Antidepressants and Suicide

Sometimes depression medication can cause an increase – rather than a decrease – in depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Therefore, anyone on antidepressants should be aware of and watch out for increases in suicidal thoughts and behaviours. This is thought to be most important early on in the treatment programme and when the dose of medication is changed.

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Signs of severe depression:
    • unrelenting low mood
    • pessimism
    • hopelessness
    • worthlessness
  • Social withdrawal:
    • Sleep problems
    • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
    • Impulsive behaviour and taking unnecessary risks
    • Talking about suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
    • Unexpected mood swings, including rage or anger

Take any suicidal talk or behaviour seriously as it is often a cry for help. More subtle warning signs of suicide are feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. People who feel hopeless about their situation may talk about ‘unbearable’ feelings, predict a bleak future and state that they have nothing to look forward to. A suicidal person may have dramatic mood swings or sudden personality changes, such as becoming very withdrawn, losing interest in day-to-day activities, neglecting his appearance and showing big changes in eating or sleeping habits.

Although most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Serious depression can be manifested in obvious sadness, but often it is expressed as a loss of pleasure or withdrawal from activities that had been enjoyable. One can help prevent suicide through early recognition and treatment of depression and other mental illnesses.

Some Misconceptions About Suicide

  • Men who commit suicide are unwilling to seek help. FALSE:

Many suicide victims have sought medical help within the six months prior to their deaths.

  • People who talk about suicide won’t really commit suicide. FALSE:

Many men who tempt or commit suicide give some warning clue in advance. It may be something that’s said; statements like ‘I’d be better off dead’ or ‘I can’t see any way out’ should raise the alarm. Rather than ignoring talk about suicide, discussing the subject openly can be helpful.

  • If a man is determined to commit suicide nothing is going to stop him. FALSE:

The sense of hopelessness that can be experienced with severe depression can lead to impulsive thoughts of suicide and temporarily push someone over the edge.

Prevention of Suicide

Suicide prevention starts with recognising the warning signs and taking them seriously. If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, don’t be afraid to bring up the subject. Be willing to listen. Speak up if you’re concerned and encourage the person to seek professional support from a doctor.

  • Take it seriously:

Many people who commit suicide give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member. Therefore all suicide threats and attempts should be taken seriously.

  • Be willing to listen:
  • Get appropriate help:

Get the person appropriate professional help as soon as possible. If necessary, bring him to his doctor. You can make a difference.