Researchers work towards blood test for suicide

TAYLOR TOOVEY

Researchers have discovered that an important molecule for brain protection has reduced activity in suicidal patients.

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Source: 2016 Pixabay

Australian Professor of Neuroscience, Gilles Guillemin and his collaborators from Sweden and the U.S have found that reduced activity of the enzyme, ACMSD in turn reduces the activity of picolinic acid, which is necessary for brain protection.

In 2013, the scientists discovered that chronic inflammation in the blood and spinal fluid was present in suicidal patients. With this recent development, Professor Guillemin and his associates are now working towards creating a simple blood test to locate the biological vulnerabilities that put individuals at risk of suicide. Professor Guillemin has stated that the process of developing a blood test to determine if an individual is at risk of suicide is not an easy one.

“It’s a very challenging process because it is a very small molecule.” said Professor Guillemin.

Doctor Keith Harris who works heavily in researching suicide and suicide prevention believes that assessing the risk of suicide is crucial for mental health and public health efforts.

Dr Harris explained, “If we understand better what suicidality (a proxy for suicide risk) is, through improved assessment of suicidality, then we can also better analyse treatment effectiveness, validate risk and protective factors, etc.”

Doctor David Horgan, Psychiatrist and founder of the Australian Suicide Prevention Foundation explained that there is so much emphasis on young people practicing road safety, when suicide is the real elephant in the room.

Dr Horgan states, “For young people from 15 – 24, suicide is twice as likely to kill you as a car accident.”

Kerrie Keepa, the founder of SOS Fast, a support network for survivors of suicide and their families, believes that Professor Guillemin and his collaborators latest discovery is “valuable in some cases.” Kerrie lost her son Chris, to suicide in 2014 and has been advocating for an overhaul of the mental health system ever since. She explained that her then, 21 year old son had been clearly suicidal for some time and although other tests showed this, Chris was turned away from the hospital before taking his life.

Despite Kerrie, seeing the value in a blood test in order to uncover suicidal tendencies in individuals, she would like to see an improvement in how the mental health system treats people with the deadly mental illness.

“If someone is showing the signs, stating they are suicidal, they should be taken seriously and treating accordingly,” she explained.

Doctor Horgan says that hopefully, those with suicidal predispositions “have ten good things going on in their lives so that their particular biological vulnerability to suicide never arises.”

Doctor Horgan recommends asking friends and family with mental illness, “How are you on a scale of 0-10?” as this enables a discussion about someone’s mental state and feelings rather than a short answer like, “I’m fine.”

If you need someone to talk to, please call:

Men’s Line Australia 1300 78 99 78

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

1800 HOLDON (1800 465 366)

 

 

 

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