Author Marianne William faced a tense exchange Thursday night when the Democratic presidential candidate was grilled about her rhetoric surrounding mental health and antidepressants.
“If you’re on an antidepressant, you’re not numbing your pain,” Cooper said. “You’re actually trying to feel again, no?”
“Well, some people would argue that, some people not,” Williamson responded.
There was a clear dissonance in the conversation between the two, as Williamson continued to talk about the “normal human despair” that includes emotions like sadness and grief, while Cooper talked about the illness and chemical imbalance in the brain that is clinical depression.
Cooper also criticized Williamson for referring to clinical depression as a “scam,” a comment she made while recording a podcast in November 2018 with actor Russell Brand. The author apologized both Wednesday on MSNBC and Thursday on Cooper’s show.
This is the third time in recent days that Williamson has faced backlash for her comments on mental health. The New York Times published an interview with her Saturday in which Williamson defended a tweet criticizing antidepressants that she posted after designer Kate Spade died by suicide last year.
The Times noted that there was no explicit evidence Spade took antidepressants, though Williamson said in the interview she believes clinical depression is real but that there has been too much of a “medicalization of normal human despair.”
“Putting out a blanket tweet ... on the day somebody has died, implying that they were on antidepressants and that’s what caused their suicide ... seems irresponsible,” Cooper told Williamson, who responded while shaking her head, “I could say the same thing about you, given how many pharmaceutical companies advertise on your show.”
Cooper’s brother, Carter Cooper, died by suicide in 1988 at 23 years old. He has written about the death and his own journey navigating grief and loss.
After the CNN interview, Williamson tweeted, “I didn’t expect such an aggressive conversation with [Cooper] but I figure it’s good rehearsal for debating Donald Trump.”