Depressed teen girl

Could antidepressants increase risk for suicide in young adults?

A new study published by JAMA on suicide risk and drug dosage found that the risk for deliberate self harm doubles when depressed young adults (under age 25) start treatment with a high dose of antidepressants.

The study of 162,000 patients ages 10 to 64 found that 32 incidents of self-harm per 1,000 young patients occurred on a high dose, compared with only 15 incidents per 1,000 on the recommended dosage.

"Studies similar to this one are the reason the FDA issued 'Black Box Warnings' in 2004 that states certain medications have the potential to be linked to suicidal thinking and behavior in children with Major Depressive Disorder," said Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor with Community. "Incidents of self-harm in our youth are a cause of concern, especially due to the fact that suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24."

However, the reasons for the link between antidepressants and self harm are unclear. 

"Some newer antidepressants have few side effects in children and adolescents, but for unknown reasons, they may trigger agitation and abnormal behavior in certain individuals," said Richardson.

As alarming as this study may be, many major organizations - including the FDA - suggest that the benefits of antidepressant medications likely outweigh their risks to children and adolescents with major depression and anxiety disorders.

"According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is extremely difficult to determine whether certain antidepressant medications increase the risk for completed suicide, especially because depression itself increases the risk for suicide," said Richardson. "Research shows, and most mental health professionals agree, that a combination of medication and psychotherapy (particularly cognitive-behavior therapy) is the most effective treatment for adolescents with depression."

Richardson encourages patients and parents to speak with their behavioral specialists if they are concerned about increased self-harm risk as a result of taking antidepressants. 

Behavioral health services at Community

We're Central Indiana's largest provider of behavioral health, with an extensive continuum of treatment options. To schedule an outpatient appointment, call 317-621-5719 or visit