Our society is growing by leaps and bounds. Thus, the number of people who require treatment for various conditions, including depression, has increased as well.

In 2007, CNN released a report that antidepressants were the most prescribed medications in the United States. Antidepressant prescriptions outweighed painkillers, mood stabilizers, digestive medications and every other category of medicine prescribed in the United States. That’s simply staggering to think about. According to the CNN report, 118 million prescriptions were for antidepressants in 2005. The next closest category was high blood pressure meds, with 113 million scrips written.

According to the National Institutes for Mental Health, major depressive disorder alone accounts for 14.8 million adults each year, and is one of the leading causes (if not the leading cause) of disability in the U.S. Bipolar disorder accounts for a further 5.7 million adults. Neither of these statistics deals with the numerous children who are also diagnosed with depression, and require medication, often in the form of an SSRI or SNRI.

Notice the disparity in the numbers: More than 100 million prescriptions, but not even 50 million patients in the adult category. This isn’t to make the case that we’re overprescribing, but rather to illustrate the sheer scale of antidepressant prescription in America versus the number of patients dealing with the conditions.

Further, this is a year in which the makers of Paxil have been brought repeatedly to court over the potential birth defects and suicide prompting effects caused by this medication. They have settled the cases in amounts ranging into the billions of dollars. New lawsuits continue to be filed despite GlaxoSmithKline’s attempts to settle, and they lost their first bellwether case.

The issue is not, and will never be, a small one. Each story is important on its own merit, and people should not be afraid that they are the lone voice that will be raised in the matter.