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Opening Statement of Hon. Bob Filner, Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs

I would like to thank everyone for attending today’s hearing.  The purpose of today’s hearing is to explore the potential relationship, if any, between psychiatric medications and suicides. 

With PTSD and TBI being the signature wounds of the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health issues have naturally taken center stage. 

Research has shown that mental disorders and substance-abuse disorders are linked to more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide.  Today, suicides among service members and veterans continue to increase at an alarming rate, far exceeding the comparable suicide rates among the general population.  It is a tragedy that our service members and veterans survived the battle abroad only to return home and fall to suicide. 

With the widespread availability and use of psychiatric medications to address mental health disorders, it begs the question of whether these drugs prevent or lend a hand in suicides. 

There are some doctors who are convinced by their clinical experience that psychiatric drugs often adversely impact the individuals’ better judgment and lead people to lose control over their emotions and actions.  Suicides may be driven by so called drug-induced adverse reactions and intoxications. 

On the other hand, there are research studies that show suicide attempts were lower among patients who were treated with antidepressants than those who were not.  In other words, antidepressants had a protective effect and did not support the hypothesis that antidepressants place patients at greater risk of suicide.

Through this hearing, we will explore the two opposing schools of thought on the relationship with psychiatric medication and suicides.  In this process, we will also seek to better understand the reasons why more and more service members and veterans are taking their own lives and what the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are implementing in this struggle to prevent more suicides.