Studies show decreased depression diagnosis, psychotherapy, and medications and increased suicide attempts following US Food and Drug Administration antidepressant warnings regarding suicidality risk among youth. Effects on care spilled over to older adults. This study investigated whether suicide deaths increased following the warnings and declines in depression care.
We conducted an interrupted time series study of validated death data (1990–2017) to estimate changes in trends of US suicide deaths per 100,000 adolescents (ages 10–19) and young adults (ages 20–24) after the warnings, controlling for baseline trends.
Before the warnings (1990–2002), suicide deaths decreased markedly. After the warnings (2005–2017) and abrupt declines in treatment, this downward trend reversed. There was an immediate increase of 0.49 suicides per 100,000 adolescents, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.12, 0.86) and a trend increase of 0.03 suicides per 100,000 adolescents per year (95% CI: 0.026, 0.031). Similarly, there was an immediate increase of 2.07 suicides per 100,000 young adults (95% CI: 1.04, 3.10) and a trend increase of 0.05 suicides per 100,000 young adults per year (95% CI: 0.04, 0.06). Assuming baseline trends continued, there may have been 5958 excess suicides nationally by 2010 among yearly cohorts of 43 million adolescents and 21 million young adults.
We observed increases in suicide deaths among youth following the warnings and declines in depression care. Alternative explanations were explored, including substance use, economic recessions, smart phone use, and unintentional injury deaths. Additional factors may have contributed to continued increases in youth suicide during the last decade. Combined with previous research on declining treatment, these results call for re‐evaluation of the antidepressant warnings.