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Reducing Suicide: A National Imperative
Molecular and Population Genetics
Genetic samples from psychiatric populations should be studied to examine the relationship between genetic markers and suicidal behavior. Genetic isolates (i.e., populations that have had few or no new genes added from outsiders for many generations) with a high rate of suicide and suicidal behavior should be identified for linkage studies. Studies searching for genes associated with suicidal behavior should be undertaken.
The relationship between suicide and aggression/impulsivity requires additional attention, particularly regarding its developmental etiology and genetic linkages. Genetic markers that have functional significance and correlate with impulsive aggression and suicidal behavior cross-sectionally may have the potential to identify individuals at risk and to suggest new molecular targets for treatment.
Prospective studies of populations at high risk for the onset of suicidal behavior, such as the offspring of suicide completers or attempters, can allow for studies of neurobiologic, genetic, and non-genetic factors that predict the onset of suicidal behavior.
Interdisciplinary research that weaves together biological, cognitive, and social effects of trauma to elucidate the complex pathways from childhood trauma to mental illness and/or suicidality and thereby elucidate multiple possibilities for intervention.
Research on the peri-hospital period to assess the risk and protective effects of hospitalization, the relationships between length of stay and outcomes, and the factors post-hospital that account for the increased risk for suicide would provide critical information for suicide reduction strategies. The efficacy of different approaches to follow-up care in reducing suicide across populations must also be established, and successful interventions should be replicated and widely disseminated.
Longitudinal research to assess outcomes of prophylactic/short-term versus maintenance/long-term treatment for suicidality. The course of suicidality across the life span suggests it may at times represent a lifelong condition requiring sustained treatment; further life-course research is required to verify this.