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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Awkward? Anxious? There's a pill for every problem, available online

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, writes Frey India, but it's more like Marketing Pills to Girls Month. She was inundated with messages about ending the "stigma" around antidepressants, writes India, a London-based writer, on her Girls Substack.

Some marketers were selling make-up or pore strips to end "the stigma of anxiety," but many were pushing antidepressants to medicalize the normal challenges of adolescence and young adulthood, she writes.

Prescriptions have soared for Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), she writes. It's not stigmatized in the slightest. It's fashionable. "Under hashtags like #mentalhealth on TikTok, which has nearly 88 billion views, girls describe SSRIs as silly little pills, call brain zaps from Zoloft withdrawal 'the zappies' and put their medication in Disney-themed sweets dispensers," India writes. Convinced they have a chemical imbalance in their brain, girls believe they are “wired this way for life" and “won’t ever get better."

There's no discussion of safety or effectiveness. "Drug trials show that antidepressants are barely any different from placebos when it comes to treating depression," writes India. "And these pills come with serious risks: SSRIs like Lexapro and Zoloft carry a “black box” warning for an increase risked of suicide among adolescents."

Drug-makers want girls to take pills for all their problems, she writes. Expanding "mental illness" to include just about everything expands their customer base.

A U.S. company, hers, sells “self-care” products that range from hair gummies and skin creams to psychiatric medication. It’s like “shopping for leggings, not prescription meds,” says a promo.

It's not healthy for Gen Z, writes India.

There’s Paxil® for social awkwardness. There’s Lexapro® for generalised anxiety. There’s Zoloft® for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (which some medical professionals claim doesn’t actually exist, and was created by pharmaceutical companies). “Nervous about your big date?” asked one ad for hers; well, the cardiovascular medication propranolol “can help stop your shaky voice, sweating and racing heartbeat. No in-person doctor visits, just an online consultation and delivery can be right to the door!”

Drug "companies pays influencers on TikTok — most users of which are young girls — to distill all kinds of behaviours into diagnosable symptoms, from being distracted as a sign of ADHD to being forgetful as a symptom of an anxiety disorder," writes India.

She believes "the mental health crisis is real." Girls are cutting, starving and killing themselves at record rates. Some need psychiatric help, which may include medication, she writes.

But there's nothing compassionate about shipping drugs to girls and young women "for every surge of anxiety, sadness, panic, period pain or social awkwardness," India writes. "Diagnosed in five minutes. Prescribed in ten. It’s futuristic. It’s revolutionary. It doesn’t really work."

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