Just suppose: that you were being told by all kinds of experts – doctors, statisticians, newspapers, your favourite TV health programme, the NHS, politicians and so on – that there was a twisted ankle epidemic running amok in the country. And that the cost of medication to sort out the epidemic was running at £4.8bn a year. And the numbers of the afflicted had doubled over the past fifteen years or so. But despite this spending, twisted ankles were continuing to rise in the nation. In fact so much so that all the experts were saying that around one in five of the population could expect to catch Twisted Ankle Syndrome (or TAS as it was soon called) in their life time – that would debilitate them and be a major problem both for them and society. That TAS would soon become the second most common illness after heart disease. There was another “fact” that the wise had discovered – that the incidence of TAS was virtually unknown for those born before 1945. This was pretty interesting, though for some reason it was never made much of.
Then the NHS, under terrible pressure to do something about TAS began to offer twisted ankle counselling (or TAC as it came to be called). And before you knew it an army of TAC counsellors were being rolled out across the nation – based we were told on hard evidence that TAC was the alternative to medication as the recommended treatment for TAS.
A twisted ankle epidemic? Really! What would you think?
The first thought would surely be not to believe it. Because you would know that twisted ankles were pretty easy to explain and to fix. All that was needed was to rest the ankle. But still the onslaught of opinion against these simple and obvious thoughts gained strength. I suppose it would then be pretty tempting to look at who were the main beneficiaries of these incredulous “facts”. The pharmaceutical companies obviously as they had created a whole class of drugs that was self evidently failing to combat the problems. The doctors also who prescribed them – they must be getting something from propagating this view of epidemic. And how would it be if you saw a study which showed the more than half of the doctors surveyed had no faith in the medication. And how would it be if you had read somewhere that the pharmaceutical companies kept control of evidence supporting the efficacy of the medication and suppressed unhelpful research. And that independent studies showed that the anti-twisted ankle medication was no better than placebo.
I imagine you would get pretty suspicious of the whole thing and become pretty angry and distrustful – of the drugs industry, of the doctors and indeed anybody who uncritically accepted the stats and simply assumed without thinking that all was as was expressed.
Still this is only a fairy tale about twisted ankles. It couldn’t possible apply to anything in the real world like depression! Or could it?