Citizens Commission on Human Rights
National Affairs Office
Washington, DC

Recent studies indicate patients discharged from psychiatric facilities are at greater risk for suicide than mental health patients not hospitalized, suggesting that psychiatric hospitalization itself may be a major risk factor.  Antidepressants used as treatment during hospitalization are also linked to an increased risk of suicide.

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) National Affairs Office is urging Congress to investigate after a new study has found that patients released from psychiatric hospitalization for depression or attempted suicide are at the highest risk of completing suicide in the days immediately following their hospital discharge.

Researchers examined all psychiatric hospitalizations for depression in Finland from 1996 to 2017, along with a follow-up period of two years after hospital discharge.  They reported that the time frames with the greatest risks for suicide occurred in the first three days after discharge, followed by days 4 through 7.  Of the patients who took their own lives within two years after discharge, 9% died during the first week after discharge, 23% during the first month.

“In this study, patients hospitalized for depression had extremely high risk of suicide during the first days after discharge,” wrote the study’s lead author, Kari Aaltonen, M.D., Ph.D.  “Thereafter, incidence declined steeply but remained high.”  The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Research suggests that psychiatric hospitalization is a major risk factor for significantly worse outcomes for some patients.

The findings are consistent with other research indicating that psychiatric hospitalization may not reduce the risk of repeat self-harm for some patients, but may instead increase it.

Research has found that patients who have been discharged from psychiatric facilities seem to have a greater risk for suicide than mental health patients who have not been hospitalized; that the risk of suicide after discharge from psychiatric facilities is very high, especially in the weeks and months immediately after release, and that even many years after discharge, previously hospitalized psychiatric patients have suicide rates that are many times higher than in the general population.

People who were admitted to a psychiatric facility against their will were even more likely to attempt suicide after discharge than mental health inpatients who were not forcibly admitted.

Concerning the psychiatric hospitalization of children, research has found that young people 12-24 years of age who were admitted to psychiatric facilities were at significantly higher risk for self-harm and death in the first three years after discharge when compared to young mental health patients who were not hospitalized.

All this research suggests that psychiatric hospitalization is a major risk factor for significantly worse outcomes for some patients. 

The antidepressants used in psychiatric treatment of depressed and suicidal patients have also been linked to suicidal behavior.  Researchers conducting a 2019 re-analysis of safety summaries in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) database found evidence that antidepressants significantly increase the suicide risk in adults with major depression.  The rate of attempted suicide was found to be about 2.5 times higher in those who were given antidepressants in clinical trials than those who received a placebo.

Further evidence of a link between antidepressants and suicide is provided in a newly published study, which found that the suicide rate in the U.S. increased right along with the increase in antidepressant prescriptions over the three decades from 1990 to 2020.  

This was a time frame in which a key rationale for prescribing antidepressants – the unproven theory of a chemical (serotonin) imbalance in the brain – was popularized. During the period of 1990-2010, there was significant coverage of the theory in psychiatric and pharmacological publications.  At the same time, there was a rapid upswing in antidepressant prescriptions.

However, a landmark 2022 study found no scientific support for the theory, calling into question the prescribing of antidepressants.  The spreading of that unproven theory by psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry led to the mass prescribing of antidepressants in the U.S and worldwide.  Today some 45 million Americans take antidepressants, over 2 million of them children under the age of 18.

Despite all this antidepressant prescribing, a new study has found that increased antidepressant prescribing is not associated with any reduction in sadness, worry or unhappiness in Western nations.

Due to the number of recent studies showing a potentially adverse relationship between the treatments given and the rate of suicide, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights National Affairs Office is calling for a Congressional investigation into the matter.

WARNING:  Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.