The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced guidelines for the drug Prozac to the market as allowable anti-depressant for the treatment of major depression in youth over the age of eight. To increase the availability of readily available treatment options will lead to a benefit to the young population who tend to attempt suicide or self -harm due to being left un -attended.
The young population which is mostly affected by depression do not wish to come out because of dismissal of the symptoms by their parents, social stigma and peer pressure.
It has become a widely discussed topic now, whether the use of anti -depressants reduces suicides. There have been intense discussions on better treatment and aids to lower the risk of a person’s tendency to commit suicide. “A new Australian study shows increases in antidepressant prescribing were closely correlated with a decline in suicide rates, especially among the elderly.” (Warner, 2003)
After thorough research it was found that children and young adults faced depression in three stages being mild, acute and masked. Among the other initiatives to curb the increase in number of suicidal victims, launches of public helplines, educating the public, and websites are ways in which suicidal rates were successfully brought down.
Many might say that use of anti-depressants in fact does reduce the tendency to commit suicide, but it wouldn’t be justifiable point blank because not all cases can really be controlled by anti-depressants. “Researchers found the overall suicide rate for Australian men and women over age 15 did not change, but they did find significant differences between age groups in terms of suicide risk and antidepressant prescribing habits.” (Warner, 2003)
This statement clearly states and supports the argument. It is very evident that the prescription of anti-depressants really does help those you take it judiciously but not necessarily. One major fact related to suicide is not always depression related to one’s personal problems or mental health. Secondly, even if mental health or depression is associated with suicide as a predominantly major cause, sometimes it is just pure counselling that is needed and stays more effective than anti-depressants use. Other means and methods to protect against suicide, such as coping skills, problem-solving capabilities, social support and connectedness have been more effective than just taking prescription drugs. “Indeed, the multi-determined dimension of suicide poses numerous difficulties, even at the level of conceptual models of development of the suicidal process.” (the British journal of psychiatry, 2002)
Moreover, use of antidepressants and medical prescriptions of drugs like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are likely to cause dangerous drug interactions or side effects. It has been clearly mentioned that “The public should understand that antidepressants are correlated with a reduction of the suicide rate, but any one case of depression has to be treated very individually. Unfortunately, suicides do occur even in those taking medicine.” (Warner, 2003)
Effective suicide prevention needs more than just prescription of anti-depressants. In aid to anti-depressants therapy sessions are more effective than drugs because of the major fact that those victims really just need to be heard out and helped rather than given medication and to be told to sort things out be themselves. “Sometimes there will be people trapped in a situation that is making them miserable, and you can’t cure it simply with anti-depressants, sometimes with antidepressants you give them enough energy, but then you have to help them get out of that miserable situation.” (Warner, 2003)
There are however, as stated earlier, other reasons for suicide apart from depression. Alcohol Intoxication, Acute interpersonal conflict, access to lethal methods etc. are some of them. Severe somatic diseases and psychological factors are also reasons for suicide which cannot be cured with anti-depressants.
Also, patients using antidepressants during follow-up had significantly higher rates of suicide than people who never used them (Hershel Jick, James A. Kaye, & Susan S. Jick, 2004). According to another set of studies the results of testing effects of use of anti-depressants on suicides,
· Suicide groups differ among different age groups
· There are significant national differences that affect the rates of SSRI utilization and complete suicides.
· Decrease in suicide rates were observed even before the introduction of SSRI’s in more than half the countries in the world.
· Suicide rates have fluctuated dramatically over the last few years. This states that even with the advancement of medical prescription drugs there has been no direct effect towards the use of SSRI’s and similar drugs, hinting at the fact that fluctuating socio-economic factors have adverse effects on victims.
· The notable relationship between declining rates of suicides and use of SSRI was predominant till 1999 but was no longer observed during 2000-2004. (Safer, 2007)
All in all, even though we can say there has been a significant improvement in the declining rate of suicide due to use of prescription anti-depressants, there is still some more progress to be made on defining the root cause for curbing suicides. Anti-depressants and educating the public about them will definitely help most of the victims at stage-1 of suicidal tendency where symptoms are nascent and mild. However, it is highly important to consider the fact that these medications are not the only measures that will curb suicide rates.
Additionally, a psychiatric history would increase the likelihood of classifying an ambiguous death as suicide. There are studies and findings which show that the relative risk for suicide was 38 times higher in those treated with an antidepressant for 1–9 days. This statement is highly contradictory to the actual cause of the debate. The more antidepressants used prior to hospitalization, the higher the risks of suicide, suicide attempts, and mortality during follow-up, a finding not necessarily attributable to confounding by severity.