When Sadness Is a Good Thing

A new book argues that we should stop treating normal sorrow as a mental illness

Illustration for TIME by Terry Allen

When sadness is a good thing.

In the 1960s, the pharmaceutical company Sandoz marketed its new tranquilizer Serentil with ads in medical journals suggesting the drug be prescribed to "the newcomer in town who can't make friends ... The woman who can't get along with her new daughter-in-law. The executive who can't accept retirement." But the FDA stopped the ads. Drugs are supposed to treat illnesses, the agency said, not the vicissitudes of living.

Isn't that a quaint idea? The FDA was worried back then about an overmedicated society; in 1956, 5% of Americans were on tranquilizers. But today 7% of Americans are on antidepressants (many more...

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