suicide, teen suicide, depression, anxiety, mental health,

Teen Suicide Rate Worries Mental Health Experts

September 04, 2008 05:58 AM
by Emily Coakley
A jump in teen suicides in 2004 may not be a one-time thing; some question whether government warnings about antidepressants are partly to blame.

Suicide Rate Shows Slight Drop

Though teen suicides had been declining since 1996, in 2004 the rate jumped by 18 percent. According to new research, the 2005 rate went down, but not by very much.

The rate was about 4.5 per 100,000, according to the research, which was published in Thursday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

At the same time in 2004 teen antidepressant use also dropped after the Food and Drug Administration required labels warning that children could have suicidal thoughts while taking the medications.

Canada has experienced a similar spike in child and teen suicides, which also coincided with officials there warning the public about prescribing antidepressants for children, according to an April 2008 article in the Vancouver Sun.

The Canadian study also found that more than 90 percent of the children who committed suicide were not taking antidepressants, the Sun reported. Though the spike followed the warning, the study’s lead author said they couldn’t conclude a causative link.

“We can’t say the warning, or the change in antidepressant use or the physician office visits caused changes in suicide rates,” said Laurence Katz in an interview with the Sun.

But the study did document “a wide range of unintended health consequences” resulting from the antidepressant warning, researchers say.

Opinion & Analysis: Allocating blame

Ed Silverman at the blog Pharmalot said “the conundrum” of whether the antidepressant warning led to the increase in suicides isn’t going to be solved because the newest study didn’t specify whether the teens who committed suicide were taking antidepressants at the time.

When the 2004 jump in suicides was reported, Mental Health America’s CEO, David Shern, issued a statement criticizing the FDA warning

“The FDA’s black box labeling on SSRIs and the attention paid to this issue have created yet another formidable barrier to treatment for youth—by scaring young people and parents away from care—and contributing to a decline in treatment,” said Shern, who also asked the federal government to “take action to counteract any unintended consequences.”

Reference: Mental health resources


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