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Antidepressants Are “Anti-Loneliness” Pills

These are the words of inspirational doctor Patch Adams, the controversial medico who was the basis of the movie of the same name starring Robin Williams. The real Patch Adams has little time for fame, but continues to spread his message of love, laughter, and hope as he completes his daily ward roads around the world.

Back in the 70s, Patch Adams worked in a free clinic and saw first hand how ill-equipped many doctors were at being actual healers. He noticed many were detached, clinical, and made little or no meaningful contact with the patients they dealt with.

He found that quality of life improved when people were medicated with love and laughter. He believes that antidepressants are really “anti-loneliness” pills and states that there is no suffering on earth that rivals the pain of loneliness and its slow erosion of the soul. But he claims that it is a symptom, not an illness.

Adams speaks from personal experience. When he was in college, he went through a bad relationship bust-up and the suicide of a family member. The net result was a rapid spiral into the realm of severe depression. He became obsessed with suicide himself and claimed inner voices told him to die. He even overdosed on aspirin.

Fortunately Patch Adams was saved and was overwhelmed by the love and concern of friends. However, in the same ward, he also observed people who had no carers, no loving support whatsoever. And he also met people who had “support” but could not use that support because the individuals concerned could not speak openly about their problems. They effectively were unsupported despite their appearance to the contrary.

He learned that loneliness, while surrounded by hundreds of people, was the worst soul pain of all. His belief about antidepressants is an interesting one. As a counselor, I don’t have to scratch very hard under the surface to find the painful loneliness that surrounds most clients like a cloak. Some may be genuinely friendless; others may claim a large circle of family and friends. However, it is often the case that when a person comes for therapy, they have exhausted their own resources and those of their friends. They describe a terrible loneliness, of being “apart” from others.

That is why I personally believe that love is truly the best medicine for any illness, including and especially, mental illness. Even the most disturbed patient understands and recognizes love. Of course, it must be genuine love, not an ineffectual show of concern. Doctors and helpers who show genuine love, and who are open about their own pain are much more effective healers than those who take a long step back from the sufferer.

As Patch Adams says, “People crave love as if it was an essential amino acid.”

I couldn’t agree more.


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