Treatment Emergent Suicidality

During the past several years, there has been a lot of media attention surrounding antidepressant medications and their potential to contribute to suicidal thoughts in some people and particular attention has been paid to this potential among depressed adolescents.

Although there is a link between the two in a small number of cases, a recent clinical trial of psychotherapy (talk therapy) for adolescent depression found an increase in suicidal thoughts of the same magnitude as that found in the clinical trials of antidepressant medications. Again, this increased risk was found in a very small number of cases.

This points to the need for all treatments to be carefully considered and supervised by a knowledgeable professional and this goes for any medical treatment, not just psychiatric interventions.

There is currently no treatment for depression that is not potentially associated with the emergence of suicidal thoughts. Avoiding treatment is not a good alternative since you are at a much higher risk for suicide if you are not being treated than if you are.

Suicidal thoughts are a common and frightening symptom of depression and other psychiatric conditions when there is no medication or treatment involved. In fact, more than 90% of all people who commit suicide are experiencing a psychiatric condition (usually depression or bipolar disorder) at the time of their death.

Clearly, suicidal thoughts are not solely brought on by medical treatment.

There is plenty of evidence and expert consensus that antidepressant medications prevent many more suicides than they cause. Treatment for depression saves hundreds of lives and significantly improves thousands more.

Although it is important to know of potential risks of treatment, it would be very unfortunate if the warnings now accompanying antidepressants prevented people from getting necessary and effective treatment.

Knowing a risk is one thing, but understanding it in relation to potential benefits as well as risks of other treatments is important.

Since suicidal thoughts are very common among depressed individuals, it is important for any health care professional to be aware of the feelings of their patients. If suicidal thoughts seem to be getting worse during treatment, the professional needs to be aware and to take appropriate action.

Sometimes this will involve changing the treatment, but this is not always the case.

In spite of rhetoric and media spin, the reality is that many more people die from untreated mental illness than from any complications of treatment. Speak to your doctor to learn more about available treatments, their risks and benefits.

Okanagan Clinical Trials currently has studies of investigational medications in the treatment of depression and bipolar disorder. If you are an adult with one of these conditions, call 862-8141 to learn if you may be eligible to participate.


Current Studies

 Alzheimer's Disease 


 Parkinson's Disease





 Interested in participating? Call us for more information!