Antidepressants substantially increase the suicide risk among children and teens, a fact the pharmaceutical industry covered up for the longest time. Companies suppressed data which showed that the drugs are not only ineffective for children and teens, but dangerous. (Kondro & Sibbald, 2004; The Lancet, 2004) It’s a deadly side effect of antidepressant use that is taking the lives of kids every year…lives like that of a young girl who committed suicide just past her twelfth birthday after her parents put her on medication. (PBS, 2009)

The increased suicide risk among children & teens on antidepressants

This increased suicide risk was contained within the original trials conducted by drug companies, they simply failed to report it. It was uncovered by scientists reviewing the data in 2004. Then a DERP review tested 9 different antidepressants across 24 trials comprising more than 4,400 patients, and found that the average risk of “adverse suicidal reactions” was 4%-double the placebo rate of 2%. (Garlehner, Hansen & Kahwati, 2006)

Most recently, a January 2016 study in BMJ confirmed what experts already knew: Drug companies are hiding dangerous side-effects from antidepressants–not just for suicide risk, but other side effects as well. The report looked at 70 different double-blind clinical trials submitted for two classes of antidepressants: SSRIs and SNRIs (norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Based on this data submitted by drug companies themselves, it was found that both medications doubled the risk of both suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior in children and teens.

True to industry tactics, this info was buried in appendices and not listed in the studies themselves, and was often intentionally mislabeled to disguise these side effects. This study “confirms that the full degree of harm of antidepressants is not reported,” says psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff. “[These harmful effects] are not reported in the published literature–we know that–and it appears that they are not properly reported in clinical study reports that go to the regulators and form the basis of decisions about licensing.” Tarang Sharma, the Ph.D. student who authored the study, says “I’m actually kind of scared about how bad the actual situation would be if we had the complete data.” (Kwon, 2016)

Do antidepressants increase suicide risk among adults?

It’s starting to look like it isn’t just children and teens who face an increased suicide risk. A recent study found a fivefold higher risk of suicide among older depressed adults within the first month of taking a drug. (Morantz Henig, 2012) So in all likelihood, this suicide risk extends to all ages of people.

Monitoring children for suicide risk when starting an antidepressant

The best way to avoid this risk is to keep children and teens off these useless and dangerous medications to begin with. But if your child already started or you plan on starting them anyway, stay vigilant for the first 3 months. As Julie Dopheide, Pharm. D., BCPP, states, “The risk of new-onset suicidal behavior is greatest in the first 2 weeks of treatment. The risk steadily decreases thereafter, with no increased risk after 12 weeks of continuous treatment.” (Dopheide, 2006, p. 240; Jick, Kaye & Jick, 2004)

It’s also important to monitor kids when they are going off these antidepressants. The thing that seems to increase suicide risk is the disarray created in a person’s mood-regulating system, and this disarray occurs at both ends.