Depression and suicide have always had a strong relationship with one another and, with significant rises in the number of people affected by mental health illnesses across the world; suicide is now the leading cause of death for males under the age of 50.
Naturally, people suffering from depression will look for ways to improve their situation and this can often lead to the introduction of various courses of treatments or the use of specific medication such as antidepressants.
Antidepressants are one of the most common types of medication taken by people suffering from depression and many other mental health conditions.
Although there are many types of anti depressants available in the present day, they all share the same principle in the way they alleviate symptoms associated with depression.
People experiencing extended periods of depression often have a significant deficit of certain vital chemicals such as noradrenaline and serotonin.
Antidepressants work by acting as an artificial replacement for these chemicals in order to re-establish a healthy equilibrium in the individual’s body.
The Dangers for Children and Teenagers
A series of findings from researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Centre and the University of Copenhagen, drugs companies has discovered children and teenagers who regularly use antidepressants are at a much higher risk of having suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts as well as aggressive tendencies.
Researchers combined multiple studies in which they analysed the effects of antidepressants compared with the use of a placebo drug and then further divided the data between the two age groups (adults and under 18s).
More specifically, teenagers and children were found to be at higher risk of suicidality (this encompasses thoughts of suicide, actual suicide attempts and self-harm), increased aggression and a movement disorder called ‘akathisia’ which involves feelings of restlessness and agitation.
Whilst this information is not completely new, researchers are claiming that previous evidence has not been fully disclosed and that the manufacturers of these drugs are purposefully under-reporting data which may otherwise deter people from purchasing their products.
Statistically, the use of antidepressants by under-18s can cause a 300% increase in risk of developing suicidality as well as a 400% increase in the risk of aggression. These figures show the substantial influence these types of medication can potentially have over younger people.
Although the findings are alarming, it must be noted that the same does not apply for adults, as the use of antidepressants did not have a correlation to increased risk of either suicide or aggression.
Furthermore, researchers advise the study should not motivate anyone to immediately cease their use of antidepressants as this can potentially be incredibly dangerous. Withdrawal and relapses are just two examples of symptoms which can occur from abruptly stopping antidepressants.
Instead, it is advised that the use of anti-depressants is kept to minimum (especially with younger people) and used only when entirely necessary to minimise the adverse side effects which can occur.
Currently, there is a relatively strict criterion in place which must be met before people under the age of 18 are prescribed antidepressants in order to minimise their use.
- Mandatory implementation of talking therapies or cognitive behaviour therapies
- Continued inclusion of these therapies in conjunction with the prescribed medication
- Extensive supervision undergone by a qualified psychiatrist
Antidepressants can be a powerful tool for people suffering from depression and other mental health illnesses and the health benefits they provide regularly outweigh the side effects they can instigate.
However, it is important that they are used sparingly, especially amongst children and teenagers who are the most vulnerable.
Encompass Dorset provide a range or professional care service which help people on a daily basis who are living with either an enduring mental health condition or a learning disability.
If you would like to find out how a member of our team can help you or a loved one, click here.