On Wednesday 26th July BBC 1 will broadcast an episode of Panorama titled ‘A Prescription for Murder’. The show investigates the link between taking a common SSRI antidepressant and violent, homicidal behaviour. The film is focused on the murders carried out by James Holmes at the 2012 midnight premiere of a Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado.
We welcome investigations into prescription medication for mental health problems and their side effects but we are concerned that the programme may cause people taking SSRI antidepressants to worry unnecessarily. We are in touch with the programme makers, who are aware of our concerns.
Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, said:
“Millions of people take SSRIs and other antidepressants and many find them useful in managing their mental health problems. Side effects from medication can be serious but it’s important to recognise that severe side effects such as those explored in this programme are incredibly rare. Anyone prescribed medication for a mental health problem should be fully informed about the drug and its side effects so they can make an informed choice about whether it’s the right treatment for them.
“Those prescribing medication need to work with and listen to their patients closely, especially in the first few weeks after prescribing a new medicine or making a change of dose. Anyone taking an SSRI or other antidepressant needs to be fully informed about what to do if they are worried about side effects, and how to report them to their doctor and via the Yellow Card Scheme. It’s not advisable for someone to stop taking medication suddenly without support from someone they trust - ideally their doctor. If anyone is concerned that they may be experiencing harmful side effects they should speak to their doctor or pharmacist about alternatives.”
Time to Change, which Mind runs with Rethink Mental Illness and which aims to change public attitudes around mental health, has also issued a comment expressing concerns about the programme's potential to reinforce negative stereotypes around mental health.
Mind produces information about antidepressants, including what they are, how they work, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.
For advice on coming off medication safely, see this page.
If you need advice on talking to your doctor about your mental health, check out our Find the Words campaign.