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Stop Selling Depression and Drugs To Men
April 29, 2004
by Tony Zizza

A recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution opined that "Depression exacts toll on men" and "High-profile 'Blues Brothers' panelists urge men who have depression to seek treatment."

These are big words trying to describe a condition called depression which has become even bigger business. May is Mental Health Month, so get ready for tales of woe, contradictory statistics, and more.

What I did not expect is for men to be targeted as much as they are these days. I think celebrities, the National Institute of Mental Health, and pharmaceutical companies need to stop selling depression and drugs to men. How can it be wrong to profile terrorists, but okay to profile a particular gender as a profitable market for medications and subjective mental health labels?

I'm sick and tired of walking through the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport and seeing huge "advertisements" from the National Institute of Mental Health telling men we are not "real" if we do not admit we are "depressed."

I mean, give me a break. I, and millions of other men are not moved when the Mike Wallace's, Art Buchwald's and William Styron's of the world reveal their personal challenges to private events at treatment centers moderated by other men in the news media, who of course, have "suffered" from depression. Perhaps this is why even men who fight fires and wash dishes are now held up as heroes because they have essentially - been medicated with antidepressants and psychiatric drugs.

I'm furious at men who have chosen to reside in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies and announce to the world they are depressed. Pardon me, but who hasn't ever been depressed in their life? Being depressed these days almost seems like a red badge of courage. It's extremely dangerous.

If you think I'm uncompassionate or worse, look at what Pittsburg Steelers football legend Terry Bradshaw is doing. This is dangerous. He has been going "on tour" essentially selling depression and drugs - the tour is sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil. Terry can't seem to say enough great things about this drug. He is being paid an undisclosed amount of money by GSK to target men to basically admit they're depressed. Depressed to the point of needing Paxil. Paxil is a powerful antidepressant that has harmed both men, women and children. Men and boys have long looked up to Terry Bradshaw. Think this is why GSK has him on the road selling Paxil?

I do. And it makes me very sad to think the lies about mental illness told by celebrities and others go unchallenged. There is no "stigma" attached to being depressed that prevents anyone from talking to a therapist. The stigma is actually attached to those of us who dare state it's not ethical to sell depression and drugs to men as a test of their manhood. Not to mention, ignore the fact children are being prescribed the same drugs and nothing is said about the deadly effects of these drugs.

Interestingly, we are always reading that men - are depressed. We never really learn - why. We're supposed to believe depression is medically a diagnosis as routine as a broken femur. But hey, take this sample and prescription. We'll talk about it later.

While men have reasons to be depressed: biased family courts and a media that portrays them as morons in their own households, systematically diagnosing and drugging men is not the answer.

Stop selling depression and drugs to men. It's not right.

Zizza serves as Vice President/Georgia of Parents For Label and Drug Free Education. He writes frequently about parenting issues. Email comments to him at: tz777@yahoo.com

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