Parting with Prozac

Three 'natural' ways to reduce depression.

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Comments (41)

(40) Aharon, October 13, 2009 3:40 PM

Rebecca is NOT telling the truth!

While this statement applies to PSYCHIATRY "One of the saddest things about the PSYCHOLOGY field adopting the medical model approach...)" PSYCHOLOGISTS can't even prescribe drugs and I believe you misrepresent yourself. In fact it is obvious that you are probably not even educated at all to make the blanket generalization " a psychologist who has done the research, the toxic side effects from psychotropic drugs outweighs it's benefits." The EXTREMELY wide variations of individual patients circumstances, in addition to the multitude of 'psychotropic drugs' from Thorazine and Haldol at one end, to caffeine and moderate alcohol* at the other make the above statement of yours so simplistic that a bright 7th grader should be able to perceive the obvious flaw in it. The extremely wide divergence of individuals circumstances and challenges completley discount the credibility of ANYONE who would make such a generalization-let alone one claiming to be a professional or authority. To my mind even a rational adult! *The majority of adults use THESE psychotropic drugs to help deal with their existence.

(39) Aharon, October 13, 2009 3:16 PM

Not as simple as that

I have made 2 half-hearted suicide attempts (like rounds of Russian Roulette, PROBABLY would survive); and been hospitalized 8 times for depression, once for 3 months. Sometimes one is too depressed to get out of bed and implement any positive changes, When it is that bad meds are necessary to get started in putting life together. They are extremely idiosyncratic in action-what may have a miraculously positive effect on one person can make another person worse. Sometimes one suffers very bad side effects initially, but they abate after a couple of weeks. Cymbalta saved my life! It is not just an SSRI, but acts on at least one other neuro transmitter AND neurological pain. It is also a fact I can personally attest to that it makes withdrawal from methadone (commonly prescribed for pain, as well as to get off heroin) 10 times easier. Word about this last effect spread on the street years ago, but none of the doctors in '07 when I was last hospitalized knew about it. I would like to note that King Solomon endorsed a psychotropic for depression-ethanol from wine! Cognitive Behavior Therapy is certainly preferable to ANY substance, but sometimes the depression is so acute that some med is needed before ANYTHING else can be attempted.

(38) SusanE, September 25, 2009 8:07 PM

Most women I know are on Anti-Depression Meds booze

Can millions of women ALL be truly depressed? Is it contagious? ----------------------- I have two friends who don't go downtown. They have not been in a grocery store for 35 years. Someone told them they are professional women and that professional and cultured women aren't seen doing mundane chores such as shopping for food, pumping their own gasoline, sweeping their own doorstep, or doing local banking. They would never be seen in the coffee shop chatting with the locals. They stay home and they drink and they are depressed. It is never talked about. Their physician prescribes anti-depressants, and the women have them delivered because they are usually drinking by 11 in the morning.. Physicians don't know how much drinking women do while taking anti-depressants. It's like what came first? Drink, stay home and become depressed and take drugs? Or Become depressed, take drugs, stay home and drink? Twenty years ago it was the 50 year old women who stayed home and hid their drinking habits. Now it's the 40 year old soccer moms with vodka in their water bottles chaffuring kids on the highways. Their doctors don't know. Even their husbands don't know. Does that lifestyle cause depression?

L.S., March 17, 2011 12:06 PM

agree with susan above

I agree with SusanE that having nothing to do all day when the kids are in school will lead to women drinking to numb their boredom from their useless and mundane role to make the time pass. Sorry, but cleaning the house and shopping for groceries does not fill 8 hours of time that kids are in school, and washing dishes and driving carpool are not mentally challenging enough tasks for college educated women. I strongly believe that once kids are in school, women need to at least get a part-time job to keep their minds active so they stay out of trouble, contribute to society, their family income, etc.

(37) Anonymous, September 6, 2009 6:30 PM

My heart broke for #35. I too had been stuck in a dysfunctional and abusive marriage for 25 years. I lived a lie, pretending on the outside that everything was fine while I suffered deeply. My husband's abusive behaviors were always behind closed doors. On the outside he portrayed himself as the model of chesed. After my third child, I briefly tried anti-depressants for several months but I hated the way it made me feel and slowly weaned myself off of them. When I finally hit rock bottom, I remember feeling terribly depressed. At one point I thought about going on anti-depressants again but I decided not to because I did not want to numb my feelings and I wanted to be very clear and in charge when it came to making a decision about my marriage. I had the support of the Rabbis in my community during my separation and divorce. It was a painful time because my ex-husband was extremely vengeful (and still is). I remember a Rabbi suggesting that I may want to consider waiting it out until my children got married because it could affect my children's "shidduchim". I decided I needed to stop living a lie and set myself free from a very toxic situation. It has not been easy. I thought that since my children were much older that they wouldn't be as affected, but unfortunately it has been hard for them. I know though I did the right thing and I thank Hashem for the wonderful support system he provided me with to help me get through a difficult situation. I don't know you but I feel your pain because I have been there. I wish you only true peace and tranquility and a happy and healthy new year. May Hashem help guide you and give you the strength to deal with what must be a very difficult situation.

(36) Anonymous, September 6, 2009 1:50 AM

EACH person is DIFFERENT!!

This is such a touchy subject because there is NO advice you can give that is "One Size Fits All" - I had to laugh at the advice about moving - Guess what, we moved hundreds of miles and still have a dysfunctional marriage. I am not looking for advice here, because we have had it from several "professionals". I am stuck with medication until the kids are married, and then I can enact some truly positive change - DIVORCE.

(35) Rebecca, September 4, 2009 10:29 PM

As a psychologist who has done the research, the toxic side effects from psychotropic drugs outweighs it's benefits. One of the saddest things about the psychology field adopting the medical model approach over the past several decades in it's approach to mental illness is the terrible effect it has had on the millions of children who are given cocktails of psychotropic drugs that have left them emotionally, spiritually, and physically damaged. I believe that this will come back to haunt us for a long time. I hope the psychological establishment will one day have the courage to advocate, protect and nurture emotionally damaged children by providing the much needed psycho-social, behavioral therapeutic methods as well as encouraging healthy family interaction without poisoning our children's minds and souls with unhealthy labels and dangerous psychiatric medications that have still not proven to be effective. For those healers out there in the mental health field, check out the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology. Also read Dr. Breggin's books: Your Drug Might Be Your Problem, The Anti-depressant Fact Book, and Talking Back to Ritalin.

(34) Susan, September 3, 2009 10:18 PM

Not one size fits all

Great commentary Rabbi. I was put on Zoloft many years ago for depression. It probably saved me and my family from a lot of anguish. After several years, I knew there had to be another way. I sought out the help of a chiropractor, yes, chiropractor. I learned and this DOES NOT apply to every one, that nearly 70 to 80 % of your neurotransmitters are in your gut. so if you have gut issues, have ever been on antibiotics, steroids a bad diet with sugars, even sugar substitutes, it will destroy your gut. As much as I love my coffee, it too is a destroyer of gut lining... How could your brain function if your gut isn't? I also sought the help of a certified Upledger Crainio Sacral Therapist, and specific herbs all played a part in my suicidal tendency. It runs in my family, I thought I was doomed! With the help of many prayers and what direction to take, diet, probiotics,my therapist and massage therapist, I do not take Zoloft any longer. But, this does not mean it will be the same for someone else, but it sure helped me. Susan

(33) Anonymous, September 3, 2009 7:49 PM

response to comment (18)

Having been in your shoes, one step that can greatly help is to MOVE; start over your life in a new place (ISRAEL??); also, pray to God to send the right emissary to help you. you need help because you are suffering tremendously- but don't put your hope in meds, in exercise, or in any person-- though these things may help you, FIRST and always--- put your hope in God and BE OPEN to His guidance. There is NOTHING wrong with you. Life is made of waves of ups and of downs; if we dont know how to deal with the downs, to be forgiving and compassionate to ourselves, to let go of control, and to trust in God, then we can find ourselves DROWNING. Allow yourself to learn- with love and with patience- the ways of God and the ways of living fully. B'hatzlacha on your path to healing. remember, your own healing process is not in your hands (its in His hands)- so let go of self-judgment and criticism and control; this alone works wonders.

(32) Sol, September 3, 2009 6:51 AM

Destroying lives & family through psychiatric drugging is not kosher- GET THE REAL FACTS !!!

One of the BIGGEST LIES of the 21st century is the heavily promoted & advertised psycho-pharmaceutical line "you have a chemical imbalance in the brain - which is causing all your problems in life". FACT;- Dr. Sharpstein [previous head of the American Psychiatric Association] categorically stated that THERE IS NO EXISTING TEST ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD TO VALIDATE [show/prove] THIS !!! There is NO blood test, urine test, x-ray etc to determine this - NONE. Next time you get recommended some MIND-ALTERING psychiatric drug ["medication"], suggest that you ask for an actual biological test as proof - like any normal disease. You'll find out very quickly that ther is'nt one. Psychotropics [ mind-altering drugs] FACTUALLY CAUSE MANY UNWANTED PHYSICAL CONDITIONS [many life-threatening], suicide and aggressive/psychotic behaviour. So the next time you get recommended some, THINK TWICE - get INFORMED. Get the FACTS for yourself. You don't want child or adult suicide on your conscience. EVERY ONE OF THE LAST 14 MASS SCHOOL SHOOTINGS [where the medical records were disclosed] WAS SHOWN TO BE ON HEAVY PSYCHOTROPIC drugs. That is precisely why the FDA forced the pharmaceutical co's to put 'black box warning' labels on most psychiatric drugs. Want the REAL FACTS ??? Go to the most incorruptable international watchdog on human rights abuses in this field - supported by medical & other professionals - including psychiatrists themselves. You owe it to yourselves to become informed.

(31) yosi, September 3, 2009 2:58 AM

Hit the nail on the head however....

Thank you for a wonderfull blog with relevant and current issues to think about. In regards to the prozac issue yes it is a problem however in our current instant gratification and disposable world it is easier to pop a pill then to do a half hour walk . Thanks again

(30) DEE, September 2, 2009 3:55 PM



(29) Elana, September 2, 2009 2:46 PM

Great Advice

This guy is so great! So true! Great advice. To #9, he's not saying to go and fill every hour of your day and be hip and active...he just means that you should be involved in your own life. Also, #5, the reason some people experience suicidal thoughts with these meds is because while depressed the person has no energy to carry out, or even think about, dangerous suicidal ideas. Once the meds start working (in the beginning..first few weeks), the person is just getting out of the depression...not yet where the meds take full effect...and this is the most dangerous time period. I can't believe that your doctor was shocked. This is the first thing we learned in nursing school when learning about anti depressents.

(28) Mary Whitmore, September 2, 2009 2:28 PM

psychiatric medication

Long term use of any form of psychiatric medication greatly reduces average life span. The statistics from mental institutions prove this, along with the fact that many old patients within these institutions have been locked up for over thirty years, which in itself, is prove that these medications do not work, they, only put patients to "sleep", faith in God is the only cure for depression, which is an attack from satan.

(27) Anonymous, September 2, 2009 4:15 AM

I would like to note that I was in antidepressive (weelbutrin) for more or less a year, at the same time seeing a psicologist and I fell it really helped me to come out of my depression, without many side effects ( some headache at the beggining) and I thing everyone has to try other ways first but sometimes they are a really big help!

(26) Anonymous, September 2, 2009 2:51 AM

I don't disagree in principle but...

Many people are afraid of medication and I hope they will not hear this has more proof that they should not be taking medication, despite your statements to the contrary. As a mental health and addictions counselor for many years, I have seen too often people who suffered greatly because they refused medication, especially alcoholics who listened to old-timers who said "no meds." I also suffer from treatment-refractive major depression and PTSD. I am grateful for anything that helps at all, even with onerous side effects. I still have to work on my life, make good choices and take care of myself, but it is much easier with medication that helps me stay on a more even keel and reduces episodes of severe despondency and suicidal ideation.

(25) shimi, September 1, 2009 11:27 PM

Rabbi Salomon = A genius!! So down to earth, smart, and really picks topics that pertain to our lives.. Thank you!

(24) American Mom, September 1, 2009 8:22 PM

Don't Flush Meds Down the Toilet !

After a thorough psych evaluation, if meds are prescribed then there is usually a good reason why. Your doctor probably felt that the meds benefits out weith the risks of any side effects (which in my case went away after the first week). Life can be more overwhelming and difficult for some of us. Some people are very resilient, others of us may crumble at a minor setback. Sometimes it takes a few months for the doc to get a dose correct since everyone is different. I just don't think that our community should (dangerously) pressure those of us who suffer from chronic depression to flush all our meds down the toilet. Most docs agree that overcoming depression is a team effort and must include all of the suggestions made here AND proper medication. If you had a headache would you take a Tylenol? There is no shame in taking medication to treat a disease like depression.

(23) Anonymous, September 1, 2009 7:43 PM

But what about a shidduch?

The frum community is already running scared at the mention of antidepressants, therapy or anything that smacks of mental illness. You should see what passes for a fulfilling life where I come from. Perhaps more people should be on antidepressants and perhaps more people would if not for the stigma attached to taking medication which you so glibly reinforce. What we don't need is more good-two-shoes advice from people who obviously have never been clinically depresssed.

(22) Dorit, September 1, 2009 7:43 PM

Strength from Within

Kol tov to those who found strength and widsom within themselves to know what those med's were doing and question it. We are fast becoming internationally slaves to the pharmacutical companies, who are getting sued for their false marketing...fraud and shoddy business practices. Years ago I was briefly on med's that blocked my brain activity and speech; I walked around in a stuper.I tossed them out and prayed daily to HaShem for His divine guidance and healings. He didn't fail me. His will is my purpose.

(21) Isaac, September 1, 2009 6:50 PM

So much in so little space

Need to differentiate before acting: Moods? Emotions? Disorders? So, depression of a Bipolar patient is not the same as Monday morning blues. Depression of Parkinson's patient (lacking dopamine) is not the same as Emotional Depression. Situational depression (relationship problems) is not the same as damage to the executive functioning. Also, they do not know if Seretonin is the problem in depression. They have no idea why any of the medications work. For the ordinary type of depression they have found that exercise or cognitive theraphy works just as well as medication. There are also herbal forms which work just as well (SAME and Vitmain B6 etc.). Check out your Vitamin B6 and B12 and Thyroid. There is much more but no room.

(20) Chaya, September 1, 2009 6:25 PM

You obviously have never been depressed.

Clinical depression is real. There are people who cannot FIRST exercise, live their life with purpose and interact socially because of this illness. To encourage this as a first line of action is to promote low self-esteem and guilt among the already depressed, which depressed people already have enough of. Thank you very much. Would you encourage a severely diabetic person to try a change of diet before opting for insulin? People who are clinically depressed are lacking in neurotransmitters. To tell them to exercise is like telling a paralyzed person to get out of their wheelchair and try walking. Aren't mental health professionals trained to differentiate between the signs of clinical depression and laziness? You're treading on dangerous ground, Sal, and playing with a pikuach nefesh issue.

(19) Anonymous, September 1, 2009 6:24 PM

Question for the rabbi

I have been excercising regularly for many years, I am an observant Jewish woman who almost regularly davens and listens to shiurim on the internet (I live too far away to attend classes in person) and I have been forcing myself to be involved in social activities for years. Nothing helps and I still feel depressed. I hate medication because after awhile, they all stop working and just leave me feeling numb. I feel like there are no answers for me. So why does Hashem create a person with an imbalace in his brain chemistry that causes him to suffer from depression? I am desperate to experience joy in my avodat Hashem (service of G-d) but I am blocked by this depression. What is the point of it? It's not like I am not trying to help myself. I struggle daily to maintain my routine despite the secret storm that is taking place inside me.

(18) PAPAMEL, September 1, 2009 5:24 PM

right on--but what to do at age 93

trying to form group of webbers in their 90's to interact via the net--can you help?

(17) Victor Hafichuk, September 1, 2009 4:13 PM

You missed one important point!

I agree with Salomon's three points but one very important one he does not mention is diet! What we eat profoundly affects us and how we feel, both short and long term. Eat organic; eat foods as close to natural as possible; stay away from processed and junk foods. So many people have no idea what a difference that makes. Another point: drink more good, revitalized, filtered water. Nobody in his or her right mind should be drinking water straight out of the urban tap, and bottled water is often not much better.

(16) karen milstein, September 1, 2009 4:10 PM

Prozac controversy

As ka PhD psychologist and a social worker with over 40 years experience, who does much cutting-edge work, often within a Jewish context, I must respond to this. Certainly when people can manage to live well and fully without medication, that is a great thing, But that is not always possible. i've seen many individuals with a terrible quality of live, no energy to try anything, and in some cases even being suicidal. Prozac and other anti-depressant medications can frequently give these people back their lives. What could be more holy than that!?! (BTW, the video that started this discussion is no longer available).

(15) Jonathan Shopiro, September 1, 2009 3:52 PM

Is it salomon or me?

Finally a commentary by Salomon that I completely agree with. Am I losing my grip or is it him?

(14) Laurie in NorCal, September 1, 2009 3:37 PM

I'm Wary

The trend of getting away from prescribing antidepressants concerns me. If someone truly needs antidepressant medication, please, let's be educated and intelligent about it. Let's not go back to the days of horror when lives were ruined or lost due to untreated depression.

(13) Anonymous, September 1, 2009 3:22 PM

Without better mental health coverage, medication instead of therapy is inevitable

For most people, the reality is that if they are depressed, they cannot afford appropriate mental health services. Their health insurance doesn't cover reasonable care, the co-payments are very high, and few practitioners are available who have the expertise to provide quality care and who are accepting new patients. Because of this, people can afford prescriptions, but not therapy. As long as insurance companies prefer to fund pills rather than therapy, the over-use of medication will continue. It's fine to say "get out there and exercise, socialize and find meaning," but if someone is depressed, s/he isn't going to be able to do that on his/her own. S/he will need supports, generally professional supports. Medication alone won't do it, but it might keep someone out of the hospital and able to function at work. Really, that's all the insurance company cares about, and for most people, that's all they're going to get - they can't afford the astronomical costs of obtaining the care they need to work through the depression, so they don't.

(12) Anonymous, September 1, 2009 6:44 AM


As a mother of a growing family, things get very overwhelming. My Rabbi encouraged me to do water aerobics 2-3 times a week. The change is amazing! I thought I was constantly moving with the kids, living without a car, etc, but the aerobic activity is really invigorating! Also, there are lots of group coaching, chinuch, and personal development classes out there, many by phone. Those can help people feel they are living with a purpose in ways they never imagined!'s daily dose email is also a good start. Re: Living life to the fullest I don't think it is a mitzva of simcha, I think it is a person's responsibility in this world. Hashem gave us abilities to USE. We will be brought to judgment for what we did, and what we didn't do but could have. It has been said that Passing time is a form of Murder!

(11) Judi, August 31, 2009 7:29 PM

Simply beautiful advice.

His 3 suggestions, physical exercise, purposeful living, and increased social interaction, are THE BEST. I've experienced four years of depression following a terrible car accident which damaged my neck, face and teeth, and each time I've neglected any of those 3 areas, my emotions and crying fits overwhelm me. Try it, then ask your doc to help you slowly wean yourself off the antiDs.

(10) SusanE, August 31, 2009 3:25 PM

Drugs are HUGE Business

Annonymous poster #1 posted about mental health professionals having stock in Drug companies as a reason for prescribing drugs. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It could be true. TEVA stock has climbed steadily in the past several years even through this so called recession, because EVERYONE is prescribed drugs by their doctors. You can read more about it here. ~~~~

(9) Anonymous, August 31, 2009 2:35 AM

what about introverts?

If one is an introvert, how can he/she live life to a fairly full degree? Frankly, when I hear the words, "iive life to the fullest" I tend to get overwhelmed because it seems like much pressure to me. That's not to say I am not ever outgoing, but I want to live life safely with as few risks as possible. It doesn't make much sense to me with the saying "being safe is the greatest risk of all." Furthermore, I do take Prozac, among a couple other meds in order to help combat my depression, anxiety, and Asperger syndrome. However, I do try to take things in stride with the resources I have, going to different Jewish social events, and one of my favorite social activities is having lunch with some of my best friends - but it's a matter of scheduling. Most other times I am either on my own or independent. It's all a matter of doing what one loves and loving what one does (where there's often much middle ground in between).

(8) Raisy, August 31, 2009 1:03 AM


The admonition of the Torah to live life with contentment and joy can be understood as living life (joy)fully. ("Tachas asher lo avadatem osi b'simchah...) This is not always easy. It needs a great deal of mental discipline. I read Martin Seligmann's "Learned Optimism which I found extremely helpful in training myself to look at things positively. Also Rebbetzin S. Feldbrand's new book "Simcha" is an excellent resource.

(7) Anonymous, August 30, 2009 11:30 PM

Tell this to my husband and father-in-law

Both my husband and father-in-law are on antidepressants. Why? My father-in-law retired early and has nothing to do except play computer solitaire all day long. My mother-in-law works until 5. On his days off work, my husband does almost the exact same thing and I work during the year until 3 and return home at 4:30. If they would follow what you said and get lives, they wouldn't need the antidepressants.

(6) Rosiecee, August 30, 2009 7:52 PM

Yes, Stop the Antidepressant Candy Sale

The Physicians Desk Reference states that SSRI antidepressants and all antidepressants can cause mania, psychosis, abnormal thinking, paranoia, hostility, etc. These side effects can also appear during withdrawal. Go to where there are over 3,200 cases, with the full media article available, involving bizarre murders, suicides, school shootings [48 of these] and murder-suicides - all of which involve SSRI antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc, . The media article usually tells which SSRI antidepressant the perpetrator was taking or had been using.

(5) Anonymous, August 30, 2009 5:47 PM

antidepressants can be dangerous

Quite a few years ago I was put on Zoloft to treat my depression. During the first two weeks on Zoloft I experienced three borderline suicidal episodes. I felt like there was no hope for a better life, and no point in going on. It is only the fact that I am observant that stopped me from carrying through. Subsequently, two separate people called me for guidance. Each one had been given Zoloft within the past two weeks and were experiencing the same suicidal urges that I had had, and they were afraid that they were going crazy. I reassured each of them that it was the Zoloft, and if they just hung in until the first two weeks were over, they'd be fine. When I told my doctor about my experiences, he was shocked. He had never heard of such a reaction to Zoloft. Another thing I disliked about Zoloft was that I didn't feel like I was participating in the real world. I felt like I was traveling on a parallel lane to real life, and just watching the real world go by. I did not feel like a participant. I was given other antidepressants along the way, but they all had very disturbing side effects. As Rabbi Salomon says, becoming an involved participant in living and interacting with others is frequently much more effective in lifting depression than medication, and has no unpleasant side effects.

(4) temi, August 30, 2009 4:16 PM

A book about this

If you haven't already, you should read Viktor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning, in which he talks about his years in concentration camps and how he realized that he can survive and be okay, even in the most brutal circumstances, as long as he finds meaning in his life. It's a fascinating book, and Frankl, who was an MD and PhD and created logotherapy, really explains how we can find meaning and overcome adversity instead of letting it kill us. I think if more people read this book and learn these principles earlier in their lives, hard times wouldn't be quite so hard, and people wouldn't suffer so much.

(3) tehilla, August 30, 2009 4:08 PM


Well, it does say "Ivdu et Hashem biSimcha," that you should "Serve Hashem with joy."

(2) Yisroel Pollack, August 30, 2009 2:25 PM


Where is it mentioned in the Torah about...needing to live one's life "to the fullest"?

(1) Anonymous, August 30, 2009 2:21 PM

Stop the Anti-depressant Candy Sale

Dear Rabbi, Thank you for your comments. In July my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and "went off the deep end". He is now in a mental hospital trying to come to terms with his situation. The same "mental health worker" who had my husband committed made an appointment to talk to me. After 40 minutes with this "professional" it was decided that I was depressed, needed medication and a talk with a psychiatrist!!! The appointment was made. I came in shook the man's hand and both "professionals" started "interviewing" me. The bottom line: I am Not depressed. The "mental health worker" asked what was the "change" that took place in me since he last saw me. I said "Nothing broke this week." This is my First experience with single-handedly taking over Everything that my husband has left behind in his absence! I asked the "mental health worker" WHY he was so "gung ho" on giving me medication after only 40 minutes. He said "Don't you know? We all have stock in the drug companies!" Was this a Joke? I Hope so. At this point the psychiatrist walked out of the meeting with Nothing else to say.


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