Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Teen Suicides Up Sharply for First Time in Years

The suicide rates for these age groups had been trending downward, falling 28 percent from 1990 to 2003. However, between 2003 and 2004, there was a 75.9 percent increase in the suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-old girls, a 32.3 percent increase among 15- to 19-year-old girls, and a 9 percent increase among 15- to 19-year-old boys

For girls, especially, the rates have skyrocketed. There is much speculation on whether the black box warnings that were put into place in 2004 warning about SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), a class of antidepressants that were thought to potentially increase suicidal thoughts in teens--which led to a drastic reduction of prescriptions for those drugs--might be related. After all, if fewer people get treatment that in most cases does work, then the rates would be expected to rise. This new information comes as the FDA considers expanding the black box warnings to the mid-twenties age group.

In a December 2006 study, The American Journal of Psychiatry said that a decrease in antidepressant prescriptions to minors of just a few percentage points coincided with a 14 percent increase in suicides in the United States; in the Netherlands, the suicide rate was 50% up, upon prescription drop.

Another disturbing statistic was that girls 10-14 had a 119% increase in the use of hanging/suffocation as a means of committing suicide. Guns remain the most popular form for boys (which is one reason why there are more boys who die of suicide even though more girls try it).

Sad. I have to admit, if my child were severely depressed, I'd opt for the antidepressant. Doubling a small chance of suicide compared to placebo seems scary till you see these rates. On the other hand, statistics fail to capture the true story--every child counts, every death matters. But when looking at the greater good vs a possibility, well, maybe it's best to err on the side of the greater good. More studies will no doubt tackle the question of causation and whether this is an aberration or the beginning of a trend. In the meantime, I find it troubling.

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