The presentation of my interview with journalist Ali Bracken in your paper (30 August) was grossly misleading, selective and sensationalised. Ms Bracken telephoned seeking my opinion on the ease with which she appeared to have been prescribed anti-depressants when she visited five general practitioners in Dublin masquerading as experiencing depressive symptoms.
She described a number of symptoms developing in response to a series of major events over the previous few months. In that context I told her that I would not [prescribe anti-depressants]. I explained that in these circumstances a period of watchful waiting along with support from family/friends or a counsellor was the best initial approach since there is frequently a spontaneous resolution of symptoms. She also enquired about the side effects of anti-depressants but she did not ask if there was any association with suicidal behaviour.
I emphasised several times that, in my opinion, the GPs had behaved professionally since they were following the guidelines laid down by the psychiatric profession, had recommended counselling, inquired about suicidality and arranged follow-up reviews.
I was thus astounded to read the headline 'Anti-depressants: can they spur suicidal or homicidal thoughts?' with a photograph of the late Shane Clancy and comments from me underneath concerning the over-prescribing of antidepressants.
On the front page was an even more startling headline: 'Anti-depressants drove Clancy to kill, says leading psychiatrist'; and below were comments from Dr Michael Corry: "If he was not on medication, he would not have done what he did". This was followed by a comment from me that anti-depressants can cause "unpleasant side effects". Regrettably the juxtapositioning of my comments alongside those of Dr Corry coupled with photographs of the late Mr Clancy and headlines relating to anti-depressants and suicide have led some to the belief that I share the opinions of Dr Corry with regard to anti-depressants generally and in relation to their possible role in the tragedy of Mr Clancy and his friends.
Dr Corry was described in the article as "an outspoken critic of anti-depressants". I wish to make it absolutely clear that I do not share Dr Corry's views on anti-depressants nor would I wish to associate myself with his comments in relation to the Clancy tragedy.
At no point did Ms Bracken ask my opinion on the Clancy case and she did not tell me that it was to be the backdrop for her pieces.
It must be deeply upsetting for the families of Shane Clancy and Sebastian Creane, raw with grief, to have their tragedy exploited in this manner. Castigating the use of these life-saving treatments will further stigmatise a group who are already marked within our society and may lead to some discontinuing this necessary medication. Those who are ill or vulnerable deserve sensitivity and respect. Your coverage of these matters is outrageous, dangerous and outside the bounds of responsible reporting.
Patricia Casey FRCPI, FRCPsych, MD,
Professor of Psychiatry,
University College Dublin.