Lots of people take medication for mental health issues – very often for depression. The latest news of a major study that found no clear evidence of a link between low serotonin and depression [1] might have felt quite shocking and destabilising, especially if you are taking medications like Prozac (SSRIs) – which are commonly thought to treat this very thing. You might also be angry, upset or confused to hear that the theory that a ‘chemical imbalance’ causes mental ill-health has never had a lot of evidence going for it and has been in question for a long time.

Perhaps you are wondering what on earth is going on in mental health care, or what to do now if you are suffering?

If I can, I’d like to offer some reassurance and reading suggestions that may help clear things up a bit.

what on earth is going on in mental health care?

There is a fierce debate raging between and among psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and patient groups about how to understand mental ill-health. And that of course means a raging debate over what will help people through their struggles. It’s fierce and raging because people care, and things are getting clearer, but it’s far from settled.

That might not be what you want to hear if you are struggling, and that’s okay. You don’t need to get into the details. But, if you would like to read more about it, I’ve put book suggestions below.

if you feel better, you are better

In the case of mental health, how you feel is what matters. If you feel better, you are better. So, if you feel your medication for mental health issues is helping you, then it is. This study, and others like it, say it’s not clear what the medication is working on. They’re not saying it doesn’t work, full stop. That uncertainty is perhaps not very reassuring, but it does leave room for your personal experience of feeling better.

And if you don’t feel better from medication, maybe you could take this latest news as a reason to be hopeful…

if it’s not chemicals, does that mean it’s just an attitude problem?

No! All those symptoms are real and they need attention. It’s just that the cause might be different from what you, or your doctor, thought. And that means the remedy might need to be different too.

If you are on medication and it’s not working, or you feel less ill but not well, or the side effects are too much to bear, then this latest study is good news, of sorts. It’s not you. You’re not broken or beyond help. There are numerous experts in mental health who are ready to help with totally different approaches.

If you think we could help, please contact us. And if you don’t know who or what could help, maybe try one of the book suggestions below.

All book links take you to our pages on Bookshop – the platform for independent bookshops.

If you buy a book from these links, we get 30% of the sale, which we put towards providing low-cost counselling and other wellbeing services. So your book contributes to your wellbeing (we hope) and to others’ too.

Please email info@thenextchapter.org if you have any questions about the books or would like to get some personalised recommendations.

~ Kate MacDougall, centre co-ordinator and bibliotherapist