APA slams ‘60 Minutes’ piece on antidepressants | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

APA slams ‘60 Minutes’ piece on antidepressants

February 24, 2012
by Nick Zubko, Associate Editor
| Reprints

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog about a segment that aired on “60 Minutes” this Sunday. It featured Harvard psychologist Irving Kirsch discussed findings from a study he claims shows that placebos are “just as effective” as antidepressants in the treatment of depression.

In response, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has issued a statement slamming the piece. John Oldham, MD, the association’s president, called it not only wrong, but “irresponsible and dangerous reporting." The statement also claimed Kirsch’s conclusions have already been discredited by the FDA, European Medicine Agency, and a number of clinical psychiatrists.

"It is unfortunate that ‘60 Minutes’ has provided its viewers with highly misleading information,” said Oldham. “I encourage everyone taking antidepressants to talk with [their] doctor before making any changes." He also wrote a letter to "60 Minutes" producer Richard Bonin, which you can read here.

The APA did acknowledge that medications are “not always the first choice” in treating depression. In fact, the group’s treatment guidelines for depression recommend psychotherapy first for mild to moderate depression, while the possibility of introducing antidepressants should only be explored when those efforts fall short.

During the past few days, some other media outlets across the country have covered the reaction of the medical community. Some share the same outrage, calling the allegations about antidepressants “explosive.” Others say the claims are old news, as both of Kirsch’s studies are over 10 years old.

In either case, it leaves me wondering whether antidepressants deserve more attention and more scrutiny than they receive (even if the "60 Minutes" piece was over the top). Maybe they serve as a useful reminder of what the field’s role in this market it supposed to be. What do you think the field's role should be, or is enough already being done?



How can we expect "the field" to respond or even have a role in this issue when the vast majority of anti-depressants are prescribed by Primary Care doctors, not psychiatrists? I once had a psychiatrist tell me that by the time the pt gets to her, he has already been tried on one or more anti-depressants, so that is never her first line of tx.

Hey.I'm a 100% non synthetically-medicated phoisytcc kid. Diagnosed schizophrenic and have very serious positive symptoms and equally horrible negative symptoms. Here is what I do to keep on top of the depression that is one of my negative symptoms.1) Omega 3 Fish Oil. You may have to buy a brand manufactured for kids because adult brands don't tend to be filtered for mercury and you DEFINITELY want a mercury-free product. 2) Multi-vitamins. Take something with a very high iron, vitamin D and magnesium.3) Exercise. If you're overweight, a healthier bodyweight will help you out. If you're not, exercise will still release endorphins. Personally when I'm at my worst I do yoga from flashcards, (this is when I cannot leave the house) boxing, and jumping jacks while a music channel (usually rock but I figure anything with a good beat that you like listening to when you're happy will work) is on. I also go running, when I'm not as bad, usually in a forest on warm days or at a beach on cold days, somewhere where I'll be alone with nature and my ipod. 4) Music. I mentioned the music channel & ipod above, but I also blare Queen, Bowling for Soup, Blink-182 and the All-American Rejects (aka nobody who sings about death, depression, suicide, sadness, or has a downbeat - less than 4/4 - track) and I HATE IT. It makes me MAD and MAD is better than depressed. It is more productive. ;]5) I force myself to do things I enjoy when I'm happy. I take a shower with the nice smelling soap and warm my towels on the radiator, I watch the funny episodes of Firefly and my favourite films and read magazines and This Book Will Save Your Life (A.M Homes - it's my favourite book). And if that sucks, I do the laundry and hoover. For me what works is just keeping moving. Then even if my whole day sucks and I can't bear it, the next day I can wake up to something good I've done and maybe feel better for it - or I have fond memories of my favourite movie etc.6) My favourite one - I read a book I've written. It's a big old book that I bought ages ago and when I'm happy, I write things I like in the book. Stupid stuff like, Xander from Buffy, and the sound from line arrays, and Diamond 4's, and sherbert lemons, and Harry Potter 1, and Gandhi quotes, things that have no consequence. If I'm only mildly down, it can get me back up.7) Meditation. Just sit quietly and concentrate on not concentrating on anything. If that makes sense. Don't allow yourself to have thoughts. Let your only thought be the thought that stops you thinking about anything. It sounds complex but you probably get my meaning. I like to meditate either in the dark in my room but the sunlight is good for depression so I force myself to sit in the middle of the living room with all the shades open in the sunlight. Therapy. Not from a councillor - from a psychologist, in particular a psychologist who is a qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist - these people are like GOLDDUST. They will teach you how to get through your worst moments and help you tailor your recovery techniques to your own personality. Plus, they're also usually really cool not-up-themselves people. Interview a few different psych's if you can, and if they're in an office and wearing a suit, don't bother. Find someone who wears jeans and listens to the music you like and likes the TV shows you like, so you geniunely like their company and that way, you'll get a lot more out of your time with them - it'll be more friendly and less clinical. And that in itself will lift your mood.Please bear in mind that the most important thing to have to get over depression without meds is psychological resilience. You need to be the type of depressed person who says, this sucks, but I WILL GET THROUGH THIS. I WILL NOT GIVE UP.. I WILL FORCE MYSELF THROUGH THIS. If you're prone to giving up (I am not saying this is something to be ashamed of, it's just something to be honest about - I understand fully that being a can't-be-f*cking-bothered/don't-want-to-can't-make-me depressive is horrific and not something the depressive can help) you may have to come to terms with the fact that you may need a low dosage of meds (Citalopram is good in low doses) to get you through, and you may have to rely more heavily on therapy. Either way, get a CBT and remember you are not alone, and you should never give up on yourself.'When all you've got to keep is strong, move along. And even when your hope is gone, move along.'Good luck. Was this answer helpful?

Nick Zubko

Associate Editor

Nick Zubko



Nick Zubko is associate editor of Behavioral Healthcare.

The opinions expressed by Behavioral Healthcare Executive bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone and are not meant to reflect the opinions of the publication.