I saw this information released today from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showing that suicide rates have been increasing in virtually all U.S. states since 1999. It’s getting a lot of news coverage accompanied by a lot of bluster and self-promoting from mental health professionals that more people need to get into psychiatric treatment. So I was interested to see how this trend (provided in a nation-wide format by the National Institute of Mental Health) mapped onto trends in antidepressant use over the same time frame. Below is what it looks like in a graph. (Note that the antidepressant use numbers from the CDC come in four-year blocks, so I filled in the intervening years in each case — the overall trend is clear. Also note the different scales being used: If one mapped these at the exact same scale, which would have been more work in converting numbers than I felt like doing, the antidepressant line overall would be rising faster than the suicide line.)
Of course, this only shows correlation, not causation. Still, it’s fairly compelling evidence that, at the least, antidepressants are not preventing suicides. Also worth considering is the fact that, in 2014, a highly dubious scientific article mapped antidepressant use onto a questionable surrogate marker for suicide rates in youth and showed the opposite correlation over a selected two-year period — and it got extensive global media coverage and launched calls from psychiatrists for the FDA to remove the suicide warnings from antidepressants. So we should hear even louder calls now to boost those warnings on antidepressants, right?