Antidepressants May Have Impaired Woman In Texting Suicide Case, Psychiatrist Says In Controversial Testimony

By Victoria Kim 06/21/17

A 20-year-old woman pleaded not guilty to charges that she encouraged her boyfriend's suicide via text and Facebook messages. 

Michelle Carter
Michelle Carter Photo via YouTube

A controversial psychiatrist who testified at the trial of Michelle Carter said the young woman’s use of antidepressants as a teenager affected her ability to feel empathy.

Dr. Peter Breggin gave his testimony in Bristol Juvenile Court in Massachusetts last Monday (June 12), days before Michelle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. 

Carter faces up to 20 years in prison at her sentencing on August 3rd. Her lawyers will likely appeal the controversial verdict, according to the New York Times.

Carter had been prescribed Prozac at age 14, and was taking another SSRI called Celexa at the time of Roy’s death. According to Breggin, Carter’s use of antidepressants from a young age interfered with her ability to feel empathy and know right from wrong. SSRIs, Breggin explained, disrupt the frontal lobe function of the brain which regulates empathy, good decision-making, and the ability to feel love and wisdom.

“The impairment of being on the drugs while you are growing up—while your brain is maturing, while your frontal lobes are developing—you’re talking about being inundated with neurotoxic effects,” the doctor testified, according to The Daily Mail. “She had no notion of wrongfulness on what she was doing.”

According to Dr. Breggin, Conrad wasn’t the only one who was deeply depressed and suicidal. The doctor testified that after learning more about Carter, her personal issues and insecurities, it was clear that her actions did not come from a malicious or hostile place. 

Breggin said that Carter’s text and Facebook messages reveal her to be a “person struggling with suicide after she was on Prozac, it shows her to be somebody that gets increasingly distressed and does extensive cutting in order to control her pain, and it shows her talking very lovingly to other friends struggling with these problems.”

The now 20-year-old woman pleaded not guilty to charges that she encouraged Roy’s suicide via text and Facebook messages. At the time of his death in July 2014, she was 17 years old. Conrad Roy was 18.

Details of the case revealed that both were troubled teenagers who suffered from social anxiety. When Roy first hinted at his thoughts of suicide, Carter urged him to seek help. But transcripts of the couple’s text conversations show that her demeanor changed once she realized Roy had no interest in doing so. 

In the month leading up to his death, Carter messaged Roy: “You’re finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. No more bad thoughts and worries. You’ll be free.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr