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Mental health

Censoring legitimate discussion?

Ron Roberts on antidepressants and comment.

08 September 2017

Following an article which recently appeared in The Guardian about a columnist's experience with antidepressants I submitted a few comments in the space below it reserved for public discussion. In this I wished the author well and then commented that the evidence for the efficacy of antidepressant medication was not as well-founded as people would like to believe (e.g. in the writings of Irving Kirsch and Joanna Moncrieff) and that the view that being depressed was a disease was also contestable. I was somewhat alarmed to discover shortly afterwards that the comment had been removed. I wrote to the paper to ask for an explanation.

I eventually received the following reply:
Thanks for getting in touch. Your comment was moderated because in discussions regarding mental health we do not allow users to claim that issues such as depression do not exist. We consider this line of discussion dismissive and effectively off topic as per point 8 of our community standards – 'Keep it relevant. We know that some conversations can be wide-ranging, but if you post something which is unrelated to the original topic ("off-topic") then it may be removed, in order to keep the thread on track. This also applies to queries or comments about moderation, which should not be posted as comments.'

As the points which I made are perfectly respectable and defensible positions in our profession – I stress that nowhere in my comments did I deny that people suffer from being depressed. I complained – to which after several days I have had no response. This raises several critical issues. On the face of it we have a prestigious national, indeed international, newspaper – and one moreover that expresses liberal values – which is in effect censoring discussion on a mental health issue in a manner that favours the entrenched financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry and that simultaneously misinforms and limits the understanding of readers.

Ron Roberts CPsychol, AFBPsS