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The Bridge: Recent psychological studies reveal depression drugs don’t work as advertised. How will this impact future mental health treatment for Gen-Z?

Dawn of A New (Prozac) Nation?

Thanks to mental health advocacy, we’ve seen a steady incline in acceptance and treatment options for mental health ‘disorders.’ Just take a look at Gen-Z’s open discussions around mental illness vs. those we had growing up. We’ve also been told that faulty neurotransmitters, the structures that fire signals in our brains, are the root cause behind people’s depression.

Well…have we got some news for you.

A recent study published in Molecular Psychiatry has found that serotonin imbalances, or the unstable release of mood regulating hormones (among other things) in our brains, are not the root cause for people’s depression. This means that antidepressants, also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRI’s if you’re cool). In fact, multiple studies have shown that the effects of placebos work almost as effectively as antidepressant medications.

Key word: Almost

An even more recent study from the British Medical Journal has revealed that around 15% of people benefited significantly from the use of SSRI’s against those taking sugar pills. This means that 85% of people taking antidepressants could potentially be resolving their mental illness without much help from their prescriptions.

Stop, In The Name of Drugs

Before you start telling your friends and family to just “feel better” (toxic positivity much?), it should be noted that none of these studies advised anyone to quit their medication. Because the issue isn’t even with the SSRI’s at all, but rather how they are marketed to us by pharmaceutical companies.

People undoubtedly experience mental health benefits from SSRI’s (placebo or not), but we need more information around the actual causes of depression. There’s some quote about “babies and bathwater” that would go nicely here. If only we could remember…

Anyway – while this news impacts generations of people who have been successfully medicated, what does it mean for Gen-Z’s access to mental health treatment moving forward?

Mental Health Pioneers

Gen-Z, quirky as they are, have undoubtedly raised the bar for mental illness awareness and acceptance. However, they also have been reporting higher rates of depression than previous generations, which is both understandable and concerning.

Naturally mistrustful of big corporations, we doubt these findings will have much impact on the way Z-llennials and under will be tackling their mental health struggles. Also, younger generations have a better understanding of mood disorders, and how to treat triggers that may contribute to depression. For example, autism, anxiety, and stress could all result in depression, but that doesn’t mean a chemical imbalance is present.

So how will your grandkids lessen these factors? Scroll through TikTok, or even Instagram, and you’ll see video-after-video of therapeutic resources and online communities available to them. Wellness is part of their culture.

The future of Gen-Z mental health will definitely involve pharmaceutical drugs for those who need them. This, alongside the increasing (and a bit overwhelming) amount of free and low-cost online resources and therapies offer another option to get over life’s low-points.

A silver lining for Gen-Z…or maybe that’s just their ring lights?

juggle struggle // pexels x L. Aguayo

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