Williamson, a self-help author and 2020 presidential hopeful, insinuated that antidepressant use led to suicide in a controversial tweet.
Marianne Williamson, a well-known self-help author, is being criticized for her recent comments in interviews and on Twitter about the overprescription of antidepressants, as well as past comments about the role of antidepressants in suicides and use as a way for companies to make money.
Earlier in July, in an interview with the New York Times, Williamson expressed that she does not hold judgement against those who take antidepressants, but that her issue lies in the prescription methods of such medications.
Most recently, Williamson spoke to New York Times political reporter Maggie Astor about her beliefs. Before the interview, Astor says Williamson asked her to read her book, Tears to Triumph, which has to do with embracing emotional pain.
“However deep my suffering, I didn’t want to be anesthetized as I went through it,” Williamson writes in the book. “Like an expectant mother who wants to give birth naturally, rejecting drugs during labor because she wants to experience ‘natural childbirth,’ I wanted to be fully available to the depths of my pain. Why? Because I knew it had something to teach me.”
One of the main issues Williamson expressed in her interview with Astor is that the term “clinical depression” is too widely used.
“I don’t challenge the idea that it exists, and I’m sure there are people for whom psychotherapeutic drugs, including antidepressants, are very helpful,” she said. “What I’m saying is that the term is used so loosely today, that people who I have seen experiencing what I consider a normal spectrum of human despair have been termed ‘clinical depression,’ as though that is supposed to shut down the subject.”
The Twitter Controversy
One comment in particular that Williamson came under fire for was her claim that antidepressants played a role in designer Kate Spade’s suicide, despite the fact that there was no proof that Spade had been on antidepressants.
“How many public personalities on antidepressants have to hang themselves before the FDA does something, Big Pharma cops to what it knows, and the average person stops falling for this?” Williamson tweeted at the time.
Williamson claims she still stands by that comment, despite Astor expressing concern that such comments may lead people to believe that antidepressants are dangerous.
“I’m sorry that that’s what you get from the tweet,” Williamson said. “My sense is not that people would read that tweet and think that they were incredibly dangerous. But if anything I say makes people slow down on this topic and have a more serious conversation, particularly when it comes to teenagers, then I’m glad I helped introduce the conversation.”
As far as using Twitter for such discourse, Williamson tells Astor she does recognize the potential issues there.
“I think that is a legitimate challenge to me,” Williamson said. “I feel in my career that I have been very careful. And what I hear you saying is that I should be more careful with Twitter. God knows in the last few weeks, you’d better believe I looked at tweets and regretted it.”
“I can see now that Twitter is not the best place to weigh in on such a serious topic,” she added. “There, yes, I think you’re right.”