JULY 31ST, 2014

Being able to identify those at high risk for suicide is vital for prevention, but there is not currently a reliable way to predict this risk. Now, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, say they have found a chemical alteration in a gene linked to stress responses that could enable the creation of a blood test to predict a person’s risk of suicide consistently. (

444px-Blood_testIn a press release today from John Hopkins University, researchers there say they have discovered a chemical alteration in a single human gene linked to stress reactions that, if confirmed in larger studies, could give doctors a simple blood test to reliably predict a person’s risk of attempting suicide. Researchers were able to predict who had experienced suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide just by looking at their blood. The experimental test was over 80% accurate.

When reading about a new study like this, we all get excited. This happened when it was announced that bipolar illness was linked with color blindness, or homosexuality (which was considered an illness until recently) was indicated by amygdala size. These types of simplistic correlations usually fade out or are quietly buried when further evidence is lacking or when contradictory evidence shows up. Suicide is a very complex topic having to do with cultural, subcultural, emotional, psychological and mostly unconscious strivings. While such reports whet my appetite for short-sighted simplistic solutions, I will wait on the sidelines before I order such a blood test. I will also remember the potential damage such announcements can have in light of the mistakes that can be made that raise hopes only to be followed by disappointment. Or becoming reliant on a simple blood test and ignoring the many other complex phenomena associated with a suicide evaluation. We should all support research in psychology, neuroscience and genetic biology, but let’s wait for any final blood test finality.

Link to the study.

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Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.