Rates of suicide worldwide are increasing. According to the World Health Organization, someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds, accounting for approximately 800,000 deaths each year. In a special issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders (JAD), edited by Yale School of Medicine researcher Hilary Blumberg, MD, an international group of scientists has shared their research on the biological, psychological, and social reasons why people die by suicide to advance prevention efforts.
The special issue of research work published by the journal includes studies by scientists in the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe, and South Africa. Adults and adolescents are researched.
“The study of youths is critical for the understanding of STB (suicidal thoughts and behaviors) development and the generation of improved early risk identification and intervention strategies,” the editors wrote in an editorial. “However, as older age is a strong risk factor for STB, and older aged individuals have the highest rate of suicides, it will be important for future studies to specifically examine risk for and prevention of STBs in older individuals.”
The editors added that the special issue “shows the hopeful movement toward the critical next steps for the field in performing longitudinal studies to identify biomarkers that predict (suicide) attempts.”
The issue features studies that look at the genetic and molecular reasons for why people attempt suicide, and also psychological and social risk factors. New research implicates inflammation and hormones, such as oxytocin. But the studies highlight the negative impact of bullying and peer victimization, and the importance for suicide prevention of social supports.
Research into targeted methods of prevention, such as lithium treatment and the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation in depressed youth, are explained. Another study looks at how technology, specifically smartphones, can predict STB risk.
JAD is the official journal of the International Society for Affective Disorders. Blumberg guest edited the special issue with Dr. Anne-Laura van Harmelen from Cambridge University and Dr. Lianne Schmaal from the University of Melbourne.
Blumberg is the John and Hope Furth Professor of Psychiatric Neuroscience and Professor of Psychiatry, and in the Child Study Center and of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at Yale. She has been at the forefront of research into mood disorders across the lifespan and suicide risk. She is Director of Yale's Mood Disorders Research Program, which brings together scientists who study genetic and environmental factors that underlie the development of brain differences in mood disorders and their high risk of suicide.
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