Suicidal events in the treatment for adolescents with depression study (TADS)

Benedetto Vitiello, Susan G. Silva, Paul Rohde, Christopher J. Kratochvil, Betsy D. Kennard, Mark A. Reinecke, Taryn L. Mayes, Kelly Posner, Diane E. May, John S. March

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Objective: The Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS) database was analyzed to determine whether suicidal events (attempts and ideation) occurred early in treatment, could be predicted by severity of depression or other clinical characteristics, and were preceded by clinical deterioration or symptoms of increased irritability, akathisia, sleep disruption, or mania. Method: TADS was a 36-week randomized, controlled clinical trial of pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatments involving 439 youths with major depressive disorder (DSM-IV criteria). Suicidal events were defined according to the Columbia Classification Algorithm of Suicidal Assessment. Patients were randomly assigned into the study between spring 2000 and summer 2003. Results: Forty-four patients (10.0%) had at least 1 suicidal event (no suicide occurred). Events occurred 0.4 to 31.1 weeks (mean ± SD = 11.9 ± 8.2) after starting TADS treatment, with no difference in event timing for patients receiving medication versus those not receiving medication. Severity of self-rated pretreatment suicidal ideation (Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire adapted for adolescents score ≥ 31) and depressive symptoms (Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale score ≥ 91) predicted occurrence of suicidal events during treatment (P < .05). Patients with suicidal events were on average still moderately ill prior to the event (mean ± SD Clinical Global Impressions-Severity of Illness scale score = 4.0 ± 1.3) and only minimally improved (mean ± SD Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement scale score = 3.2 ± 1.1). Events were not preceded by increased irritability, akathisia, sleep disturbance, or manic signs. Specific interpersonal stressors were identified in 73% of cases (N = 44). Of the events, 55% (N = 24) resulted in overnight hospitalization. Conclusions: Most suicidal events occurred in the context of persistent depression and insufficient improvement without evidence of medication-induced behavioral activation as a precursor. Severity of self-rated suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms predicted emergence of suicidality during treatment. Risk for suicidal events did not decrease after the first month of treatment, suggesting the need for careful clinical monitoring for several months after starting treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-747
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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