Straight Talk Advice

May 18, 2005

Antidepressants can lead to suicidal feelings

Dear Straight Talk: My son, “Jason”, is 17 and recently began taking antidepressants. He wasn’t always depressed, but things came up in his life: grades, work, breaking up with his girlfriend, and I guess he is bending under the strain. The drugs don’t seem to be helping much and I’m concerned about the research linking these drugs to suicide. What can I do for him rather than put him on drugs?—No name please

Dear No name: Is your son seeing a mental health professional? Antidepressants are powerful psycho-active drugs and anyone using them should be under close professional observation. Family care practitioners prescribe most of the antidepressants in this country, and with 20 to 30 patients a day, most are unable to provide adequate monitoring and guidance.

Jason’s depression sounds situational. Situational depression is less severe than what psychologists call “major depression” and can almost always be resolved without the use of antidepressants—as long as there is some form of help: a counselor, clergy, or therapeutic group.

Professional counseling solves your dilemma on all levels. Since Jason is already on antidepressants—which are much more effective when combined with counseling—by seeing a mental health professional, he will be evaluated for the type of depression he suffers, he will heal the roots causes of his depression through therapy, and will get the regular monitoring he needs to assure that he gets off the drug safely.

Read on to see, first-hand, the importance of professional guidance.

From Brittney, 16: I was depressed for about 18 months over a stomach illness. My gastroenterologist encouraged me to take antidepressants and I finally agreed, although reluctantly. After a week or two on the drug my family commented that I seemed happier. But it was strange. The outside of me became seemingly happier, but the inside of me was still very sad. It was like the sadness went underground into a deeper part of me and my outer reality was a “show” that didn’t match how I felt inside. It was very confusing, like I had two realities, one fake and one real.

You must understand that I absolutely couldn’t stand how I felt; I hated that I was altered mentally because of this pill. After three months, I’d had it. I stopped taking the pills and told nobody. (During this whole time I had not seen my gastroenterologist; there were no follow-ups scheduled.)

I had no idea how powerful these drugs are and it was a mistake to quit cold turkey. Within a couple of days I was experiencing true anxiety. It was horrible, like nothing I’d known before, my heart racing, my emotions on rocket fuel. Hives broke out over my whole body. I honestly thought I was dying. My feelings were so out of control I thought I needed to check into a hospital in case I tried to kill myself.

Finally I told my mom what I’d done, but I refused to take the pills and refused to see the doctor. She found me professional help, one-on-one, and I joined a group, Teens-Matter. Within three to four weeks I was through the worst of it.

It’s weird to imagine, looking back, that I really considered suicide during that time, but I did. Before the drug, I had never had suicidal feelings. I had never even had what is called “anxiety”. I was just a normal kid having some troubles in a difficult situation. What I needed all along—and finally got—was psychological counseling.


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