Many parents of teens with depression worry that antidepressants could cause an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Previous research had suggested antidepressants are safe for teens. But recently, researchers have re-examined the original data and found antidepressants may not be as safe for teens as once thought. As always, whether to start an antidepressant depends heavily on your teen’s personal situation.
A few years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warnings that children and teens who took a common kind of antidepressant might experience suicidal thoughts. The point of the warning was to make sure that parents and doctors paid closer attention to kids taking these medications. But the plan may have backfired. A national team of researchers tracked antidepressant use among 2.5 million young people between 2000 and 2010. After the FDA’s warnings in 2003 and 2004, use of commonly prescribed antidepressants fell by 30% in teenagers while suicide attempts rose by 22%. The researchers concluded that the decrease in antidepressant use, sparked by worries over suicidal thoughts, may have left many depressed young people without appropriate treatment and that may have boosted the increase in suicide attempts.