The Department of Veterans Affairs issues reports periodically on research in health services, including mental health. In March of 2014, the VA released a report indicating the prevalence of suicide rates as well as the effectiveness of medication and psychotherapy as a means to prevent or intervene when a suicide appears immanent.
Research regarding suicide continues to be necessary particularly because the suicide rate for teens has been steady in recent years. Although rates are not growing, any occurrences of suicide are problematic within society. Teen suicide is the third leading cause of death of adolescents. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates that there are as many as 25 attempts of suicide to every one that is actually committed. Male teens are four more times likely to die from suicide, whereas female adolescents are more likely to make suicide attempts.
According to the VA, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States among adults. Nearly 100 suicides happen daily and over 36,000 people lose their lives by suicide every day. Of this high number, 20% of these individuals are veterans or currently serving in the military. The severity of the high rates of suicide among the military has led to major public health initiatives to attempt to address the issue.
Although there are many reasons that might cause a suicide attempt, the most common is depression. This is true for both adolescents and adults. For this reason, the effectiveness of psychotropic medication was researched to determine its ability to lower the rates of suicide. Although the VA pointed out that this research needs further evidence to support the strength of results, the study indicated that the rates of suicide went down with the use of psychotropic medication, such as anti-depressants. It is not counterintuitive to make this conclusion. Since depression is one of the leading causes of suicide attempts, medication that affects neurotransmitters in the brain and can influence one’s mood might reduce the levels of suicidal thinking.
However, it should be noted that some anti-depressants can induce suicidal thinking in adolescents. For this reason, although psychotropic medication can be highly effective for the treatment of depression and suicide prevention, the use of anti-depressants for depressed teens should be closely watched. Teen depression continues to be a common mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately, 8% of teens meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. One in five teens have experienced teen depression at some point. NAMI also points out that in clinical settings, such as group homes, hospitals, or rehabilitative centers, as many as 28 percent of teens experience depression.
Other causes include divorce of parents, domestic violence, lack of success or progress in school, feelings of unworthiness, death of a loved one, and others. Research reveals that untreated mental illness, particularly depression, is the number one cause of suicide. This is true of adolescents as well. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there were 38,3641 suicides (teens and adults both) reported in 2010, which makes suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. For adolescents only, the suicide rate in 2010 was at 10.5%.
According to the VA health report, there was little evidence, although some, that showed the relationship between psychotherapy and suicide prevention. Despite this, it is widely known within the mental health field that the treatment of teen depression is most effective when both medication and psychotherapy are used together. It appears that the two forms of treatment enhance the effectiveness of the other. For this reason, although psychotherapy alone may not be proven to prevent suicide, it can, combined with medication, effectively treat depression, and in the long run, prevent the chances of those patients taking their lives.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Health Services Research and Development. A Review of the Literature: Suicide Prevention Interventions and Referral/Follow-up Services. Retrieved on April 22, 2014 from http://www.hsrd.research.va.gov/publications/management_briefs/default.cfm?ManagementBriefsMenu=eBrief-no50