Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Whenever there's a mass shooting, people who support gun rights start lining up around the block to call for better mental health care. They're implying, quite disingenuously, that people with mental illness are responsible for most killing sprees. It's a lie and they know it's a lie. Watch John Oliver tear the lie apart far better than I ever could.
In fact, so many intelligent people are finally sticking up for people with mental illness, that those who want to vilify us have had to take a different tack. Instead of blaming people with mental illness, they're blaming people with mental illness who dare to seek treatment. 
There have always been rumors claiming that SSRI medication can cause violent psychotic episodes. However, following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, the conspiracy theorists doubled down.
In April of 2013, gun rights advocate Dan Roberts published a screed titled "Every Mass Shooting Shares One Thing In Common and; It's NOT Weapons"* on the medically reputable site In it, Roberts (not a doctor, scientist, or anything of the sort) gives a bunch of examples of people going off SSRIs and onto murder sprees - evidence that might actually mean anything if he gave any sources at all. Other websites give similarly weak anecdotes but no scientifically credible data as to the danger of SSRI drugs.
What the conspiracy theorists don't understand is that their false information does real harm to people like me. It's a low blow to a group of people who have already been kicked below the belt far more times than we deserve. 
Every time someone makes one of these false claims, people with mental illness get a little bit more stigmatized, and we're stigmatized more than enough already. And you know what else? SSRI drugs can be problematic for people prone to mania, a very important fact that you can't find by doing a Google search for SSRI side effects because there are so many websites dedicated to giving false information about SSRI drugs that the true risks of SSRI drugs are hidden.
Every time someone repeats an unsupported claim about SSRI drugs causing violence, they're reinforcing the notion that people with mental illness are dangerous, and we're vilified plenty enough already. And you know what else? SSRI drugs can have an adverse effect on fetal cognitive development, but severe depression in mom is also bad for fetal development. Moms with severe depression have to weigh the risks and benefits of SSRI drugs very carefully, something that's really hard to do when every website they visit screams what horrible monsters they are for even considering exposing their babies to such poisons.  
Every time someone online makes an irresponsibly hyperbolic claim, people like me get a little bit more terrified to seek the help we need, and having a mental illness is terrifying enough already.
Conspiracy theorists can sit in their basements and feel smug and superior and it doesn't cost them a god damn thing. It costs people like me.
Look. SSRI drugs do have side effects, and some of them are very serious. This is true of every drug. It is very important to weigh the risks of any drug against the possible benefits. But right now if I do a Google search for "SSRI Risks," the actual research is going to be nearly impossible to find because it is buried under pages and pages and pages of unsubstantiated conjecture from people who aren't doctors and aren't scientists and don't have any expertise and have no reason to weigh in other than the desire to feel superior.
Some of us need these medicines just as surely as a diabetic needs insulin, as urgently as a cancer patient needs chemo. There's not a person with mental illness who doesn't wish they didn't have to take pills just to function. You look at the risks of taking the drugs and weigh them against the risks of living without them, and you talk to experts and you do what is best for you. That's hard to do when people are shoving misinformation down your throat for no good reason.
I'm not sure why people with no skin in the game and no idea what they're talking about think I should consider their opinion when deciding what is best for me. Don't they know these drugs are a matter of life and death for some of us? Don't they know that when they spout off their nonsense opinions, it makes it that much harder for people living with mental illness to find actual information about our treatment? Mental illness is god damn hard enough already.

Who the hell do they think they are?

* Actually, they kind of, by definition, have "weapons" in common.

By the way, if you want actual information without the fear mongering, check out - you can read the actual studies behind the headlines.

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