New Studies Show Dramatic Increase in Youth Suicide Rates and Effects of Antidepressant Warnings
A Statement by David Shern, Ph.D., President and CEO of Mental Health America
Contact: Jason Halal, (703) 797-1943 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (September 6, 2007) - Two reports released today reveal significant increases in youth suicide rates between 2003 and 2004 following a steady decline since the early 1990's. The first study, released in the September issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry, details a 14 percent increase in suicide rates for youth below the age of 19 - the largest increase in this population since the agency began collecting suicide data in 1979. The second, published in the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, reveals an 8 percent increase in suicide rates for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, following a 28 percent decrease over the last 15 years.
Increases in both populations coincide with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated label warning parents about the risk of suicidal thoughts in children taking SSRI antidepressants, which sparked widespread media coverage and contributed to an approximately 22% decrease in antidepressant prescriptions for youth up to age 19. In contrast, the rate of SSRI prescriptions for older adults continued to increase following the FDA warnings and the suicide rate continued to decrease in the older adult population. All of these findings are consistent with other research that demonstrates an association between SSRI prescription rates and decreasing rates of suicide.
While more research is needed to fully understand the underlying causes of the increase in youth suicide, as well as to fully understand the effect of the black box warning on prescribing patterns, Mental Health America believes this new data illustrates the importance of carefully communicating the full range of costs, risks and benefits for anti-depressants. It is critical that the FDA craft and test their messages so that they are optimally designed to support decision making by both practitioners and consumers. The goal should be fully informed decision making - including a risk/benefit analysis that addresses the risks of non-treatment.
Suicide claims the lives of more than 30,000 Americans each year and depression is the leading cause, despite being the most treatable of all mental disorders. With an estimated 19 million Americans suffering from depression in any given year, and half of all Americans with mental health conditions not seeking treatment, the danger of untreated depression far outweighs any danger associated with antidepressants.
Mental Health America continues to work with the FDA and other federal agencies to better educate communities on the inherent risks of untreated mental health conditions and the importance of treatment and support for children and adults, as well as their families.
Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation - everyday and in times of crisis.