The antidepressant wars

Gemma Lewis, Glyn Lewis, Tania Gergel, Edoardo G. Ostinelli

75 minutes


July 2023

Congress webinar 2023


The “antipsychiatry” or “critical psychiatry” movement argue that antidepressant medication is not beneficial and is indeed harmful due to withdrawal symptoms and side effects. These views have received media and social media prominence, including amongst some media with a right-wing political agenda.

Meanwhile the consensus amongst psychiatrists and general practitioners remains that antidepressants can be an effective medication that can improve and even save the lives of many people with depression, despite not helping everyone.

The polarised debate around this area has been quite different from usual scientific controversies, creating a damaging situation in which more nuanced and balanced positions are hard to hear. Patients and the public are left unsure about the real state of evidence and the role of antidepressants. We argue this situation is damaging to mental healthcare, but more importantly, is discriminatory towards people with mental health problems who benefit from medication, and it ignores many peoples’ lived experience of depression and its treatment.

The priority is to continue to investigate new more effective treatments for depression, understand more about current treatments and personalise care. We need to make sure clinicians and researchers present the advantages and disadvantages of antidepressants to patients and families.

This session will help you:

- Understand the nature of the current controversies around antidepressants.

- Understand the potential for discrimination and harm from a polarised debate.

- Be able to explain the evidence for and against antidepressants to patients and their families.


Chair: Gemma Lewis, UCL Division of Psychiatry, London, United Kingdom

Glyn Lewis, UCL, London, United Kingdom

Tania Gergel, UCL and Bipolar UK, London, United Kingdom

Edoardo G. Ostinelli, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

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