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Teen Suicides Up Sharply for First Time in Years
Date:9/6/2007

Fewer antidepressant prescriptions a factor in trend, expert says

THURSDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Youth suicide rates rose 8 percent from 2003 to 2004, the largest annual increase in 15 years and a reversal of a decade of declines, a new government report shows.

"Our news today is sobering and raises a great concern for us," Ileana Arias, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a teleconference Thursday. "Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24, surpassed only by car crashes and homicides."

The suicide rates for these age groups had been trending downward, falling 28 percent from 1990 to 2003. However, between 2003 and 2004, there was a 75.9 percent increase in the suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-old girls, a 32.3 percent increase among 15- to 19-year-old girls, and a 9 percent increase among 15- to 19-year-old boys, Arias said.

"This is a dramatic and huge increase," Arias noted.

While the CDC won't speculate on the causes for the increase in suicides among teens, one expert thinks it correlates with the warnings issued a few years ago by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that antidepressants called SSRIs can increase the risk of suicide among teens.

In fact, prescriptions for these drugs for teenagers have dropped by 20 percent since then, according to Dr. Benjamin N. Shain, an associate professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University and a liaison to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Shain believes the years of decline that preceded this sharp increase were due to the increased prescribing of antidepressants. "One major factor that changed was the prescribing of antidepressant medications," Shain said. "Most likely, that's [what was] responsible for the decrease in suicide rates."

But after several studies point
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