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Discontents surrounding depression are many, and include concerns about a creeping appropriation of everyday kinds of misery; divergent opinions on the diagnostic category(ies); and debates about causes and appropriate treatments. The somewhat mixed fortunes of antidepressants - including concerns about their efficacy, overuse and impacts on personhood - have contributed to a moral ambivalence around antidepressant use for people with mental health issues. Given this, we set out to critically examine how antidepressant users engage in the moral underpinnings of their use, especially how they ascribe legitimacy (or otherwise) to this usage. Using a modified constant comparative approach, we analyzed 107 narrative interviews (32 in UKa, 36 in UKb, 39 in Australia) collected in three research studies of experiences of depression in the UK (2003-4 UKa, and 2012 UKb) and in Australia (2010-11). We contend that with the precariousness of the legitimacy of the pharmaceutical treatment of depression, participants embark on their own legitimization work, often alone and while distressed. We posit that here, individuals with depression may be particularly susceptible to moral uncertainty about their illness and pharmaceutical interventions, including concerns about shameful antidepressant use and deviance (e.g. conceiving medication as pseudo-illicit). We conclude that while people's experiences of antidepressants (including successful treatments) involve challenges to illegitimacy narratives, it is difficult for participants to escape the influence of underlying moral concerns, and the legitimacy quandary powerfully shapes antidepressant use.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.10.012

Type

Journal article

Journal

Soc Sci Med

Publication Date

12/2015

Volume

146

Pages

53 - 61

Keywords

Antidepressants, Australia, Depression, Morality, Narrative interviews, Qualitative study, Stigma, UK, Antidepressive Agents, Australia, Depression, Female, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Male, Morals, Qualitative Research, Social Stigma, United Kingdom