Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Friday’s Question: Can Taking an Antidepressant Make Me Suicidal?

In a recent Johns Hopkins Health Alert, I read this:

Suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts are common symptoms of depression, and the risk of suicide may increase as depression begins to respond to treatment because the person might regain just enough energy and motivation to follow through on a suicidal urge. This discussion addresses the question: Can Taking an Antidepressant Make Me Suicidal?

Here’s how the Johns Hopkins team of psychiatrists answered it:


Whether antidepressants raise suicide risk has been a hotly contested issue since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued black-box warnings that they could increase suicide risk in children and teenagers, then extended the risk to adults. On the other hand, suicide remains a risk of untreated depression, and research suggests that SSRIs decrease suicide risk by improving symptoms, while the increased use of fluoxetine (Prozac) in the United States has been linked with a lower suicide rate.

The risk of antidepressants increasing suicidal thoughts in those with severe depression appears to occur during the first few treatment weeks or when changing the dose. At this time, when the medications might not yet be having an effect, depression and suicidal thoughts may worsen. Also, when some individuals begin to respond to the medication, they may have just enough energy and motivation to commit suicide. In addition, people with bipolar disorder who have been misdiagnosed with depression and given antidepressants may be at greater risk for suicide.


A good strategy is to stay in close contact with your healthcare provider, family, and friends when you start on an antidepressant or if your dose is adjusted so that they will notice any warning signs if your symptoms worsen. It’s always a good idea, too, to engage in some form of talk therapy, which has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants.

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  • Larry Parker

    The “actions being animated before your mood is” aspect of anti-depressants has been well-known, and frankly the drug companies, doctors and the FDA should have taken stronger actions sooner.
    But it doesn’t mean that the medicines (at least when you find the SSRI or SNRI that best “hits” your brain receptors) don’t work when properly prescribed.

  • Jeff Wilson

    It is a common ploy of the drug companies to blame depression for suicidal thoughts. They say people with depression are at risk of suicide so they should take antidepressants. However in Sweden they have a national methodology for tracking suicides (something the US does not have by the way). The results have shown that over 80% of the people in Sweden who commit suicide were taking antidepressants. Kind of blows the idea that antidepressants are a suicide prevention pill and confirms the idea that they cause suicides. Check out for the real story.

  • Dylan Croft

    I have always believed that it is the increased energy of early recovery that leads to suicidality. It is reassuring to read that a study reveals the same theory. This is not, however, a reason not to take antidepressants. It is a caution for doctors prescribing the medications to make sure the depressed person have supports in place before adding medications.

  • Alex

    There are two main problems with antidepressants:
    1) They increase suicidal thoughts among some people
    2) They are not very effective
    Unfortunately, most media attention focuses on problem #1, while I think that problem #2 is the more significant one of the two (why take antidepressants at all, if they don’t work?)
    When you’re very careful about analyzing the data from clinical trials, you find that the difference between antidepressant and placebo is very small or non-existent. Regardless of whether they are taking the active drug or the placebo, about a third of the people feel significantly better, another third feel a little better, and the final third are unchanged.
    For more information, see the following articles:
    In short: Don’t take antidepressants. They might make you suicidal, and they don’t work better than placebos, anyway. If you’re depressed, there are other, safer & more-effective ways of getting treatment for your condition.

  • Brian

    Yes, antidepressants definitely have their faults but you can’t ignore their usefulness especially with the severely depressed due to biological impairment.
    I’ve been taking antidepressants for a number of years and although they aren’t extremely effective I know I am much better with them than without.

  • Mrs Denis

    As a person who suffers depression, who is a Christian, and is currently under medication; I have to say that medication are not always negative. In my case it was a great change. It is important to remark that, yes, there have been empirical evidence of suicidal ideation increase, specially for teen agers; which now, mental health providers are aware to prevent the kind of unfortunate events in the past. Also, medication alone does not work, there has to be some kind of therapy with a qualified counselor, social support, and if possible the support of your spiritual family. God Bless U all !!

  • Leslie

    OK, so Jeffrey is promoting his website, I get it. I’m so sick of coming on this board, one of the few pro-med sites around, and seeing this information. But, I suppose, just like our political climate these days, one will never see the other’s side, and we think those with the opposing view may be nice people, but idiots.
    I bought the “Unstuck” book, hoping that would help me deal with my depression when I quit my meds. I slammed into a deep dark depression, and it was evident to me that I needed to take my pharmies, and quick. This is something I’m not in control of, thru diet, exercise, yoga, positive thinking. Trust me, I’ve tried it. Geez, you think depression may just cause suicidal thoughts?
    Don’t fool yourself that you are saving lives. We all need to follow the path we need to follow. I’m in the holistic health care field, have access to plenty of support, but gosh darn it, I need Celebrex! I’d love to be able to post my “pulling myself up by my bootstraps” story, without the aid of chemicals. But not going to happen. And I’m fine with that.
    God bless you, Mrs Denis, that you find that your spiritual support has helped you – ALONG with your meds.

  • Nancy

    I disagree with Alex’s opinion for the simple fact where I was and where I am today.
    I suffered for several years with depression and chest pains and refused to get help. Counseling was a joke for it didn’t do a thing.
    When I finally found a doctor who would write prescriptions it still took 6 months before anything changed. It took several “trial and errors” to find what worked but when we found it….my entire life changed.
    Within 2 days the 24/7 pain the chest started coming and going…within one week it was every other day and within 2 weeks it was gone never to return again.
    I found out I was not only suffering anxiety (chest pain) but depression.
    I have tried to take myself off my medications thinking I was “normal” only to find out within 30 days I am heading back down into the deep sea water.
    So antidepressants causes suicidal thoughts? No I was already looking death in the face saying take me when the right combination was found.
    So antidepressants are not very effective? Only someone who has been hanging onto that knot in the end of the rope and felt it coming undone has the right to answer if antidepressants are effective or not.
    Nancy aka sixlittlekitties

  • Jimmy Joe

    Do not abruptly stop taking antidepressants!!
    I must say that the placebo effect is just as effective as ever.
    The numbers last time I checked were conservatively between 4 and 8 percent of people on antidepressants become suicidal, and these are people who were given the drugs off-label for chest pain, headaches etc.
    Imagine a huge revolver that could hold 100 rounds of ammunition but only had 4-8 bullets, that’s the game of Russian roulette people are playing when taking these drugs.
    The other side is that the danger is usually during dosage change, according to Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen, so the people who are starting the drugs are going through a dosage change, hence the suicide at the start of “treatment”, but getting off the drugs is just as dangerous, bet your doctor didn’t tell you that!
    Psychiatric groups will never agree the drugs are dangerous because that is what they get paid for; drugs. The FDA has dragged it’s feet for decades while in Great Britain articles in the press say antidepressants are worthless. So is this treatment or income?

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