In a new study, researchers found that one in five people with depression has suicidal thoughts despite treatment with antidepressants.
The finding can be used to examine whether more targeted treatment could be provided for patients where medication does not have a sufficient effect.
The research was conducted by a team at Aarhus University.
Antidepressants are used in particular against moderate to severe depressions. But suicidal thoughts are still a major challenge among patients with depression.
This new study from the Danish national research project iPSYCH examined 811 patients who had moderate to severe depression and were treated with two different antidepressants over a twelve-week period.
Weekly measurements were taken of the level of suicidal thoughts.
The team found that 20% of people with depression have suicidal thoughts, even though they are treated with antidepressants.
Slightly more than half of the patients experienced no or low levels of suicidal thoughts during the twelve weeks of treatment, while one in four had suicidal thoughts at the beginning of the study but responded well to the medicine already after a few weeks.
The remaining 20% of patients could be further categorized, with10% experiencing an increased level of suicidal thoughts throughout the whole study, and 10% who experienced shifts between higher and lower levels of suicidal thoughts.
The team says it’s surprising that such a large number of people with depression experience suicidal thoughts over such a long time.
They also found that previous suicide attempts and the severity of the depression were associated with a higher level of suicidal thoughts and the persistence of these thoughts.
The results can be used to provide more targeted treatment for those patients where the medicine does not have a sufficient effect.
Future studies should examine whether patients may experience suicidal thoughts for even longer than the twelve-week period over which the current study extended.
The lead author of the study is Ph.D. Trine Madsen, from the Capital Region of Denmark, Mental Health Services.
The study is published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
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