Thanks to Philip over at Furious Seasons, we find that suicide rates for 2006 (the last year the government has data for) remain virtually unchanged from 2005 and 2004. Despite the dire warnings we heard about the decline of antidepressant medications (due to an FDA-mandated “black box” warning) leading to a huge spike in suicide rates, it appears not to be the case. The real story here is that the pundits and experts warning of such spikes were all wrong, and that the suicide rates have basically remained stable for the past few years.
Antidepressant medications are a valuable treatment option for the millions of Americans who take them. But they are not the only treatment option, and most people realize that (if not at first, then eventually when they get frustrated by the lack of results they see while taking their first antidepressant). A decline in antidepressant prescriptions is a harbinger of nothing. And, in fact, we noted last month how antidepressant prescriptions are up, while psychotherapy use has decreased 35 percent in the past decade ending in 2005.
Also worth noting this week was the release of a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), based upon a survey of 46,190 American adults (18 and older). It found that 3.7 percent of the adult population had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year (or 8.3 million adults). Not surprisingly, the survey found that young adults (ages 18-25) have the most thoughts of suicide, made the most plans for suicide and to have attempted suicide, compared to older adults.
This was the first year that SAMHSA asked all adults in their survey about suicidal thoughts; in the past, they only asked people who had had clinical depression.
One of the astounding statistics is that most people (54 percent) who make an actual attempt at suicide don’t stay in a hospital overnight for treatment or observation. And that nearly 40 percent of those who make an attempt received no medical attention whatsoever for their suicide attempt. That’s a huge number, given the potential consequences for completion of an attempt.
Many of us have heard the number 32,000 or 34,000 people every year who successfully complete their suicide. But we’ve never heard the number 8 million before, demonstrating the seriousness of mental health issues like depression and suicidality.
Read Furious Seasons’ take on the suicide rate: Suicide Rate Unchanged In 2006 (consider donating to Philip’s fund drive while there)
Read the SAMHSA study: Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors among Adults