Suicide Rates Rise While Antidepressant Use Climbs


Multiple media sources are reporting on new data from the CDC revealing a substantial increase in the suicide rate in the United States between 1999 and 2014, with a steep increase in rates among girls and women. Few report, however, that the percentage of Americans on antidepressants has nearly doubled over this period.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control shows a startling increase in suicide rates in the US.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control shows a startling increase in suicide rates in the US.

In fact, some have implicated the FDA’s Black Box warnings on antidepressants, about the risk for suicide in children and young adults, suggesting that these warnings have deterred people from treatment and contributed to the higher suicide rates.

In an interview with NPR, American Psychiatric Association (APA) president-elect, Maria Oquendo speculated that the lower suicide rates of the 1980s were likely a result of new antidepressants. She later added that, after the addition of the Black Box warnings, she was “anticipating with some dread” some increase in suicides.

“And some of the increment in suicide deaths in the younger populations is potentially linked to an understandable reluctance by physicians who see these youngsters to prescribe antidepressants, even when they’re aware that the individual is suffering from depression,” Oquendo told NPR.

Similarly, in an article for CNN, Christine Moutier, from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), said that some of the progress in depression treatment that was made in the 80s and 90s “was undone in recent years because of concerns that antidepressants could increase suicide risk.” Moutier’s organization, AFSP, has previously been criticized by RxISK and others for its connections, financial and otherwise, to pharmaceutical companies. This relationship was not acknowledged in CNN’s coverage.

Research, however, does not appear to support the suggestion that the warning labels have led to a decreased number of antidepressant prescriptions for teenagers or adults. Previously, in 2014, after an article in the BMJ and several media accounts first claimed that the labels decreased prescriptions and increased suicides, researchers challenged and generally refuted this claim.

The FDA warnings were first added in 2004 and research from the CDC reveals that in 2008 nearly 5% of girls between 12 and 17 and 3% of boys used antidepressant drugs.  In an examination of population data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers from Harvard University found that, in adults over twenty, antidepressant use increased from 6.8% to 13% from 1999 to 2012.

Following the FDA’s warning, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) issued new guidelines that suggested that children and teenagers with depression begin antidepressant treatments at a low dose. However, new research shows that 60% of children are still beginning SSRIs on a higher than recommended dose.

Notably, the latest data on suicide risks reveal that the suicide rates for women increased by 45% while the rate for males increased 16%. One in four women in the US in their 40s and 50s currently take an antidepressant and women are 2.5 times more likely to take an antidepressant than men.

In the New York Times, Dr. Jane Pearson, from the NIMH’s Suicide Research Consortium, said that treatments are improving and becoming more effective, “but we have to figure out how to bake them into health care systems, so they are used more automatically.” The research cited for improved treatments reveals that cognitive therapy has been found to reduce suicide attempts by as much as 50%.

Additional research, published last September in JAMA Psychiatry, has demonstrated that antidepressants are not more effective than therapy for moderate or severe depression. Despite the fact that antidepressants are linked to an increased risk for suicide, the American Psychiatric Association guidelines continue to suggest medications as the preferred treatment for moderate to severe depression.

Previous article“The Dangers of ‘Polypharmacy,’ the Ever-Mounting Pile of Pills”
Next articleTwilah Hiari — Short Bio
Justin Karter
MIA Research News Editor: Justin M. Karter is the lead research news editor for Mad in America. He completed his doctorate in Counseling Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He also holds graduate degrees in both Journalism and Community Psychology from Point Park University. He brings a particular interest in examining and decoding cultural narratives of mental health and reimagining the institutions built on these assumptions.


  1. I would like to put all the blame for the suicide rate rise on the excessive drugging but America also changed during those years and became more of a nasty police state.

    Everything is more of a bitch now with ‘big brother’ the ‘war on fun’ and stuff like that.

    “Every day in communities across the United States, children and adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in schools that have increasingly come to resemble places of detention more than places of learning. From metal detectors to drug tests, from increased policing to all-seeing electronic surveillance,the public schools of the twenty-first century reflect a society that has become fixated on crime, security and violence.”—Investigative journalist Annette Fuentes

    Yes psychiatric drugs are driving people to suicide, hell they almost got me but it would be dishonest not to point out what has also been going on from 1999 and 2014.

    How many more people get exposed to the criminal so called justice system between 1999 and 2014 ?

    Look at those graphs online, mass incarceration , mass probation, motorist extortion revenue all went sharply up between 1999 and 2014

    Men and women who have had contact with the criminal justice system — even if they have never received a jail or prison sentence or a guilty verdict — appear to have a significantly higher rate of suicide than the general population, according to a new study.

    Well of course, they get people caught up in the systems money making schemes for one of their vicimeless so called crimes… Nothing ruins lives like the American so called justice system and it drives some people to suicide.

    The Fate of Children in the Amerian Police State

    I have to be honest I blame the police-state-ification of America for the suicide increase and anti depressant increase.

    I can’t name one thing that has gotten better in our society in the last 20 years but naming 100 things that got worse would be easy.

    Report comment

  2. My initial thought is that parallel to the increase in suicide and antidepressant over the past 25 years has also been an increase in the use of opiates/opioids. Was that controlled for or is it another factor in the correlation between suicide and antidepressants?

    Report comment

    • Have you seen this before ?

      “I had problems with increased alcohol cravings which got me into all sorts of problems with binge drinking, losing my job and even ending up in prison. I have found research papers that show that alcohol cravings can be induced by SSRIS, Ive told my story on Dr David Healys website To go straight to my story click here… this story helps to explain why some people get the cravings/alcohol abuse whilst taking SSRIS. There is also another similar story here I wanted to tell my story to help other people who may be experiencing the same thing.”

      I found that here

      Report comment

    • increase in the use of opiates… Now what about the increase in the police-state-ification of America that went with it ??

      “Cases like Robert’s haunt Ellen Sousares, who knows of at least three other families who have lost children after drug courts denied access to maintenance or otherwise failed to take the risk of overdose [and suicide] into account. ”

      “My team is made up of public defenders, two probation officers, two treatment providers, a prosecuting attorney and a judge,” Debra says. “The decisions are made as a team, but the judge can overrule anyone.” The four phases of federal drug court include Phase 1, which is 30 days long, but can be longer depending on whether the offender gets a job. “They have to put in five applications a day until they get a job, it’s very structured and we keep records of it all,” Debra says. “The offender has to be either actively seeking employment or going to school. Something productive, if not they can fail out of the program and go to prison.”

      “if not they can fail out of the program and go to prison…” !

      Google “drug court suicide”

      She kissed her aunt on the cheek and told her, “I don’t think I’m going home with you. They are going to put me away.”

      Twenty minutes later — before any decision was made — Silvestri collapsed in the bathroom of Lowell District Court. As paramedics performed CPR, Silvestri was transported to a hospital, where she died.

      “She was under a lot of pressure, and she couldn’t handle the pressure,” Hickey told The Sun.

      Defense attorney Gil Nason, who represented Silvestri as part of the Drug Court Team, speculates that Silvestri either had some sort of major medical event or she took an overdose of prescription pills, possibly the ones she was prescribed for anxiety. Pills were found on the bathroom floor, but it’s unclear if they belonged to Silvestri, Nason said.

      There is nothing like being stuck in addiction and having the anxiety and depression that goes with it combined with getting caught up in that wrenched soulless system designed to create revenue run by the power hungry sociopaths that seek out careers in criminal “justice” to make people want to kill themselves.

      Its like it was created by the Devil himself cause he knows “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

      Report comment

    • Personal story, none of my usual post links to prove my point.

      I was hanging out in AA and was palling around with a girl I met there that was caught up in the wrenched system they call “justice” after getting in trouble with drugs and alcohol.

      As usual instead of any trail for her victim-less so called crime she was coerced into a plea bargain and given probation, the constant threat of jail to go with it and long nasty list of requirements and of course expensive payments and not being able to find a job. She was trying.

      She took to drinking cough medicine to calm her anxiety and tested positive for PCP. The hell I saw this woman go through, the anxiety attacks and constant worrying “they are going to put me in jail” finishing her bottle of clonopin , telling the doctor she lost it… constant worrying constant stress for weeks.

      I drove her to the court date and almost got in a fight with the public pretender who made some sort of a deal to admit to the drug use indicated by the false positive and pay the back probation fees instead of fighting to make those bastards re test the urine sample and see it was cough medicine. I said right to his face “you are a piece of shit” you and everyone else knows THIS woman was not using PCP. None of you people in this money factory give a crap about justice your all greedy sociopaths.

      Meet me in the parking lot he tells me, OK sure guy right around here with the cameras and the storm troopers posing as the “good guys” that are all around this place, FU.

      Her probation and the pressures continued and a few months later I heard she was in the hospital for a suicide attempt. Drank a bunch of wine and took a handful of some sort of opiate pill with Tylenol in it and her family found her unconscious on the kitchen floor.

      She was also on Zoloft and Lamictal , who do we blame for the suicide attempt ?

      Report comment

  3. Therapy more effective than medication for MODERATE TO SEVERE DEPRESSION?? It must not be clinical depression then. As someone who has suffered from CLINICAL MAJOR DEPRESSION since puberty, I went through plenty of therapy and years without antidepressants. Nothing was more useless. Only medication helped- and only the right medication. SSRIs never totally kicked it, although they helped, but an SNRI and discovering melatonin to correct a sleep disorder finally did the trick. THERAPY WAS THE MOST USELESS NONSENSE EVER.

    Report comment

  4. 21 Signs That Americans Are The Unhappiest People In The Entire World
    In America today, suicide rates are soaring, antidepressant use is skyrocketing

    “rand yet we continue to become even more depressed. Everywhere I go, I see people that look like they have had the life completely sucked out of them. So why is this happening? ”

    I kind of expected Infowars to do a better job explaining the reasons but it is very well done with links out to more information on each of the 21 things.

    So anyway I know this young couple they just had a baby and are trying to buy a house. It should be the happiest time of their lives.

    They thought they had it all figured out but there was no permit for the new roof put on 6 years ago and some electrical outlets were in the wrong place… I couldn’t even keep up with the enormously complex story of expensive hoops they have to jump through thrown at them by the bank , insurance company, need a lawyer and town officials, fees , inspectors , but it sounded like they fell into a pit full of vicious hungry snakes biting from every direction.

    They saved up the money for a long time, I know the dude he works his butt off. I don’t think they are going to get the house, now the lease on the old place ran out…

    Meanwhile at the CDC they are sitting around trying to figure out what going on with the spike in depression and suicide in America.

    Give me a break.

    Report comment

  5. Looking at the comments in the article, most people attribute the rise in suicidality to the constantly disappointing economy and the lack of hope for the future. The common person seems to understand that “chemical imbalances” don’t cause depression – crappy life and cultural situations are the most common culprit. That being said, this data certainly belies the old psychiatric saw that “antidepressants cause a decrease in the suicide rate.” More antidepressants than ever, more suicides than ever. Not saying ADs are necessarily the main or only cause, but it was interesting to note that female suicides have increased much more than male suicides, while female use of antidepressants has increased much more than male use of antidepressants. Sounds like a fertile area for further research, but I won’t hold my breath for Eli Lily to fund that kind of experiment any time soon.

    —- Steve

    Report comment

    • Re: most people attribute the rise in suicidality to the constantly disappointing economy and the lack of hope for the future.

      Well of course they do, I don’t want to go to far into conspiracy nutcase territory but their televisions give them that message all day long. Money will make you happy…We need to create jobs instead of getting of peoples backs and just letting them exist.

      Here it is my friend, remember this ?

      Societies With Little Coercion Have Little Mental Illness

      Once again , There are more “just doing my job” snakes and parasites in America then real ones swimming around in all 4,345 miles of the Amazon river.

      America is a sick police state, go on youtube “police brutality” or “police kill”

      I already did an epic hate filled rant toward the system in my first comments and I feel that way and I have all the money I need. Money not a problem for me.

      This website is not working correctly tonight, all these error messages trying to log in, if this post goes through maybe I will continue in a reply.

      I will never buy the notion that “fixing the economy” and “creating jobs” is the answer to our problems.

      Report comment

    • Re : but it was interesting to note that female suicides have increased much more than male suicides

      Suicide Rate for Women Having Abortions is Six Times Higher Than Women Giving Birth

      You have to Finnish school get a job and pay off those student loans. Kill your baby. The system needs slaves not mothers.

      You will ruin your life having a child so young.

      Planned parenthood needs baby parts to sell.

      I hope they don’t kick me off this website for telling it how it is.

      Report comment

      • I hear you Cat. Abortion exploits women. I volunteer at a center that helps women who would rather not have abortions.
        Seems those snakes at Planned Parenthood are trying to close centers like this one down. “Pro-choice” my eye!
        It’s not about women’s rights in the end. It’s all about $$$$ regardless of who they hurt or kill.

        Report comment

  6. Well what do I do, you know I think I would be one hell of a substance abuse counselor, I survived psychiatry benzo dependency ADHD amphetamines, alcohol , jails institutions and near death. I have read almost every article on MIA in the last 4 years. I know how AA works and what part of it hurts people. I know this thing.

    The test for certification would be easy, did the class room time already to satisfy the education mafia.

    The problem is that if I follow through with it and get a real job in the field instead of volunteering I will be required to “work with” probation officers and be an agent of that wrenched system I despise.

    How could I possibly do that ? I already wrote on this thread if you are one of those “just doing my job” people screwing people over types to get sick, die and go to hell.

    How could I take a job where when one of my clients in treatment has a panic attack and runs out to the bar drinks to make it go away how could I rat them out to a psycho system that doesn’t care about anything but revenue generation and putting people in cages ???

    How after everything I have been through and someone I am caring for gives in to the anxiety or depression and runs out and get high could I report to the gestapo for a failed drug test ???

    Or even do drug testing, I understand addiction and drug testing makes people want to use and prevents them from learning other coping skills.

    The day I take an official job as a substance abuse counselor and rat out a client to a probation officer is the day I should become a suicide statistic. I will never do it.

    Figured I would put these thoughts here after all the ‘nice’ things I said about the system.

    Report comment