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The Walrus - “My Prescribed Life” by Emily Landau

Emily Landau’s childhood fear of house fires escalated to an all-consuming fear of school, culminating in a child psychiatrist diagnosing Emily with a generalized anxiety disorder. “My Prescribed Life” (with award-winning illustrations by Adrian Forrow), was published in The Walrus, and asks tough questions about the effects of antidepressants on adolescents.

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Sixth-grade Emily was prescribed 250 mg of Zoloft by a child psychiatrist, even though Health Canada hadn’t approved the drug for use by minors. In fact, Dean Elbe (a clinical pharmacist specializing in child psychiatry at the BC Children’s Hospital) admits that practitioners in the field were “totally in the wilderness about child and adolescent psychiatry.” Despite this, when Emily developed OCD side effects, her doctor prescribed her a cocktail of drugs: clomipramine and imipramine, which are classed as tricyclic antidepressants.


How do these antidepressant cocktails interact with a child’s developing brain? The teenage brain? Their emerging identity? As the first generation to grow up on antidepressants, Emily couples her own experience with medical research to offer some answers to these complex questions. Her full memoir – and its acclaimed illustrations – is available for free download from the NMA Archive section.