens because of his suspicion of their long-term effects.  Braiterman wrote, “Far too often, doctors and school officials present medication to parents of troubled children as relatively risk free, and the only option, not one of many.”

He went on to write of his experience as a suicidal teen in the 60’s, and how he dealt with his depressive feelings without the tranquilizers doctors prescribed him. He had an affinity for Jewish studies both as a teen and young adult, and his engagement in that learning helped him cope with his symptoms. Braiterman recalled that he had what psychiatrists term “psychotic breaks” twice in college, but he rather saw them as spiritual experiences. 

At the age of 27, he was diagnosed with manic depression and offered medication.  He was relieved at first, but now has come to question that diagnosis and his treatment.  "For years, I was convinced that my medication stopped the mood swings, and they would come back if I stopped taking it.  Now I wonder if I could have withdrawn gradually 25 years ago.  I'm withdrawing gradually now."   

It has long been accepted that antidepressants are not always an appropriate treatment for teens suffering from mild depressive or anxiety disorders. As Professor of Psychiatry & Psychology at Ohio State University, Mary A. Fristad, Ph.D. says, “A child or teen with mild depression may just need psychotherapy (talk therapy), whereas a person with severe depression may also need medication right away.” 

Child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. David Fassler, states: “With respect to antidepressants, my own opinion is that they can be extremely helpful for some children, but that medication alone is rarely an appropriate treatment for complex child psychiatric disorders, such as depression. It should only be used as part of an individualized treatment plan, which may also include individual therapy, family therapy, and work with the child’s school.” 

While talk therapy or other constructive outlets have helped people cope with their depression, some teens are unable to get well by those methods alone. The key is personalized treatment based on each patient’s needs.

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Read Ken's unedited opinion piece


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