I thought I would make a small contribution to the discussion about how coverage of the recent airline tragedy focuses so much on the supposed ‘mental illness’ of the pilot and not so much on the possible role of antidepressants. Of course we will never know the answer to these questions but it is important, I think, to combat the simplistic nonsense wheeled out after most such tragedies, the nonsense that says the person had an illness that made them do awful things. So, just to confirm what many recipients of antidepressants, clinicians and researchers have been saying for a long time, here are some findings from our recent New Zealand survey of over 1,800 people taking anti-depressants, which we think is the largest survey to date.
With the current focus on the possible contribution of psychoactive drugs to the crash of GermanWings flight A320 on Tuesday, March 24, it is useful to identify potential links between the effect of the antidepressants and the events. In all 47 cases listed on SSRIstories, the pilots were taking antidepressant medications, mostly SSRIs, often in combination with other medications and sometimes with alcohol.
The crash last week of the Germanwings plane has shocked many. In view of the apparent mental health record of the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, questions have been asked about the screening policies of airlines. The focus has generally been on the conditions pilots may have or the arguments they might be having with partners or other situational factors that might make them unstable. Even when the issue of the medication a pilot may be taking is raised, it is in the context of policies that permit pilots to continue on drugs like antidepressants to ensure any underlying conditions are effectively treated. But fewer treatments in medicine are effective in this sense than people might think and even when effective they come with effects that need to be balanced against the likely effects of the underlying condition.
Facebook partnered with mental health organizations and has made it easier for users to report posts from people who seem to be in psychological distress. Many media are lauding the strategy, but some critics are raising concerns about privacy. More →
A rise in unemployment rates was linked to a rise in suicides in all regions of the world, according to research in The Lancet Psychiatry. The effect was most pronounced in countries that normally had relatively lower unemployment rates. More →
Counselor and artist Sara Nash discusses her own experiences of feeling "overwhelmingly lost, in pain, invisible, and at times, hopeless" -- and asks whether it's truly good that she rarely shares these feelings when she talks to college students about suicidal ideation. More →
A team of researchers working with the US Department of Veterans Affairs found that both insomnia and suicidal ideation were reduced among veterans who participated in up to six sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. More →
For nearly two decades, Big Pharma commercials have falsely told Americans that mental illness is associated with a chemical brain imbalance, but buried SAMHSA survey results tell us that depression and suicidality are associated with poverty, unemployment, and mass incarceration. And these results also point us to the reality that American society has now become so especially oppressive for young people that an embarrassingly large number of American teenagers and young adults are depressed and suicidal.
The present-day mental health establishment focuses primarily on a ‘biological’ cause for despair and other so-called ‘aberrant’ mental manifestations in the world. But when we look at the news, it’s bursting with sad realities. Animals dying, people starving, rape everywhere. Climate change bringing more disasters, racist mortgage practices. Are we to grow a skin so thick that we don’t cry when we read about a government firing scud missiles on its people? How are we to process mass-murder in an elementary school? What is more aberrant: to be so hardened that we do not cry, or to cry constantly? Might the healthy response to depressing realities to become depressed? How do we create hope when so often our world seems so terrible? How much activism is enough?
People who have taken a psychedelic drug at least once in their lives have significantly less suicidal thinking and are less likely to attempt suicide than the general population, according to a study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. More →
There are no psychosocial treatments or psychotherapeutic methods that are proven to effectively reduce thoughts and behaviors of self-harm in youth, according to a review of the scientific literature by a team of Harvard University psychologists publishing in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. More →
Losing a loved one to suicide hurts like hell: there’s an obvious truth if there ever was one. But there are other truths, some hard, some hopeful. If you’ve suffered such a loss yourself, you know too much of these truths already.
"Repeat suicide attempts and deaths by suicide were roughly 25 percent lower among a group of Danish people who underwent voluntary short-term psychosocial counseling after a suicide attempt," states a press release about a Danish study in The Lancet Psychiatry. "The findings are believed to be the first to show that talk therapy-focused suicide prevention actually works." More →
Suicide attempts during adolescence are not strongly associated with suicide risk or depression later in life, according to research from a joint Canadian and US team in the journal Depression and Anxiety. More →
"(A)t least 70 people have died, many of them by suicide, after Tamiflu-induced episodes," reports Newsweek, in an article about the popular anti-flu drug and other examples of pharmaceutical companies hiding vital clinical trial data from physicians and the public. "The deaths were almost surreal: A 14-year-old who took Tamiflu jumped off a balcony, and a 17-year-old on the drug ran in front of a truck." More →
"A bipartisan group of senators recently introduced the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention bill, an attempt to improve the Department of Veterans' Affairs suicide-prevention efforts," reported USA Today. "The bill would require VA and the Pentagon to submit to an independent review of all of their suicide-prevention programs." The bill coincided with special hearings on veterans and suicide held this week by the US Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. More →
If their clients admit to having suicidal feelings or show evidence of serious psychological problems, how do lawyers' legal responsibilities to their clients change in different circumstances? Attorney and former legal librarian Ken Strutin provides a collection of summaries and links to ethics opinions, legal decisions, law reviews, bibliographies and other resources that explore various kinds of situations like these under US law. More →
Robin Williams had "therapeutic" levels of the tetra-cyclic antidepressant mirtazapine in his blood at the time of his suicide, according to the coroner's report on his death, posted in its entirety by TMZ. More →
Exposure to pesticides is linked to significant increases in suicidal depression in farmers, according to a study by US National Institute of Health researchers discussed in Munchies. "These dangerous chemicals, researchers found, alter farmers’ brain chemistry, increasing their risk of depression by up to 90 percent." More →
In the New England Journal of Medicine, Richard Friedman and Marc Stone present very different arguments about the reliability of the body of research into antidepressants, suicidality, and FDA black box warnings, and what that body of research is truly telling us. More →
In my last two posts, Back in the Dark House Again: The Recurrent Nature of Clinical Depression and Am I Having a Breakdown or Breakthrough? Further Reflections on a Depressive Relapse, I have shared my recent relapse into depression. Although it has been tough, when I wake up each morning I am grateful for one thing — I am not suicidal. Others are not as fortunate.
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