Depression Is Not A Prozac Deficiency

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Oregon has recently passed legislation for taking “Mental Health Days” off from school, which makes sense as the state has one of the highest suicide rates. So why is this legislation being passed now? In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss exactly why the rate of depression and suicide is skyrocketing, not just in Oregon, but everywhere. They also give you tips for handling those down times, whether they’re experienced by you or by someone you love.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcasts, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years. Using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Welcome back. So this week we're going to talk about mental health days in school. Should we have them? Actually in Oregon, they now passed a law that they're going to have mental health days in school, and so it's a really good question. Should we have mental health days in school? We're going to dig into that and talk about the why's and the how's and then the next episode we'll talk about how suicides on the rise and so should we be incorporating screening into schools and giving kids a chance to really screen this and take a day if they need a day, just like they do with their physical health. So I to hear your view on that and we'll dig in.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, any of you who have children really want to pay attention this week. Also, if you've had a mental health problem.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Odds are it actually started when you were a child or you were a teenager. And so really caring for our kids is so important. Before we get to that, let me read one of the reviews. I am a former NC2A athlete by Brown mom, four. With a history of concussion entering mid life, ready to train my brain as I trained my body. I love that. Each episode is evidence-based, logical, and frankly makes sense in a simple format. Started jotting notes on my ANTS, the automatic negative thoughts and my compliance with supplements. Omega-3, D3, turmeric, B12 magnesium, that I had previously assumed were helpful, but now it has evidence to back it up. I am becoming a brain warrior.
Tana Amen: I love that. Thank you for that. We have winners, book winners we want to announce too.
Dr. Daniel Amen: My goodnees.
Tana Amen: So we asked you guys to write in and you did and we picked winners. We did a drawing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So w
Tana Amen: hat was the contest? Just remind the new people that are listening. So there are a couple of ways to win. You can write in your question to That's our contact page. Or you can place a review on iTunes. You can also place a review on our webpage, brainwarriors, but we really would like you to place the review on iTunes and we will pick winners. We do a drawing from those and these are our latest winners.
We've already contacted them. They're very excited. Helen Wall of North Dakota, Kathleen Hansen of Seattle, and Diane Carbarjo. I hope I'm saying that right. Carbarjo or Carbarjo of Michigan. So thank you so much for listening and passing this message on and we are super excited. We hope you enjoy that. They got a copy of the Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook. So let us know what you think of it. Let us know how it's helping you. And we're also going to be sending out from the previous episode, we did a giveaway on my friend Mareya Ibrahim's book, Eat Like You Give a Fork. It's a great book. So I hope you enjoy that as well. So fun.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Great.
Tana Amen: I love giving stuff away.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All right, so mental health days for students. Now, legal in Oregon. Oregon students will be allowed to take mental health days off from school just as they would sick days under a new bill signed by the governor. The bill would allow excused school absences for mental or behavioral health and is a victory for youth activists who also unsuccessfully fought for gun control and lowering the voting age. The students behind the measure say it's meant to change the stigma around mental health in a state that has some of the highest suicide rates in the country.
I guess I would have preferred they said brain health days, right?
Tana Amen: Right, but at least they're starting it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because mental health, no matter how you frame it is associated with stigma and it's time to end the stigma. In my new book, I got this great... Let's see if I can find it quickly. I got this really great email from one of the people that works with me who has a son who has schizophrenia and the email was the end of mental illness, the beginning of brain health. The words mental and illness make many people cringe. So I would love for the world to end that. I'm hoping we can start a revolution that flips those words. Mental illness to brain health.
Tana Amen: I love that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's the whole point of the new book, The End of Mental Illness.
Tana Amen: So what do you think of that? What do you think of doing mental health days and making it equally as important as physical health days?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, I like it. I like it a lot. It acknowledges that the incidents of anxiety, depression, suicide, drug abuse in children is skyrocketing. And I don't remember this at all. Now yes, I grew up in the 1960s, but there was a lot of turmoil. People forget, in the 1960s there was a lot of turmoil, drug abuse, Vietnam protests, riots in cities. There still wasn't the incidents of anxiety and depression that occurs today.
Tana Amen: I remember, here's the thing is it was such a rare thing. It was such a big deal when it happens, you still remember it. Like when I was, when I was a kid, there was a girl that killed herself and that's the only one I can remember. But it was a big deal when someone did it. Now it's not quite as. You hear about it, it's so tragic, but you hear about it more often and so it's just one of the... It still shakes kids up and I don't think we want to get to the point where we discount that because we get so used to it. You know what I mean? That's what scares me is that we used to get, it becomes so common that we start to like, "Oh, it's so sad, but..." No, we need to like really be paying attention, because the numbers are just astronomical. They're skyrocketing. So I agree with you. It should be a brain health issue.
So technically it really is a physical health day, but at least they're paying attention now. At least they are starting to be aware of it. Don't you think that's a good thing?
Dr. Daniel Amen: It is a good thing. But one of my worries is they'll go and we'll do big screening for depression and we should, but that's going to mean the numbers of antidepressants are going to go way up. And that may not be a good thing. The number of prescriptions for antidepressant medication since 1987 when Prozac was released have gone up 400% but the incidents of suicide, often a consequence of depression, went up 33% just since 1999.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So this massive increase in pharmaceuticals has not solved the problem.
Tana Amen: Well, and it's interesting because the drug abuse right in Oregon is really high, so you got to pay attention to that. The weather, right? So they're not, they don't have as much sunshine. So you gotta pay attention to that. But also one thing that we've talked about on other podcasts, but I want to touch on again, because suicide in girls has doubled between 2000 and 2017 it's doubled. Birth control pills. No one's really talking about that and helping girls.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Birth control pills increase your risk of depression by 40%.
Tana Amen: If you're increasing your risk of depression, you're increasing your risk of suicide. So we just want to pay attention. We want to make you aware. Do we want you to get pregnant? No, but we want you to be aware that if you are taking birth control pills, that's a risk. And if you are doing that, at least do the things that are going to help you to minimize that risk.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So let's try to make this really practical. What are some of the things we think are driving this mental health epidemic in the United States?
Tana Amen: Well, pot is. I'm sorry, but drugs and alcohol are one.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And as the perception of the dangerousness of the drug goes down, its use goes up.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And marijuana in, what was it? In Walbro, Colorado there's a 1,700% increase in babies born positive for marijuana.
Tana Amen: Right, TCH.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, so that's a concern for us.
Tana Amen: We're not trying to demonize people who use drugs. That's not the point. The point is we also want to be realistic and present that it does increase your risk of depression.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Okay, so access to drugs and Oregon was actually one of the first states have legalized marijuana.
Tana Amen: Low vitamin D.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Low vitamin D, because of the sun. But that hasn't changed in the last 10,000 years. Right? The level of vitamin D in Oregon's been the same. Mariwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark, and actually very famous in Portland. Lewis and Clark actually killed himself and one wonders, is it because of the route he took, across the northern plains as opposed to the southern plains. If that made a difference. The incidence of social media and everyone else's life is better than mine. Plus there are copycats. There are actually sites online for cutters, things like that. So the influence of social media, the decrease in exercise because of the increase in streaming and video games.
Tana Amen: And I have question. Maybe you can answer this because I've heard of this and I don't really understand it. I've heard of this incidence of when a kid kills himself, it can begin this like almost domino effect in certain towns. It's a little weird, but doesn't that happen? I've heard like 12 in one school, one time.
Dr. Daniel Amen: There's a contagion.
Tana Amen: What is that? That's crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That you see the outpouring of love for the child who dies. You feel isolated and alone and you feel like this is a way to solve problems. Now having suicidal thoughts is not unusual.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: There's one study in Seattle, that 55% of the population at some point in their life had a suicidal thought. Now, suicidal actions are rare.
Tana Amen: Very different.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so just because you have a thought, it's like the weather, it can go away. If the thought doesn't go away though, and you begin to develop a plan, that's when you must tell someone so that you can get the help you need. And sometimes it's biological.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You remember when they took you off thyroid and how that drove depression.
Tana Amen: It was horrible.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Pancreatic cancer. So if there's a guy that's listening, they've never been depressed in their whole life, and now they're 52 and all of a sudden they have crushing depression, someone should do a cat scan of their pancreas, because depression is one of the presenting symptoms for pancreatic cancer. So sometimes it can be a biological cause. In my new shower, which I'm going to film soon, Change Your Brain, Heal Your Mind based on my book, The End of Mental Illness, there's a line in there that I actually open act two with, depression is not a Prozac deficiency.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's a sign of a troubled brain. And my hope with these mental health days, if we changed them to brain health days that we would actually be making much more progress.
Tana Amen: And so let's, before we end, let's talk about some practical tips. So I love that schools are paying attention to this. It's really good because kids spend so much of their days at school. What can we do at home? So I know I like the idea of, which we do, we do rituals as a family. We make sure that we are communicating. \
Dr. Daniel Amen: Now be careful. Clarify this. We are not killing anything.
Tana Amen: Okay. Tradition. Let me change the word to traditions. Okay. So we have coffee in the mornings. When my daughter did go to traditional school I would always make sure we left an extra 10 minutes early cause there's something about driving and where kids open up. Right? So that extra drive time in the morning we would take a little drive through a nice area and she would talk more. I think keeping communication very open with kids is really important. Don't you think? Talking, finding a way. Figuring out how to get your kids talking.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Bonding. People who are bonded are less depressed. They're less anxious. They have fewer suicidal thoughts. So being connected. And one thing we've talked about a lot is 20 minutes a day do something with your child your child wants to do, and it decreases the incidents of mental illness if they're bonded and connected to you.
Tana Amen: Right. And just listening.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Bright light therapy. So in a place like Oregon. Or we just gave away books to a person in North Dakota, Michigan, and Montana I think.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And it's not Montana, but Seattle. Those are all northern cities. We have more northern people listening to us. Bright light therapy can be helpful. There's actually great research that you get a light box, they're not very much money, that it can help you sleep, can help your mood, can help your energy, and help your focus. So getting more sunlight in the morning can be helpful.
Tana Amen: So the light that we have in our sauna does that count? Is that the same type of light you're talking about?
Dr. Daniel Amen: We have a sauna that actually has light therapy attached to it. No, I'm talking about the light boxes. There are a number of companies on Amazon, like Verilux is one, that you can actually put it on while you're doing your makeup for 30 minutes a day and it's been shown head to head against Prozac to be better for seasonal affective disorder.
Tana Amen: That's fantastic.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So unfortunately we're getting less light in the morning and more light at night because of our gadgets and it's screwing up our circadian rhythm.
Tana Amen: Oh, just so FYI, a little tip on that. You can get your glasses, you can get blue light blockers in your glasses, which I did.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh well, I think that's awesome.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Except in the morning you want blue lights.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because it helps stimulate you and suppress melatonin.
Tana Amen: That's one of the reasons I like when we go outside for coffee.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All right. We would love for you to post, what's the one thing you learned from this short podcast. Post it on any of your own social media sites and tag us Brain Warrior's Way podcast. And then if you leave a review on Brain Warrior's Way podcast or iTunes, we will enter you into a drawing for a free book.
Tana Amen: And if you know someone struggling with depression, you can try to talk to them or try to get them some help. You can call our number, you can call someone local to you, but we need to help people that are struggling with this. All the things that are going on in schools with kids and struggling, we want to be sure we're reaching out to them and getting them the help they need. Tell them.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode and while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from Brain MD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.