Antidepressants Save People From Suicide, Right?

Kelly Brogan, MD, ABIHM
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Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, and Chester Bennington all revealed details of their struggles with depression and anxiety before they made the tragic decisions to end their lives. You’re probably not surprised that people diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, such as depression or anxiety, have an increased risk of suicide; in fact, a recent study estimates that 80% of people who attempt suicide have a psychiatric diagnosis associated with suicidal ideation. The startling news comes from the science that supports the causal role of antidepressants in the actual completion of suicide.

If depression leads to suicide and antidepressants like SSRIs resolve depression, we could decrease suicide rates by increasing the number of antidepressant prescriptions, right? That’s the pharmaceutical argument for medicating people who are “at risk.”

Yet the evidence reveals some inconvenient truths, demonstrating that antidepressants actually increase the risk of suicide. Furthermore, just as the serotonin model of depression has never been scientifically validated, there is no evidence that antidepressants meaningfully and statistically significantly resolve depression — but, instead, we are confronting a growing signal of harm, including live-streamed suicides and school shootings committed by those recently prescribed. And a new study from Sweden that examines antidepressants in the context of suicide suggests that antidepressants are pushing people toward, not away from, suicide.

Swedish researchers analyzed data in a timespan in which antidepressant prescriptions rose steadily; the percentage of young women who were prescribed antidepressants increased from 1.4% to 5%. Approximately 500 young women committed suicide during this time period, and because toxicological analyses were performed postmortem, researchers could determine if these women were on antidepressants at the time that they made the decision to end their lives.

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From 1999 to 2013, antidepressant prescriptions increased 270%. In 2013, about 5% of Swedish young women (36,141) were prescribed antidepressants.

If antidepressants indeed resolve depression and prevent suicide, those who committed suicide would be the unmedicated ones, right? Also, suicide rates would decrease as antidepressant prescriptions increased.

Yet, researchers found the opposite. As antidepressant prescriptions increased 270% over 15 years, suicide rates also increased. Strikingly, more than half of the young women who committed suicide (52%) were prescribed antidepressants within a year of committing suicide. And antidepressants were detected in 41% of the women who committed suicide, showing that they were under the influence of antidepressants at the time of death. In the remaining subjects, it is also important to know whether they had recently discontinued psychotropic medication. As many who have done so would tell you, abrupt (or sometimes even cautious) tapering of medication can lead to suicidality and homicidality with associated impulsivity (long after the medication itself is undetectable).

We are a culture that believes that force is necessary for change and progress (rather than natural momentum and emergent processes). But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when we learn that throwing more of the same failed medicine at the very problem created by the failed medicine — well, it doesn’t actually work. Herein lies the thinly-veiled agenda of the industry: use the shortcomings of the intervention (in this case, continued and worsened depressive symptoms) to justify further interventions (more medications for all). This is like calling for more and more barricades to cover up any visual evidence of a forest fire while the fire blazes behind the facade. What is needed, at the first sign of risk outweighing benefit, is true informed consent — and thankfully, each and every prospective patient can now be empowered with a fuller version of the truth than they might receive from media, the government, or their prescribing doctor.

For more information on the violence-inducing effects of psychiatric medication, click here.

44 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Dr. Brogan.

    This is anecdotal, but since tapering below 50% of my original Effexor dose (150 mg to less than 75) I’m no longer intensely sad or suicidal.

    I’m off it completely now and am struggling with building an identity from scratch at 44. With an ugly “diagnosis” looming over me. At least HIPPA provides some protection.

  2. Maybe the problem is not a decrease in serotonin in the brain.

    Perhaps it is communication difficulty with the neurotransmitters.

    Like the messages leaving the brain to travel to the other body systems are in fact having trouble communicating.

    So would ssri’s even make a difference if this true? I don’t know.

    These symptoms do have biological root, but with depression natural remedies can really sometimes make collosial difference in recovery.

      • I would say it is correct to mean in some cases and not all. Mental illnesses have many reasons for onset.

        Anyhow this is the resource that I’ve used for past two years when I comment on mental illnesses. I should have cited sooner. The REAL answers are right here.

        I spend a lot of my time studying this man and this organization that continues his work. I respect him a great deal.

        https://www.edgarcayce.org/the-readings/health-and-wellness/holistic-health-database/overview-of-depression/

        • Pretty good article. The writer speculates a whole lot about purported biological causes near the beginning without research basis, but toward the end, the discussion of holistic care is quite interesting and probably very useful to many who are looking beyond the narrow-minded “modern” bio-bio-bio lens. Thanks for sharing!

        • Thanks, PatH80 for the link to approach to depression that has broader view of looking at depression, causes and treatment options. Psychopharmacology psychiatry which I call modern day psychiatry is far too narrow and self-serving. I like the “service to others” and “bibliotherapy” recommendations. There is something about doing for others when depressed even though certainly do not feel up to it. Good books with positive messages about being human are always helpful. I am sure all of us have some good books to recommend for this. Being good to our bodies with massages and relaxing baths help with self-care. Speaking kindly to oneself also has been helpful with depressed clients and myself when life is a stressful. Depressed individuals often think negatively about themselves and are very harsh toward themselves. Cognitive-behavioral therapists work on changing the thinking patterns and refuting automatic thoughts and replacing with more realistic and less punitive ones. Also being in touch with anger is important. Psychoanalysts would say depression is “anger inward” which has some merit.

    • I agree, yeah, “throwing pills at misery often creates more misery.” Absolutely, this is the likely etiology of most of the “bipolar” and “schizophrenia” epidemics.

      Thank you for pointing out the lack of logic in today’s “bio-bio-bio” psychiatric industry, Kelly.

  3. Thank you for this, Kelly. Your point that they are “throwing more of the same failed medicine at the very problem created by the failed medicine” is very much in line with similar dynamics in the realm of international development. About once a decade there is a new, “expert”-derived formulation to “develop” the poor of the world, and each time it is essentially an imposition of external force, as you say, and each time it fails, and each time a new and “better” formulation is cooked up. I’m sure there are other areas where this is true–well, industrial agriculture is another example, needing always more fertilizer and pesticides to “solve” the problems caused by their earlier application. This is a hallmark of late modernity. Let us keep our shoulders (lightly!) to the wheel not of force but of unfolding.

  4. This is an intriguing issue, because the SSRI’s originally used for OCD-type stuff- obsessions and compulsions, for which they apparently worked, becoming used for depressions when some unknown figure deemed them potentially useful for said depressions, because common depressive symptoms were excessive ruminations and repetitive thoughts, which the unknown figure(s?) thought gave a reason to use the SSRI’s as antidepressants. Don’t forget that depressions were more common than OCD’s, thus providing a bigger market for manufacturers without having to develop new drugs.

    • Can I join you, littleturtle, (great nickname by the way) ? I also adore the expression “bio-bio-bio” event thought most psychiatrists here in Quebec pretend to embrace the bio-psycho-so called model, but in fact are definitively closer to bio-bio-bio ! Yeahhh, it’s stuck in my head and on my tongue, for good I feel.

    • I don’t mean to argue, bcharris, but my knowledge of SSRIs is different. In fact opposite to your story but comes up to essentially the same end result. Of what I heard and read, SSRIs where stumbled on by accident, like many so called molecules and initially marketed as “potent” antidepressants. With time, doctors reported anecdotal evidence that it also seemed to relieve OCD Sx and sex overdrive. The funny part is that many spouses where delighted the SSRIs where having calming effects on their husbands harassing libido. My hypothesis is that by diminishing the sex drive of once depressed husbands who, in fact, where sexually frustrated, and thus depressed, sex drive decreased and, as a byproduct, frustration fell, and then greater couple harmony set in and depression then lifted off. I don’t know if my interpretation is mythical, wishful thinking or only plain “story filling”, but it certainly makes me smile.

  5. Ok. This is getting closer to the truth. Psychotropic drugs do, indeed, CAUSE suicide. This is an indisputable fact. But what is needed is not informed consent. What is needed is for pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists to be held accountable for their atrocious crimes. Why on earth are such dangerous neurotoxins allowed on the market in the first place, and why on earth are they permitted to be distributed as if they were “medication”? These neurotoxins are not medication any more than a bottle of Kerosene is cough syrup.

    There’s another aspect of this problem that too few people understand. It is true that psychotropic drugs CAUSE suicide, but so do suicide prevention campaigns. Suicide awareness and suicide prevention campaigns hook the vulnerable and drag them into the dark web of psychiatry, where they are drugged, involuntarily incarcerated, which trauma may even lead them to terminate their own lives. It’s the same problem with so-called “anti-stigma” campaigns. Here’s how it works: Someone starts an anti-stigma campaign to remove the stigma from so-called “mental illness.” The message is that no one should allow stigma to stop a person from receiving “treatment.” Next, the unsuspecting victim of psychiatry is convinced that “mental illness” is an “illness like any other.” Then the same unsuspecting victim seeks the help of a psychiatrist who then labels said victim as “mentally ill,” thus increasing the stigma, which requires more “anti-stigma” campaigns. You see how clever psychiatry is in drawing people into its dark web?

    • A very good set of points “Slay” ! Only thing : some apparently say it is a disputable fact, turning it into fiction. It seems just as hard as to try to convince non believers about climate change. And on your point about supposedly educational public health campaigns, the latest I heard was about the so called “tide eating” challenges. Don’t know what US media say about this but here in Canada I have herd that the public health campaign actually fueled youth into doing such foolish things. Only one documented case had occurred before public authorities panicked and launched a rapid PR response. The figures of reported cases jacked up to close to 40 right after. Anybody knows you dont tel kids ” don’t do this or that” !

  6. Thank you, Dr. Brogan, for presenting this study. The healthcare ethic is first do no harm and secondly provide a benefit for the patient. I see no benefit in antidepressants and certainly have seen harm. At best they provide a placebo effect or initial boost but inevitably my clients in my private practice tell me that the antidepressant is dong nothing or causing side effects. I have actually seen patients on the pediatric ICU unit and adult medical/surgical unit in the hospital I work attempt suicide using their prescribed antidepressant medications. What a strange and horrible irony.

    Exercise, good nutrition, balanced life, spirituality, meaningful role in life and supportive, nonjudgmental listening from caring individual does wonders. Time and love heals. Antidepressants disempower individuals and give a sense that inner psychic and natural pain caused by being human can be solved by a toxic pill. Humans are made to feel pain and experience suffering. Humans also have the capacity to heal, to love and be loved.

    • What happens when the person is so mentally sick from the drugs that he/she is in a funk? I wake up in a funk every day. I’ve become a shell of my former self and have ZERO motivation to even start a lifestyle. I have acquired and inability to wait for my painful experiences to end. Now, I’m left hanging where I have NO MOOD to do anything to help myself.

      After all this, maybe I just say it’s bad luck that I started with psychiatry and continue with augmentation? What other choices do I have? I tried tapering, Natropath, etc…

      Now I feel burned out, worse than ever. I was even hospitalized mid taper. That sucks. The attending psych doc told me to never go off the meds again and to always follow those in the know.

      I don’t see a way out once I was so fuc*ed over and over again

      • It can be terribly hard; took me the better part of five years until I finally found a way out, and even then it was very hard. Have you checked out the Inner Compass Initiative, which includes the Withdrawal Project? I think there is good support there and maybe ideas for how to make it work. I hope you find a way to get off, wishing very best of luck.

  7. “If antidepressants indeed resolve depression and prevent suicide… suicide rates would decrease as antidepressant prescriptions increased.”

    Kelly, do you remember the notorious paper by Gibbons et al (2007) purporting to show just this correlation? In the UK, there is an eminent professor of Psychiatry, Carmine Pariante, who still uses this paper to spread out-and-out fiction in the British media about antidepressant prescriptions and suicide rates. He is fully supported and endorsed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and enabled by the questionable ‘Science Media Centre’ who puts him forward as a trustworthy expert source. Here’s my cartoon take on the shenanigans… http://www.auntiepsychiatry.com/red.aspx?ha=smc

  8. Since the diagnosis itself is unreliable, how can we expect the “treatment” to be effective? So many people are suffering unbearable loss and strain and are given the “depression” label which prevents them from being effective in resolving their misery. Anti depressants are a “feel good” quick fix for a “profession” that can’t be bothered with actually killing their cash cow by resolving something.

  9. I think Psychiatry takes it as a right to kill people.

    EMAIL
    Sent: Friday, November 24, 2017 3:41 PM

    To: OIC IRISH COMMISSIONER OF INFORMATION
    Shared Mailbox

    Subject: Att Xxxxx Ref 130177 Amsterdam etc.

    Dear Mr Xxxxx

    I was advised to direct my query to you.

    I’m having an awful lot of difficulty sorting out a very dated medical history (and this history is causing real present day problems for me).

    I presumed Xxxxx to still be at the OIC
    and this is what I wrote:-

    You looked after a Case belonging to me a few years ago. I wasn’t happy with the outcome, but you did tell me to get in touch with you, if anything cropped up at a later date.

    I would like to be as brief as possible.

    NO MENTION OF AMSTERDAM ON THE UK NOTES
    I don’t see any mention of Amsterdam on my 1980 UK Records though I was with the Maudsley Hospital for two months (and had spent several months in Amsterdam shortly before arriving there).

    THE UK TAKES NO RESPONSIBILITY
    All accounts of me from the UK are nondescript and vague, almost to the extent of never having met me (- but were given professional standing in 1980 at Galway).

    KEVIN MCGRADY IN AMSTERDAM
    I recognise nearly too easily from the the Wikipedia description of Kevin McGrady below (with some further inquiry)..

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_McGrady

    ..that Kevin McGrady was someone I was socially acquainted with in Amsterdam in 1980.

    Kevin McGrady gave me the impression of being a genuine reborn again Christian, but nobody could have been as naive as the Wikipedia article suggests. It’s quite possible that he was being “groomed” at the time, and that his Diplock evidence would then be totally “incredulous”.

    About two weeks before I left Amsterdam Kevin McGrady expressed concern regarding a conversation we were supposed to have had a few days earlier. I honestly didn’t remember this conversation (but I had also been out late a night before and had no memory of coming in. Kevin McGrady worked on the night desk).

    ARRIVAL AT GALWAY 1980
    I was considered to be quite well on Arrival at Galway in 1980 (by two doctors – not one).

    Nurse Xxxxx was also present at the time.

    On Arrival me and the accompanying English doctor were split up and interviewed separately. The English doctors account was fairly unreliable (with no reference to Amsterdam). The English doctor also had a quantity of alcohol on board.

    A young Irish doctor took my account with reference to Amsterdam included. This young doctor never appeared on my Records. His version of events was updated to several days later and entered in by Psychiatrist Dr PA Carney in his own hand.

    IRISH POLICE
    I believe that at this time, once it became clear that something was “wrong” The Irish Police should have been called in.

    AKATHISIA:- NEAR FATAL APRIL 1984 DEPIXOL INJECTION

    I believe the Records were interfered at this time because:-

    The Depixol injection appears on the notes without explanation.

    Staff at the time were instructed not to Admit me, though I should have been kept under observation for at least 24 hours after being newly introduced to this type of medication.

    This injection was given at twice the introductory level though the Modecate had been re introduced by Dr xxxx at the introductory 12.5 mg level (in December 1983).

    This injection was given as an alternative with supposedly less involuntary movement effect.

    Dr PA Carney was trying to keep my Modecate disability problem off the records, because he had been holding me responsible for my inability to Function, and had continually expressed this as my main problem.

    April 1984 was my last hospitalization. I made longterm recovery as a result of carefully tapering off strong Psychiatric medications with the help of Psychotherapy.

    Please acknowledge this email.

    Yours Sincerely

    Xxxx

  10. Drugs, talk psychotherapy, and eclectic psychotherapy can all result in suicide. The reason is that they are all based on convincing people of falsehood.

    They make people believe that their anger and distress are not warranted, and that it is they themselves that are the problem, and that the correction is more therapy or drugs.

    When in fact, none of this does anything to redress their social and civil standing. So the therapist is a con artist, a liar.

    But people believe it and their life gets worse, and so some take the only way out they can see.

    • Hi TirelessFighter3,
      I agree that some psychiatric drugs can contribute and even be the precipitating cause of someone committing suicide. “Talk psychotherapy” especially psychoanalytic therapy is not always advised for certain individuals at certain times, i.e. in crisis, psychotic. Some individuals just are not good candidates for pure “talk therapy” and may benefit from more “supportive counseling” with less emphasis on the past, and may benefit better from family therapy, group therapy, expressive therapy or no therapy at all, i.e. community supports, journaling, bibliotherapy, etc..

      But I disagree that professionals or least all, “make people believe their anger and distress are not warranted, and that it is they themselves that are the problem”. That certainly is not how I nor many of many fellow therapists, especially if clinical social workers as social work is based on theory of interaction between “person in environment”. One needs to look at the individuals family, culture, religion, work environment, socioeconomic class, and wider political and social environment. Trauma-informed therapy looks at all sources of distress. Individuals have a right to be angry at the political and social environment they are in and therapy itself cannot change those bigger issues but therapists certainly have an obligation to point out these factors and injustices.

      • Of course talk therapists try to make people believe that their anger and distress is not warranted. Otherwise what do they do?

        Otherwise they would have experience in legal and political activism, to actually remedy the social and civil standing of their clients, instead of taking advantage of their vulnerability.

    • Idem ! You took the words out of my mouth. I saw no reference and decide to browse all the comments before asking. It’s no being too academical to expect a link or at the very least a biographical not for reference. I’ll go further by, with all du respect to MIA, confiding that if I cite MIA too often, it will discredit my efforts to disseminate all our wisdom and common sense in social medias. MIA is decidedly on “one side of the fence” and I want people to hear what “non partisan” research and real-life studies have to say. I’m not trying to hide my allegiances, but I like to give out fist hand references so as to augment our audience.

    • Fiachra

      Thank you. As much as I’d like to find solid support for the notion that SSRI’s does not decrease suicide rates, this study fails to provide it. I am a critical psychiatrist (MD, PhD), and I have no interest in trying to promote antidepressant drugs, but this paper is seriously flawed for a number of reasons:

      1. Among men and women in different age categories (15-24, 25-44, 45-64, and 65+) in Sweden, women in the youngest age group is the only group in which this association can be seen in the given time period. This might indicate cherry picking (with the exception of the youngest males, analysis of any of the other 6 groups would probably find an inverse and statistically significant association). This is not discussed in the paper.

      2. The period prior to 1999 was excluded from the analysis. It is possible to obtain data on antidepressant prescription prior to 1999, and including this period would obviously lead to a very different conclusion. This is not discussed in the paper, and no rationale for selecting the time period in question is given.

      3. The coverage of forensic investigations of suicide is, on average, 93%. This rate could change over time and influence the results (eg. if this rate increases with time, the number of suicides will appear to have increased) There is excellent data on the total number of confirmed and suspected suicides that could be used. This is not discussed as a limitation.

      4. Correlation does not imply causation. There might be alternative explanations to the correlation (if it’s really there) that still leaves room for the possibility that antidepressants are effective in reducing suicides. For instance, if something in the Swedish society has changed that makes it more difficult to be young (such as decreased economic equality, which we have seen during that time period, or increased use of social media) more young women might be (wrongly) treated with antidepressants while the number of young women who commits suicide increases somewhat due to the aforementioned societal changes. This is just a speculation of course, but I just want to point out that there might be alternative explanations.

      5. There is no limitations section. I don’t think I have ever seen an original study in quantitative sciences that lack a limitations section.

      Finally, when looking at the the author name, he has the same name as the most well-known critic of psychiatry in Sweden, and who has clear ties to the Scientology movement, and he has no scientific education or institutional ties as far as I know. I’m not absolutely sure it’s the same person, but it seems extremely likely in my view. My conclusion is that, while the results might have had some interest were the paper of higher quality, this is a deeply flawed paper produced to promote an anti-psychiatric agenda. As such, it hardly contributes anything to the issue at hand and using it as an argument in this debate seems ignorant, at best.

      • Your analysis is very compelling. And I don’t want anything to do with either flawed research, as a nicotine addicted person, or scientology or even anti-psychiatry hidden agendas. Let facts be facts and things will progress in the right direction. Pseudo-science, cajoling or false news wont. But I’m just speculating, of course …

      • “Our most substantial finding, however, consistent with those of others is that few people are taking antidepressants at the time of suicide, although half of the people who commit suicides are depressed.” Those are the words of Swedish psychiatrist Göran Isacsson et al, in the article “Use of antidepressants among people committing suicide in Sweden”, BMJ, 1994.

        That information has been presented as a fact, and referred to ever since. Even in updates, like “Update on the Toxicology of Suicide” in Primary Psychiatry (2013) it is stated (Dhossche) that it is “striking that toxicologic studies of suicide have not featured in the discussion of the alleged increased urge for suicide by antidepressants”. And then we are referred to Göran Isacsson again; we get references to a study of suicides with findings of psychotropic drugs in only 3% of investigated cases and another study which found traces of antidepressants in only 2.8% of the cases. The same references are used by Gibbons in the article “The statistics of suicide”, published in Shanghai Archives of Psychiatry (2013).

        In other words studies from the 1990s are presented as reflecting the current situation.

        These data are supposed to show that persons committing suicide are “undertreated”, that they were not getting the “life saving medications” that would have prevented them from committing suicide.

        This line of reasoning about antidepressants can also be seen in the international campaign (best represented by the fraudulent articles by Gibbons) for getting rid of the black box warning (for children and young adults) for the clearly proven increased risk of suicidality.

        And so we have my Short Report https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5611892/ (and of course “dr_JB” knows that such a report, by definition, has many limitations, even if he pretends not to be aware of that).

        We can compare the data in this simple report with the data above about “undertreatment”, about “few people are taking antidepressants at the time of suicide”, and we find that around 40% of the young women committing suicide (2009-2013) had antidepressants in the blood at the time of death.

        We can also see that on average, 51% of the women (2006–2013) were prescribed antidepressants within a 12-month period, and 41% within a 6-month period.

        In other words there is no “undertreatment” with antidepressants among the young women committing suicide in Sweden. We can state that an increasingly larger proportion of young women, who later committed suicide, has the last few years been treated with antidepressants, prior to and at the time of the suicide. And we can see an increasing tendency of completed suicides follow the increased prescription of antidepressants.

        The data in this Short Report have mainly been obtained by using the good Swedish Freedom of Information Act.

        The data are not hard to obtain – especially for the established researchers at the Karolinska Institutet or Sahlgrenska Akademin – but strangely enough we have not seen them published before. Neither have the responsible Government Agencies, having access to these data, published the information.

        We can see the influence of Big Pharma also in this area, with researchers tied to the manufacturers, and with Government Agencies dependent upon “psychiatric consultants” with heavy ties to the same companies.

        We can of course also expect “The Doubt Industry” – so well described by Peter Götzsche in his book Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime – to step into action and make nothing of these controversial findings.

  11. Thank you for this article. It is reflected in our military as well. Our soldiers are drugged on the battlefield and are drugged once they get home. There have always been wars, but the suicide rate among the military is the highest it has EVER been. Soldiers didn’t used to come home and kill themselves like they do today. I took an SSRI once. OMG! It made me so sick mentally and physically. These drugs come with consequences that none of us want to face.