Around 2.30pm on Tuesday 10th May in Hebden Bridge, seven of us women from the ground-breaking alcohol-free site Soberistas had just met, many of us for the first time face to face. Some of us were hugging and saying goodbye after a terrific booze-free lunch filled with laughter. Others amongst us were about to go on to a pub for coffee or soft drinks.

Around 2.30pm on Tuesday 10th May, 227 miles further south in St Leonard’s, author and magazine editor Sally Brampton’s body had just been spotted in the sea, after she had committed suicide following a battle with depression, alcohol addiction and the effects of antidepressants.

The difference in these scenarios is clear. We were a group of former addicts with each other to lean on for support. Sally, in the end, was alone, despite being a hugely popular woman who was, by all accounts, close to family and frequently in contact with friends.

But if Sally had had access to a site like Soberistas, would the result have been the same? I’ve always been deeply suspicious of antidepressants and am now convinced that my own bouts of depression were caused by alcohol addiction and putting the wrong things into my body (in my own case, dairy consumption was also to blame. Cheese is addictive and, I discovered, like many people, I’m allergic to dairy. No wonder, considering milk is a substance designed for baby cows rather than adult humans.) I’m just glad I never felt desperate enough to seek medical help only to be prescribed antidepressants, and that my personal therapy of writing books and switching to a mainly vegan, plant-based diet sufficed to get me over the worst (hey, I carried on swigging Cava, I still had a long way to go…)

Anti-drug campaigner Ann Blake-Tracy highlights symptoms Sally described (in an excellent article here) which are known side effects of antidepressants, and, in Sally’s case, a result of the irresponsible over-prescribing of antidepressants. Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with some of Ann’s points, she nevertheless raises some very interesting and disturbing links between how Sally described her state of mind and the known side effects of antidepressants, one of which is an increased propensity for alcohol addiction which, according to Ann, “can also be linked to the hypoglycaemia antidepressants produce.”

Alcohol, as Sally Brampton pointed out, is a depressant in itself (a blindingly obvious fact to which I, as an alcohol addict, was completely oblivious, as are many others I’m sure.) As Sally wrote: “Alcohol is in itself a depressant. I knew that. I also knew that it was the most effective anaesthetic I could find. I took yet more pills, more medication for my joyless soul. They did nothing. I felt, if that was possible, worse. I was admitted to hospital again.”

Whether Sally’s suicide was directly attributable to any substances she was taking, the fact remains that hers is yet another tragic death following periods of consumption of perfectly legal yet addictive substances from which large companies are profiting and millions of people are dying.

Something seems very wrong with that scenario to me.

I’m hoping that Sally’s death will continue to highlight the topsy-turvy self-medicated nightmare world we all find ourselves inhabiting, where wine o’clock Prosecco and popping happy pills is as socially acceptable as eating an apple. But, like the Wine Witch giving the apple to Snow White, in this case the apple is just as toxic.

RIP Sally, may your brave honesty and legacy live on.

Some further reading that may be of interest:

The adverse effects of Seroxat on alcohol.

How anti-depressants and SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibi…

Sally Brampton’s best-selling memoir, Shoot The Damn Dog.

Sally Brampton’s moving A Letter to My Younger Self aged thirty.

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