FDA Meeting on Antidepressants, Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors
A Statement by David Shern, Ph.D., President and CEO of Mental Health America
Contact: Heather Cobb, (703) 797-2588
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (December 13, 2006) — Mental Health America, the country’s leading nonprofit advocacy organization, appreciates the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s review of suicidality data for various antidepressant drugs in adults living with depression and other mental disorders. Above all else, people’s safety is paramount. It is important, however, to emphasize the inherent risk of untreated depression.
Without treatment, this disorder can be fatal – 15 percent of people who live with untreated depression take their own lives. Any knee-jerk or pressure-based actions by the FDA may put an untold number of Americans at risk of the tragedy the agency aims to avoid – suicide. The risk associated with not treating depression is far greater than any potential risk of adverse effects of medication.
Mental Health America believes that black box labeling may increase the already troubling number of people who go without adequate medical care. Historically undertreated, fewer than half of those who need treatment for depression receive any and even fewer get appropriate care.
It is critical that access to treatment is maintained and that consumers and families are not unnecessarily scared away from seeking treatment. Dissuading people from treatments will only lead to serious consequences. In fact, it could certainly behoove the FDA to do an analysis of the effects of the black box issued for youth in 2004 on identification, treatment and outcomes before taking any action related to adults.
In any event, better monitoring of individuals taking antidepressant medications and better education of family members and caregivers about the risks and benefits of treatment is preferable to any actions that could negatively affect the millions of people who need treatment.
Depression affects approximately 34 million American adults in their lifetime and the World Health Organization has projected depression to be the second leading cause of disability for all ages and both sexes worldwide by the year 2020. However, people do not need to suffer; there is wide availability of effective treatments – including antidepressant medications – that prove successful in three-fourths of people.
Depression is by far the leading cause of suicide. Treatment – including medications, psychotherapy and other “talk” therapies or a combination of the two – lessens this risk. In fact, recent research shows a 30 percent decrease in suicide rates since the development of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Mental Health America is deeply committed to reducing the fear and misinformation surrounding mental disorders, such as depression, and its treatments. It is our hope that the Food and Drug Administration will consider these issues in a broad context, recognizing the public health crisis already facing our nation in untreated depression. Far too many people already suffer needlessly – we need to work harder to identify additional treatments to help people recover and break down stigma and other barriers to care. We need to clear the way for people with depression to recover – not build all-together new obstacles.
Mental Health America is the country’s leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation – everyday and in times of crisis.