Talking Points About Antidepressants and Suicide

Thomas A. M. Kramer, MD

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In This Article

Public Opinion

Recently, the press has been full of heart-wrenching stories of young people who have been started on antidepressants and shortly thereafter have committed suicide. No one doubts the veracity of these stories. All of us who are parents can begin to imagine the horror that the parents of these victims endure. In many -- if not most -- of these cases, we will probably never fully understand what happened. Perhaps some of them developed an akathisia, perhaps some of them did recover somewhat enough so that their negative thinking motivated them to act on the feeling that life was no longer worth living. What is happening now, however, is that the sensationalism of these reports is providing the public -- who had previously enthusiastically embraced these medications -- with a very short memory. If the outcome of this negative press is that it prevents people from seeking treatment for depression or, more specifically, encourages them to refuse medication for severe depression, this controversy itself may cause more suicides than the medications ever did. The risk of suicide goes down most dramatically when people get treatment and comply with it. It is a responsibility of all practicing psychopharmacologists to do whatever they can to reinforce this message. We are the ones with the experience with these medications. We have seen the successes, and we have seen the failures. We need to make absolutely clear that the former grossly outnumber the latter.

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