Home Local Maryland Government Announcement Originally published March 23, 2010


Potential link to record-high suicide rate is a real concern

On Wednesday, March 24 at 10:00 AM, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will testify before the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA). Senator Cardin will address his ongoing questions about the use of antidepressants among our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and his concern that there may be a connection between the reported use of such prescription medications and the record-high suicide rate among active-duty soldiers. He has previously written to Defense Secretary Robert Gates requesting an accounting of how many troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have been prescribed antidepressant medications while deployed.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expressed concern about many of the same anti-depressants that are routinely given to our troops. Because of the FDA's concerns, drug manufacturers have revised their warning labels to state that young adults - 18-24 years old - may be at an elevated risk of suicidal thought and behavior while using these medications. Approximately 41 percent of our military forces serving on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq are within this same age range. In addition, 40 percent of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 are believed to have taken some type of anti-depressant medication.

“As a nation, we ask so much of our men and women in uniform without knowing the full extent of the mental trauma inflicted by combat. We can take steps to limit multiple deployments and extended separations, but we also must work to remedy the strains and deteriorating mental health of so many of our combat troops. It is imperative that we determine if DOD is prescribing anti-depressants to its service members appropriately. My concern is not the long-term efficacy of these drugs, but the sheer volume and manner in which these drugs are being administered to our troops overseas.”

WHAT: Senator Cardin testifies before the Senate Armed Services

Personnel Subcmte. Hearing on Health Care in the Armed Services

WHEN: Wednesday, March 24 at 10:00 AM ET

WHERE: Room SR-232A

Russell Senate Office Building