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Antidepressant use might help explain suicide dip, study sugges

Sunday, May 19, 2002

NEW YORK -- Greater use of antidepressants might be driving down the nation's suicide rate, an analysis suggests.

From 1995 to 1998, prescriptions for relatively recent antidepressants like Prozac rose 41 percent, while the age-adjusted national suicide rate dipped about 6 percent, said Dr. John Mann, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University.

"There may be a relationship," Mann said in an interview. "We don't know for sure ... (but) that's our hypothesis."

It makes sense, since depression or related illness is often seen in people who commit suicide, said Mann, who discussed his analysis at a presentation sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

John Kalafat, president of the American Association of Suicidology cautioned that the results don't prove Mann's hypothesis.

"It's a correlation, and of course correlations don't prove causation," said Kalafat. "He's entitled to speculate (but) there's no way to go beyond speculation."

Suicide took 30,575 American lives in 1998, according to federal data.

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