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From The CriticsReviewer: Connie Lynne Byrne, BA, CIM (Medical College of Wisconsin)
Description: This is a compilation of current essays that wrestle with the widespread use of SSRIs in modern society. In particular, the book raises questions about whether or not we have created an environment where the use of SSRIs is necessary, thereby masking the messy, but normal, processes of self transformation.
Purpose: In the introduction, the editors describe the widespread use of SSRIs in our society. Their main concerns are with the impact of this use on identity and self transformation, and ultimately, on society as a whole. Each essay wrestles with these concerns from a slightly different perspective. I think it is very useful to reflect on current societal behavior and beliefs, particularly as it relates to the use of antidepressants by so many people. The editors and essayists ask some very difficult and profound questions about the process of self transformation in today's society. The objectives of the book are met in that the reader is prompted to begin the process of reflection on identity, rather than closing the book and walking away from the discussion altogether.
Audience: Although the book contains some clinical aspects, it would be very appropriate for students or anyone interested in a more in-depth look at our society's use of SSRIs. However, it is not a book for someone looking for answers about the use of antidepressants. The editors and essayists raise many questions, but give no easy answers. The writers are all credible individuals with a wide range of experience. Contributors include academicians, practicing psychologists, psychiatrists, bioethicists, and philosophers.
Features: The essays present the concerns of identity and self transformation from various perspectives — from pure science to sexual lives to Prozac in eastern culture. There are several essays that discuss the use of SSRIs in the context of spirituality. I was particularly taken with one essayist, Laurie Zoloth, and her description of our society. She points out that our society is so focused on childhood that adult work life is presented as unfulfilling. Playtime and irresponsibility are encouraged as goals, rather than contemplation or study. This shift in focus is even reflected in our religious institutions which now try to make spirituality more fun. In the end, she points out that antidepressants can be life saving but they also point to a society that creates the need for them. Other essays explore the use of Prozac in different cultures, particularly in Japan where calmness and containment are highly valued. Differences in the concept of personhood is explored within Asian, European, and American societies. No one author applauds the use of SSRIs, but they also do not deny that these drugs may be needed in some circumstances. In short, the authors wrestle with the use of SSRIs as much as lay people who are faced with the decision to use them. The writers provide many examples that further the discussion and highlight the dilemmas posed by circumstances in today's society.
Assessment: The essays are well written and engaging. The editors certainly have achieved their goal of raising the level of discussion about SSRIs in today's society.