As Suicide Rates Rise, Scientists Find New Warning Signs

June 10, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

The Wall Street Journal

With national suicide rates on the rise, scientists are making efforts to better understand and identify who is at risk for suicide. Research has found that current measures of suicide risk are limited, which makes accurate prediction a challenge for clinicians. Matthew K. Nock, a psychology professor and researcher at Harvard University, said, “It is a leading cause of death and we just don’t have a handle on it.” In response, a recent body of research seeks to identify novel risk factors, such as different forms of mental illness, biological markers, sleep patterns, and cognition. Recent findings suggest, for example, that while depression is closely related to suicidal ideation, other psychiatric disorders like anxiety and addiction may be more strongly associated with suicide attempts. The National Institute of Mental Health is looking at biomarkers, such as brain activity on fMRI scans and blood hormone levels, in addition to sleep patterns and their association with suicidal thoughts and behavior. They have found that patients with severe depression who spent more time awake between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. were at greater risk for suicidal ideation the following day.