Suicide – Where to Start

Where to start.  Suicide. Who is at risk?  Are there signs? Are there no signs?  Have our prevention initiatives been working?  Or is the suicide rate increasing at epidemic levels? 

These are the questions I, and many others, are asking.  We still do not know what causes this tragedy.  Sometimes, there are known mental illnesses.  Sometimes, there are not.  Sometimes, there are signs.  Sometimes, there are not.  And sometimes, there are unclear ‘possible’ signs, but not what someone would deem necessary of any type of intervention.  So, I ask again, who is at risk?  Do we really want to know?  Do we really want to spend our time and funding to try to stop this epidemic?  

Suicide is defined as the act or instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally (Merriam-Webster).  It is described as a person’s self-inflicted violence with the intent to obliterate life, which most of the time culminates into serious physical injuries (CDC, 2015).  Here, my question is, how do we know what was in that person’s mind?  How do we know what a person’s intentions truly are?  There have been many accounts from suicide survivors who have specifically said they didn’t want to die.  They only wanted to stop the pain which had totally engulfed them.   Therefore, the definition should be changed to “the act of taking one’s own life”. (Period)

        Every 40 seconds, a person dies by suicide somewhere in the world, and many more attempt suicide (WHO, 2014). In the young age group of 15-29 year olds, suicide was the second leading cause of death (CDC, 2015).   After 2015, the number was updated to the second leading cause of death in 15-34 year-olds. Now, it has been updated again – to the second leading cause of death in 10-35 year-olds. It is the tenth leading cause of death across all ages (CDC, 2015).  In 2018, 48,344 Americans died by suicide, and there were 1.4 million attempts. Worldwide, 800,000 people died that year by suicide. From these facts and the lack of proper treatment, suicide is now a global health concern.

I’ll ask you this.  If it were your child, your brother or sister, your loved one, would you want to know how to combat it before it’s too late?  If so, then take a crucial step to move forward for research into the scientific causes of suicide.

It’s way past time for us to stop being ‘uncomfortable’ about suicide.  Say the word.  Suicide.  No one wants to, but we must.  Our young people, our sons and daughters, are dying.  They are dying right in front of us, and many times, we don’t even know it’s happening until it’s too late.  Why?  Because of the stigma attached to suicide and to mental disorders.  And because the funding in this area is far lacking of the attention it deserves.

1 out of every 5 Americans experiences a mental health disorder.  Mental = Physical.  Like the heart, lungs, and kidneys, the brain is an organ.  In fact, the brain is the most complex organ in the body.  We need far more research into the areas of mental health diseases and suicide, and all stigma must be removed from those who suffer. 

Research is now being conducted on the effects of genetic components that increase the risk of suicide.  From these findings to date, the research suggests a link to inheritance, and therefore, a predisposition for suicidal ideation. 

According to Utah Suicide Genetics Research Study (USGRS), “Research involving twins and adopted children helped confirm that genetics contribute about 50 percent to suicide death risk. Still, many genetic variants likely play a role. “Many human traits have a significant genetic component,” says Coon. “But unlike Huntington’s disease, which is caused by a single gene, suicide is complicated.”

Where is our public outcry? Where is our Mental Health Moonshot for genetic research? We must let our leaders know that the mental health system is, and has been, failing for a very long time. (It’s not even broken. That would imply that it ever worked at all.) Please contact your legislators for a Mental Health Moonshot, like we began for cancer research over 50 years ago! (Contact information below)

Suicide in Depression

 Suicide in Depression

              Of all the known mental disorders, major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most prevalent.  Depression affects 15-17% of our population, and 15% of this MDD group are at risk of suicide.  The article referenced at the conclusion of this blog is bringing focus to an evaluation of our main research studies of those with MDD who are at risk for suicide. The goal is for planning effective suicide prevention strategies and therapeutic interventions for clinicians.

                A broad and comprehensive overview has been conducted by using PubMed/Medline for the topics ‘Major Depressive Disorder’ and ‘Suicide’.  I would encourage you to read the article in its entirety as it goes into great depth on many variables involved in suicide in depression. 

                The results, in layperson’s terms, are as follows:   Despite possible pathophysiological factors (changes to the functioning of the brain), which may explain the complexity of suicide in depressed people, scientific evidence has supposed the combination of additional factors.  These factors include genetics, epigenetics, and our internal and external stressors such as interpersonal, professional, financial, and psychiatric disorders.  Other factors that may play a part include our body’s central stress response system, our lipid profile, our biomarkers (molecules that show the presence of disease or dysfunction), and our brain-derived neurotrophic factor (the gene that provides instructions for making a protein found in the brain and spinal cord).

                    In conclusion to this study, suicide is seen to be a very complex and multifaceted phenomenon where many variables come in to play, especially with those experiencing major depressive disorder.  Modern psychiatry needs a much better interpretation of suicide risk.  In addition, we need to be much more careful in our assessment of prevention strategies for those who may be in danger of suicide.

                  Please read the complete article for more information: