Sven Gatz, minister in the Flemish government for culture, youth and Brussels, has spoken of the years he spent fighting depression – a battle that goes on still with the help of medication. Speaking on the late-night talk show Gert Late Night, Gatz said things started to go wrong when he was about 30, and was elected to the forerunner of the Brussels parliament. He now says he was too enthusiastic and took on too much responsibility, and the result was a sort of burn-out. “I was always taking on too much work,” he said. “My stress-meter broke down.”
Anti-depressant medication offered some relief. “In the way that other people take something for their blood pressure, I use medication against depression,” he told Bruzz. “It’s a medical condition,” he said on the question of whether it was appropriate for a minister to be in office which suffering a form of mental illness. “Your stress levels go off the chart; you’re in a constant flight-or-flight mode. On top of that, I’m someone who always wants to do things properly. It so happens that depression is more common among people who are perfectionists.”
The power to govern while taking antidepressants is supported by the medical profession. “There is not a single indication that antidepressants lead to abnormal behaviour,” said Professor Stephan Claes of the university psychiatric centre at the university of Leuven. “The medication also has no effect on a person’s cognitive powers. There is absolutely no question of concentration problems or memory disturbances.”
Gatz himself, now 51, is resigned to continue on the medication for the foreseeable future. Once or twice, he said, he had tried to stop or at least lower the dose, but the effort was never successful. Even when he left parliament to become director of the Belgian Brewers’ Federation in 2011, his need for the medication continued.