Policy makers in Florida are concerned by the rising rate of youth suicides in our state and experts are saying that suicide can be prevented with education and community action.
The question becomes what education and what community action is to be used.
One expert is Kim Gryglewicz who specializes in suicide prevention.
Last May she wrote, “We need to catch individuals during their time of distress. And we can do this by working with hospitals and behavioral-health organizations to improve screening and assessment. … We also need to help get people into treatment once they are identified as being at risk.” [i]
Professor Gryglewicz has a BA degree in Psychology and both a Masters and Ph.D. degree in Social Work. She also is additionally trained in Question, Persuade Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention and QPRT Suicide Risk Assessment and Risk Management Training.[ii]
The problem with this approach to screening, assessment and treatment is that in reality it does not mean thorough medical exams to eliminate physical causes for emotional and behavioral problems. Communication type therapy is rarely utilized.
The quick assessment is all too often a psychiatric label and the treatment – one or more psychoactive drug prescriptions. Recently the biggest review yet of the clinical trials for 5 of the most common antidepressant drugs (Cymbalta, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Effexor) was completed and published in England.
The new study, involving more than 18,000 people, found these drugs doubled the risk of suicide and aggressive behavior in patients under the age of 18.[iii]
The same study found the pharmaceutical companies failed to report side effects and even deaths linked to these drugs. The Nordic Cochrane Centre conducted this study and its findings were then analyzed by University College London (UCL), who endorsed the findings in a British Medical Journal editorial.
Professor Peter Gotzsche, the lead author from the Nordic Cochrane Centre, had this to say:
“Antidepressants don’t work in children, that is pretty clear, in the randomized trials children say that they don’t work for them, but they increase their risk of suicide.”
“What I get out of this colossal under-reporting of suicides is that [antidepressants] likely increase suicides in all ages. It is absolutely horrendous that they have such disregard for human lives.”[iv]
Even more damning for the pharmaceuticals and psychiatrists is the fact that this study compared the clinical trial reports with the actual patient reports proving that the drug companies had misclassified suicide deaths and attempts in order to prove the drugs were benign.
In one example a patient strangled himself after taking Effexor. But because he lived 5 days in a hospital before dying, the drug company left the death off the clinical trial report claiming the was no longer on the drug trial while dying in the hospital!
Eli Lilly trial reports showed suicidal attempts were missing in 90% of cases.[v]
Based on these fraudulent clinical trials, the FDA has approved use of these drugs and a blind eye has been turned to the tragic family stories that have resulted from this attempt to stop teen suicides by prescribing drugs that actually cause teen suicides.
Gwen Olson is a pharmaceutical drug company sales person turned whistleblower. Her book “Confessions of an RX Drug Pusher” can be downloaded at no charge from her website. She writes:
“In 2001, Jay Johnston was awarded $3 million following an antidepressant negligence suit. Johnston, a strapping, seventeen-year-old, high-school jock from Oregon, tried committing suicide after being prescribed Zoloft, Ritalin, and Prozac.
“In 1996, Johnston had sought treatment for depression from his family doctor. The doctor first prescribed Zoloft and Ritalin. Johnston claimed to have attempted suicide. His doctor initially increased the medication, but she ultimately switched him to Prozac. In the spring of 1997, following arguments with his mother and a friend, Johnston put a shotgun to his chin and made another attempt to end his life. He survived the blast, but he is now grossly disfigured.”[vi] p.46
Here’s another teen suicide story from her book;
“Matthew Miller was thirteen years old. His parents said he complained he felt like an outsider and was angry at everybody. His grades suffered. Matt’s teachers administered a set of tests, and Matt fell marginally on the outside range of normal. However, Matt’s parents agreed to take him to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist diagnosed Matthew as having either a depressive disorder or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
“He enthusiastically endorsed a ‘terrific new medication’ and urged Matthew’s parents to have him try it for ‘just one week’. He told them it would improve Matt’s mood and make him feel better about himself. The doctor just happened to be a consultant and speaker for Pfizer. During the next week, Matt’s grandmother noticed Matt was fidgety, ‘jumping out of his skin’. Then, on July 28, 1997, after Matt had taken the last tablet of his one-week trial of Zoloft, he reportedly ‘got out of bed, went to his closet, and hung himself.’”[vii] p.47
More recently, Mathy and Andy Downing lost their beautiful 12 year old daughter Candace Leigh Downing to suicide and they blame Zoloft.
Her parents say Candace wasn’t suicidal — wasn’t even depressed. Candace was having some frustration in middle school with homework and freezing up on tests even though she knew the answers. A pediatrician suggested a child psychiatrist.
Candace explained her school work problems and she was promptly prescribed Zoloft for “a generalized anxiety disorder which had manifested in school anxiety.”
During the summer before Candace would start 7th grade, the psychiatrist upped her Zoloft dose. He told her concerned parents, “What are you worried about? Kids take 100-200mg of Zoloft a day without any problems.”[viii]
Her parents had no idea that their daughter might be suicidal. But one day Candace went into her bedroom and hung herself using the valance of her bed.
Her mom recalled, “I went to check on her upstairs and found my beautiful little girl hanging, her knees drawn up. I don’t know how long she had been there. I began screaming for my husband and rushed to get her down and lay her on the floor. I called 911, praying they could get there in time. My husband tried to administer CPR, but he knew the minute that he saw her, that it was too late. She was taken by ambulance to the closest hospital where they worked on her another 45 minutes, but it was too late. Do you know what that’s like, to see your happy little girl hanging? There was no note, no warning, not for her, not for us.”[ix]
The Downings have met other families who lost their child after Zoloft was prescribed for test anxiety. They have learned about possible adverse reactions the doctor withheld from them and about the psychotic states that can be brought on by such drugs. With 5 other families they created a documentary film to tell their stories and educate other families on the danger of antidepressants.
Her father, Andrew Downing, put it this way, “If we had been able to make our own choices, if we had been aware of the risks, this would never have happened, as we would never have allowed Candace to be placed on such a risky and controversial medication.”[x]
Her mother, Mathy Downing, wrote, “What happened to our daughter and so many others like her is a travesty.”
The Downings, and the other families, charge that drug makers knew from pre-marketing studies that these drugs made some children and teens suicidal, but hid the study results, and altered other studies by pooling negative studies together to show more positive results.
Mathy described her new mission, “This is not about money. This is about the right of the American people to make their own decisions. I can’t sit back as an American citizen and watch children continue to die. And that is why we hope the documentary Prescription: Suicide? will help to get that message out where it counts: among the American families whose biggest concern is to protect and nurture their children.”[xi]
Any parent who watches this film will know immediately that more funding for psychiatric screening, assessment and treatment to prevent teen suicide would pour gasoline on a fire that has been blazing across America and many other nations. The first step to controlling teen suicide should be to stop giving them drugs that cause suicidal thoughts and actions.