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Teen Suicide On The Rise


I saw on the news last night that teen suicide is on the rise. Do you know whether or not this is really the case, and if so, why?



Hi T.,

Two reports released this week show significant increases in youth suicide rates between 2003 and 2004, following a consistent drop since the 1990s. A study released in the September issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry, shows a 14 percent increase in suicide rates for children and adolescents under the age of 19 from 2003 to 2004. The second study, published in the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows an eight percent increase in suicide rates for individuals between the ages of 10 and 24 in 2004, following a 28 percent decrease over the last 15 years. This is the largest escalation in this group since the agency began collecting suicide data in 1979.

Unfortunately, child and adolescent suicide is at the highest rate in 15 years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report, the decline took place from 1990 to 2003 (from 9.48 to 6.78 per 100,000 people), and the increase took place from 2003 to 2004, (from 6.78 to 7.32).

Whether this is a short-term spike or the start of a trend, we, as parents, must do everything in our power to prevent more teen suicides from occurring.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a black box warning on antidepressants for pediatric use in 2004, which was followed by pervasive media coverage and a 22 percent decrease in the prescription of antidepressant medications from 2003 to children and adolescents. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry advised the FDA's Pediatric Advisory Committee against placing a black box warning on antidepressant medications.

More research is needed to find out whether there is a correlation between the black box warning and this increase in teen suicide. My concern is that the FDA's warning has made families fearful of obtaining help. This is a tragedy as treatment works.

Antidepressant medications, when monitored and paired with talk therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy can be an effective component of treating youth depression. The National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) Treatment of Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS) reports that a combination of Fluoxetine (Prozac®) and cognitive behavior (talk) therapy led to significant clinical improvement in 71 percent of moderately-to-severely depressed adolescents.

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