Linda McMullen

Prescribing and Using Antidepressants

Dr. McMullen’s profile Back to Faculty Profile List

The rate of prescribing antidepressants has increased more than 400% over the last few decades.  

Dr. Linda McMullen with the Department of Psychology at the University of Saskatchewan suggests this increase is not necessarily indicative of an increase in the incidence of depression. Rather, antidepressants are being prescribed by physicians off-label to treat numerous ailments such as asthma, migraines, eating disorders and erectile dysfunction.

Dr. McMullen has been a Professor with the Department of Psychology since 1980 and is currently the Acting Vice-Dean of Social Sciences. An accomplished researcher, her research interests include examining how people use language to construct versions of reality and perform social actions. Current research projects investigate how people understand the evidence for the use and effectiveness of antidepressant medications. She utilizes antidepressants as a case study of evidence-based medicine.

In addition to exploring off-label prescribing, Dr. McMullen’s current research focuses on how key professionals, e.g., family physicians and pharmacists, understand the two prominent narratives about the effectiveness of antidepressants: (1) that they directly influence the neurochemistry of the brain which, in turn, affects depressive symptoms; or (2) that they work because of the placebo response, i.e., patients’ belief in their effectiveness.

One of Dr. McMullen’s recent publications shows how the “depression is to diabetes analogy,” which is a common way of constructing depression as a chronic illness in need of medication, is disputed by both family physicians and users of antidepressants. Dr. McMullen’s research is consistent with a growing movement that is concerned with how human distress is constructed and managed.

Other research interests include metaphor and narrative, discourse analysis, and women and depression.