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More mental health news: antidepressant use doubles

Earlier, I blogged about a report on children as young as 3 being diagnosed with depression. Well, another mental health study this week is sparking lots of discussion: the number of Americans taking antidepressants increased from about 6 percent in 1996 to 10 percent in 2005, or from 13 million to about 27 million people.

Meanwhile, the number of people being treated with antidepressants who also sought help from a therapist declined. Researchers think high out-of-pocket costs and insurance barriers could be to blame. The paper's lead researcher said he worries that patients who only receive medication may be not be getting enough help.

The study, of nearly 50,000 people, which appears in the latest issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, found the use increased in adults and children alike. Racial and ethnic minorities, however, were less likely to take antidepressants, an example of broader disparities in mental health treatment, researchers said.

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The authors think the rise is likely due to a number of factors including: an increase in the incidence of major depression and more drugs flooding the market to treat it, campaigns promoting better mental health care and a lessening stigma attached to mental illness and antidepressants.

It's interesting that the increase took place even after the FDA issued a "black box" warning in 2004 on the use of antidepressants in children after some studies showed an increase in suicidal thoughts.

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photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

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