The Riggs Blog

Suicide Rates on the Rise - Part Three.

By Elizabeth Weinberg, M.D.

This is my last post on the subject of suicide risk, in the context of a recent report by the CDC on increases in suicide in adults over the past decade.  As I discussed in my last post, we live in turbulent times, when much of our expected financial, cultural and relational supports are challenged by economic and social change.  In people with preexisting vulnerabilities, which can be based on individual genetic characteristics, familial characteristics, traumatic experiences, and vulnerabilities acquired in early development, these challenges can undermine emotional stability.  When a person at risk begins to experience intolerable hurt, pain and aloneness, suicide can become increasingly likely. 

To respond to these challenges, it is necessary to take an integrative approach to treatment.  We can welcome the increased range of available somatic treatments for depression, although we must note that in certain groups, particularly among younger patients, there may be an increased risk of suicide associated with their use.  While there is a frequently cited estimate that 90% of those who commit suicide have a mental disorder, suicide does not occur exclusively during episodes of mental illness, but represents a final decision that life has become too painful to bear being lived.  It is possible that when we respond to acute psychic distress with a prescription, rather than attention and interest, we contribute to the problem of suicide. The best evidence we have available is that effective treatment of those at risk for committing suicide involves a human connection, an attempt to understand the nature of the problem, and the view of the patient as a person who exists in an interpersonal, social, and cultural context, as well as a medical and psychiatric context. 

As researchers study the brain, to help suicidal patients, we must not forget that the brain is important to us because it is part of a person.   Researchers around the world are bringing the most sophisticated research tools available to study the sociology, psychology, neurobiology, and epidemiological aspects of suicide.  Translating clinical science into effective social practice and patient care are the primary goals of suicide prevention.

Suicide Rates on the Rise - Part One

Suicide Rates on the Rise - Part Two

 

 

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