In “Genetic Variants in Depressed People Raise Suicide Risk,” by HealthDay reporter Amanda Gardner, Yeates Conwell, co-director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, gives some important context for biomedical research on suicide:
“Suicide is a pretty intransigent problem. It’s a very difficult, complex behavior that, despite many years of study, we have to acknowledge that suicide rates haven’t changed a great deal,” said Dr. Yeates Conwell … “We have a long way to go to understand the mechanisms of suicide, so this kind of work is very hopeful, and findings like this that identify some significant associations between genetic patterns and a lifetime history of suicidal behavior are certainly intriguing and potentially important, [but] they have a long way to go to translate to suicide preventive interventions.”
That said, Conwell added, the best way to look at suicide is in the interactions between genes and environment, and the variability in suicidality explained by genetic profiles is relatively small.
[Editor’s note: I’ve highlighted elements of Dr. Conwell’s quote to emphasize an idea that lies at the heart of the suicide prevention field’s overall mission, which is developing an interdisciplinary approach to the problem (i.e. “to look at suicide” with a focus on “the interactions between genes and the environment”). In my opinion, this is a critical challenge that has gone substantially unanswered by the field and which, therefore, deserves much more serious attention. FJC]
[The abridged URL for this post is http://tinyurl.com/YeatesConwell020110 .]