On Thursday night, presidential candidate Marianne Williamson and CNN’s Anderson Cooper had an extremely unsatisfying and ultimately futile debate about a topic that neither of them is qualified to speak on with any level of authority—and that is the use of antidepressants in treating depression.
Williamson has faced increasing scrutiny over comments she’s made in the past, which include calling clinical depression a “scam” and saying that anti-depressants are merely “numbing our pain,” as well as her promotion of an article on the death of Robin Williams written by an arm of the Church of Scientology, which she wrote shared “the truth about anti-depressants: Helpful for some, but harmful for others.”
Cooper kicked off Thursday night’s segment by noting that Williamson’s concerns about the overprescription of antidepressants, the aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies, and potential harmful side effects are “legitimate” ones, but then pressed her on her previous comments that antidepressants “numb” or “mask” someone. “Isn’t that not a good message?” he asked her. Williamson denied promoting that message, before pivoting to her main critique: that we are treating the “normal spectrum of human despair” with antidepressants.
The conversation proceeded in this manner for eight excruciating minutes—Cooper pressing Williamson on her previous comments, and Williamson deflecting before bringing up her view that, as she put it, “We have lost our sense that there are times when sadness is part of life.”
Cooper raised the question of why, in 2014, she shared an article written by the Church of Scientology’s rabidly anti-psychiatry, anti-medication Citizens Commission on Human Rights. “This idea that I’m some ‘Tom Cruise’ about anti-depressants, I’m not, and I never have been,” Williamson responded. (Cooper did not press her, however, on her support and admiration of Dr. Kelly Brogan, a well-known, Goop-approved “holistic health psychiatrist” and vaccine skeptic who has stated, among other wild claims, that GMOs cause depression and that HIV does not cause AIDS. Brogan, according to an approving tweet from Williamson in 2014, “is rocking the conversation about depression and anti-depressants.”)
Williamson’s argument revolves around her belief that what we once treated through spiritual guidance is now being treated with drugs, which has led us down a dangerous path. “I’m sorry, I believe that a medical professional, talking to someone about their sadness, I believe that someone who is clergy, someone who is a psychotherapist who is not coming from a psychopharmacological perspective, someone who is a spiritual person, is just as qualified an expert to talk about issues of deep sadness, even depression,” she said, adding, “Why are we pretending what we all know is not true? We’re living in a society now where somebody is going through just a normal breakup and somebody says, ‘You should be on something.’”
It’s an argument that would land better if her sources weren’t the Church of Scientology or so-called experts like Kelly Brogan.
Can we hear from a mental health professional, just once? Please???
You can watch the full, excruciatingly painful interview here: