New Data: SSRIs Appear to Reduce, Not Raise, Teen Suicide Risk

Craig Stoltz Health Guide
  • Some truly awful news--that more children and teens killed themselves in 2005 than in the year before--casts new light on the emotional controversy over whether antidepressant medications known as SSRIs increase or decrease suicide risk.


    Bottom line first


    A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry looking at early results of federally ordered "black box" warning labels about risk of teen suicide suggests that, while prescriptions have dropped, suicides have increased.


    This study in 50 words or less


    Researchers studied records of SSRI use among children and teens in the U.S. and Netherlands before and after new warning labels about suicide risk were ordered for the drugs. One year after the warnings appeared, SSRI prescriptions dropped 22 percent, while suicides rose 14 percent.

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    Yes, but. . .


    Like any study that looks back on previously collected data, this report can show only an association between prescriptions and suicides, not cause and effect.


    Other factors (such as the effect of drugs that replaced SSRIs, which were not accounted for here) could explain the linkage.


    The study was not able to control for different degrees of depression, previously revealed suicidality, or other factors that could show different results in different subgroups.


    So what are you going to do about it?


    Realize that suicide is a risk for all depressed teens, whether they use SSRIs, other anti-depressants or no drug or other therapy.


    Learn more about teen depression--and how it's different from typical teen moodiness. Only about 20 percent of people with depression symptoms receive treatment, yet treatment can be life-saving. 


    Consider talk therapy. Studies have shown that talk therapy, particularly a type called cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help control or resolve depression, sometimes without any medication. It has also been shown to increase rates of recovery when used with medication.


    Many clinicians report that teen depression recovery is more likely when involved parents work closely with mental health professionals to deal with the disease. 


    Learn more about the variety of drug treatments available for depression.


    Ask questions of or connect with HealthCentral's depression experts.





Published On: September 06, 2007