What is the Relationship Between Antidepressants and Suicide?

Marjorie McAtee

Though most people using antidepressant drugs experience an improvement in mood and a decrease in suicidal thoughts and feelings, some evidence suggests that there may be a link between the use of antidepressants and suicide. The link between the use of antidepressants and suicide may be most pronounced in children and adolescents under the age of 18, and in young adults aged 18 to 25. Researchers believe that adults older than age 25 show no increased risk of suicide during treatment with antidepressants. Most experts believe the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors is highest during the initial stages of depression treatment, and that children, adolescents, and young adults may need to be monitored more carefully during the initial stages of treatment. Most experts believe that, despite the possible correlation between the use of antidepressants and suicide in children and young people, failing to treat depression can also increase the risk of suicide in children, teens, and young adults.

An antidepressant.
An antidepressant.

Depression among children and adolescents is considered a serious public health problem. About three percent of children are believed to suffer from a depressive disorder, while about 12 percent of adolescents may suffer from a depressive disorder. SSRI inhibitors, such as Prozac®, are often prescribed to treat symptoms of depression in children and adolescents.

A connection between suicide and antidepressants is most commonly associated with younger people.
A connection between suicide and antidepressants is most commonly associated with younger people.

Research would seem to indicate that the use of SSRI inhibitors in persons under age 25 can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Suicide is believed to be a leading cause of death in both children and adolescents. While use of antidepressants and suicide attempts or successful suicides may be linked, experts often point out that depression itself can dramatically increase a person's risk of suicide. Many experts believe that children and adolescents are most likely to experience an increase in suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors during the first few months of treatment. Current studies seem to support the theory that, with long-term usage, antidepressants can help these young patients experience lasting improvements in mood and a lowered suicide risk.

Many experts are also concerned that the possible link between antidepressants and suicide could lead many young sufferers of depression to stop using antidepressant drugs. Some experts believe that stopping the use of antidepressant drugs may place young people at an even higher risk of suicide than they would experience if they continued using the drugs as prescribed. Others believe that the risks of leaving depression untreated are still greater than the risks of prescribing antidepressant drugs to young people.

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