Harvard Mental Health Letter

Antidepressants for children and adolescents: An update

New research is shedding light on the hotly debated question of whether antidepressant medications developed for and tested mainly on adults can help many depressed children and adolescents — and whether some of these drugs may raise the risk of suicidal impulses and suicide attempts in young patients.

These questions are significant. A 2002 survey found that nearly 4% of American 13- to 19-year-olds and 1.4% of 6- to 12-year-olds were taking antidepressants. In the last few years, though, prescriptions have been declining as concerns about suicide have surfaced and culminated in warnings from the FDA.

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