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Published Feb. 21, 2008

Q: I have a friend/colleague who thinks antidepressants are overprescribed, unnecessary and dangerous. She has a tendency to bring this up at gatherings, which starts arguments and makes everyone uncomfortable.

I have clinical depression and have been on medications for years, and I've also been through counseling. Depression runs in my family on both sides and, though it is my responsibility to manage it, I feel no stigma about it. Some of my other friends are less comfortable talking about their medication use. I believe they have a right to use antidepressants without having to defend themselves at parties.

This girl has never suffered from depression or severe anxiety and says things like, "I get sad - everyone does," or "Sure, I've been anxious, but it goes away." I find this insulting and eye-bogglingly insensitive, but she honestly believes she is saving us. What do you do with people who feel they have this duty? Just avoid them?

A: That is certainly an underselected option in general. So is subject-changing, or closing the door with, "Thank you for the opinion." I'd vote for laughing out loud if it weren't for all the inflamed nerves (though maybe they're what make it so tempting).

There is plenty of room for informed debate on whether antidepressants are being used and prescribed responsibly, or even perform up to their expectations. However, "I get sad but I don't need antidepressants" falls well south of informed debate. About 75 miles south. Going 42 mph in the left lane, heading into the side of a barn.

This woman isn't converting people, she's alienating them - the thoughtful and/or tactful ones, at least, and frankly she can have the rest.

Meanwhile, your reticent friends don't "have" to defend themselves at parties, they choose to.

In a way it sounds like you're on a rescue mission, too, maybe trying to save yourselves from scrutiny, each other from her judgments, or her from herself.

But please, all of you, stop validating flimsy views by rebutting them. She has made it clear not only that she isn't listening to you, but also that she gets ample validation just by admiring herself.

The wrong question

Q: I have a friend who just hit 37 and is single. He is leaning heavily toward dismissing the notion of having children because by the time he met someone, decided she was worth having a kid with, and conceived a child, the earliest he would likely see a baby is just shy of 40 - which he sees as being too old for kids, financially, physically, etc.

How do I have a conversation that illustrates that he doesn't need to shop for the retirement village at 37?

A: You don't. He's not arguing the merits of walking into traffic; he's stating an opinion that he can't even act on yet. And when he can, the only relevant counterargument will be the one from Her Worthiness herself.

If your real question is how to help a guy who's 37, single and blue, then that's a different answer - though it still isn't to sketch out his new life with your words. If he's depressed, then urge treatment; if he's just moping, then invite him along while you set an example of getting on with your life.

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