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Drug company-funded anti-suicide groups on campus raises questions

Drug company-funded anti-suicide groups on campus raises questions

Picture of Martha Rosenberg

Evanston, Illinois

Many are baffled why the suicide rate in the United States is rising despite antidepressant use being at an all time high. Suicide has risen to 38,000 a year, says USA Today, after falling in the 1990s despite almost a quarter of the population in some age groups taking antidepressants and use of some psychiatric drugs growing by 700% in the military. Shouldn’t suicides be going down?

Press reports about suicide usually ignore the black box warning on antidepressants that says “WARNING: SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND BEHAVIORS,”  “Increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults taking antidepressants,”  and “Monitor for worsening and emergence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors .” Oh, that.

Use of suicide-linked drugs in military personnel (who, of course, are young adults) is rampant and 36 percent of the troops who killed themselves had never even deployed concedes a  2010 Army report called Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention. That means it was not the stress of combat or deployment that caused their suicides.

Since drug safety activists and families touched by suicide succeeded in getting black box warnings on antidepressants, the drug industry has sought to blame rising suicides on the warnings themselves because they are a “barrier” to treatment. What? The claim is as nonsensical as blaming obesity on lack of diet drugs and one drug consultant actually had to retract his assertions in the New York Times.

While many know the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI  gets the majority of its donations from drug makers (according to Congressional investigators) many “suicide prevention” groups are also drug-funded. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention received $100,000 from Eli Lilly in 2011 and $50,000 in 2012 and was led for a time by psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff who left Emory University after Congress found he failed to disclose at least $1.2 million in drug industry income. Another group is Active Minds, located on at least 100 campuses and funded by Eli Lilly, NAMI and AstraZeneca among other donors. This month, in a feature about campus suicides, New York Times magazine refers to Active Minds as an “advocacy group.

Active Minds calls itself a student group but when I went to the room in the student building at Northwestern University where the organization was supposed to be headquartered, they were not there—nor had a desk clerk in the student union ever heard of them. Unlike true student groups working against climate change or for gender equality, Active Minds sports high-budget signs and T-shirts which have “Big Pharma” written all over them.

After the apparent suicides of two Northwestern University students in Evanston, Illinois in 2012, Active Minds and NAMI descended upon the campus decrying “barriers” to treatments. But were the students actually on the psychoactive drugs the groups implied they were barred from when they killed themselves? Or were they suffering from the effects of terminating the drugs which is also considered a dangerous window? Were Active Minds and NAMI using the suicides as a sales opportunity for drugs that cost between three and four digits a month? Reports from the medical examiner or university health service were not disclosed so we will never know.

This month on its facebook page, Active Minds is wooing minority students and students with addictions to drugs and alcohol. It is using the term “recovery” for the latter, a term normally associated with drug-free, self-help programs not more drugs.

The millions of antidepressants Americans are swallowing are not lowering suicide and may be increasing it--per their own labels. Are drug companies really trying to prevent suicide or--a loss in their own profits?

Comments

Picture of Martha Rosenberg

When reporters expose drug company marketing that pretends to be grassroots, patients often write emotional responses about how they "really" have the disease that is being spun and "need" the drugs in question. This is the same tactic drug company funded groups use with the FDA--parading "patients" who will "suffer" if an expensive drug is not approved. Waa waa Unethical marketing is not about a disease not being "real," or patients denied their meds--it is deliberate misleading of the public to sell dangerous drugs, raising taxes and health costs in the process.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I lost my son because of these poisons. Effexor put him in the hospital with a host of medical issues (enlarged heart, dysfunctioning liver) He was taken off of Effexor immediately in the hospital but NOT ONCE did they say this was the cause of his health issues. He vowed he would NEVER take these drugs again BUT he didn't wean off of it and became obsessed with the suicide wish. THESE DRUGS ARE POISON PURE AND SIMPLE!!!!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Thank goodness somebody is finally shedding some light on this situation.

I don't know how to put this delicately, but the 'anti-suicide' groups are filled with people who lost family members to suicide and in the aftermath become 'advocates' and self-proclaimed 'experts' on the subject, which is not warranted given the end result in their situation.

One senses that family members latch on to "mental illness" fairly quickly as the cause of their loved one's illness, and they will often go on the lecture circuit making it known to all the people that it was an undiagnosed illness that caused their childs distress (as opposed to stress generated in their social environments).

Ironically, these same people get depressed and experience loss after the suicide, but the declare it a 'normal' reaction to the 'circumstances' while declaring their children most certainly had an 'illness' that never appeared on any autopsy.

This rise of 'survivor advocates' is doing far more harm than good, especially given their refusal to listen to people with lived experiences, as can be evidenced by the numbers quoted above.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I have spent a lifetime living and reseaching suicide. I believe that no drug will take away the what causes depression and/or anxiety of those contemplating suicide. If a person breaks thier leg and a doctor gives that person a pain killer, his leg might not hurt anymore, but isn't it still broken?
These students have endured a lifetime of pressure from many sources: starting with the best pre-school; next the best grade school; the best high schoo. Taking A/P exams, taking the ACT or SAT in 7th grade, to make sure they get into the best college. When does it end? Why don't we talk about the undue pressure we put on our young people? No drug can ever take away this type of craziness, disguised by the statement, "Your life is over if you don't get into the best college." No it's not.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I have lived with and researched suicide my whole life. To say that taking an anti-depressant will prevent a person from taking his own life is the same thing as giving someone who has a broken leg a pain killer and wondering why that person still walks with a limp.
Put yourself in the shoes of a student at Northwestern University (or any university, for that matter). Since he or she has been out of the womb, the desire to succeed has been driven into their psyche like a railroad spike. The need to excel throughout a child’s academic career begins, perhaps, in grade school and continues to manifest itself to a much higher level in high school. The stakes increase as the cost of college tuition goes up, and the prevailing attitude of a student’s life being over if they don’t get into a particular institution can also factor into this equation.
Think about what we do to our children: the pressure of taking Advance Placement tests, taking practice ACT or SAT exams as early as 7th grade. What about getting those high GPA’s? Then once that student gets into an academic institution like Northwestern or Harvard or wherever, the intellectual competitiveness can become overwhelming. And as educators, we look to cure this stress put on an 18 year old by giving him/her a pill, and then blame the drug companies when they don’t work. Seriously?
I am not advocating that our students shouldn’t try to be all they can be, I am merely stating that not all our children can handle the immense pressure that can accompany expectations; realistic or otherwise.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I can tell you first hand that the generics are not the same as brand name. Yeah they may be close but there's something else going on. Some of the generics are not working the way they are supposed to at all. Mine started with generic lamictal and there was something wrong with that pill. It completely changed me. If it had been brand name it might not have worked for me but it would not have caused me to become suicidal with anxiety . It damaged my cognitive functioning to where I didn't know what to do anymore. I can no longer work. I had to have somebody move in and take care of me. When I quit it and effexor at the same time I had severe withdrawals. After a few months I was put back on Effexor but didn't know that it was now a generic. I thought I was still suffering the side effects from the lamictal and found out later it was generic effexor doing basically the same thing and I took it for 2 more years! All I could think about was dying. Whatever this does to you it's terrible. Anxiety, being scared to be alone ,suicidal thoughts non-stop, depersonalization ,derealization., muscle like spasms that resemble seizures even! All things that I never ever had until I took these medications. I got brand name effexor and was okay for 3 years until I change to generic wellbutrin and every symptom I had before came back full force! This time I caught it within 3 months but I was shocked at the extreme fear I was having and all the suicidal thoughts are back. When it is caused from medication they are a thousand times worse and they hit fast and hard. I believe that's the reason why a lot of these suicides are on the increase. The medications are bad enough but when you have generic that's not working right and doing something to your brain, I think lowering dopamine its very very hard to fight it

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

drug effects do change, and it does not take a switch od supply from major to generic to cause it. may i suggest you have made a superstitious connection based on a case of timing? also we see lots of examples where after being off, even shortly, the seflsame drug has become impotent.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

compared to collegiates, there are so many better places to psend anti suicide funds. We could start with letting people who set there beging for help to get it, instead we hear of the no and the last walk the rejected took, to find a place to resort to suicide. meanwhile we are , as alwqays, so concerned for the most promising, becaus eit affords a shock seeing the fast fall. but those long over the edge are left with indifference and well, let them resort if they care to, we are not a nation of force. Can you read between my lines how hyppocritical we are? suicide is just like good boy rape...oh dear... but 14 year old runaways on drugs? they made a choice and whpo are we to save them from their bad choices, which they diserve. grrrrrr.

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