Until recently, the prediction of suicidal ideation and action has been difficult to accurately pinpoint. Signs and symptoms of suicidal thought patterns are not always obvious. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that in 2013, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 41,149 suicide deaths in the United States. It is the tenth leading cause of death and a suicide occurs in the U.S. once every 12.8 minutes.
Now, with the help of technology, there may be a tool to help predict suicidal thought patterns, making way for early intervention. Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine reported in the journal Molecular Psychiatry that they have developed blood tests and questionnaires that can predict suicidal ideation with more than 90 percent accuracy.
Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the Indiana University School of Medicine and attending psychiatrist and research and development investigator at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said, “We believe that widespread adoption of risk prediction tests based on these findings during healthcare assessments will enable clinicians to intervene with lifestyle changes or treatments that can save lives.”
The researchers utilized ribonucleic acid (RNA) biomarkers from blood samples along with newly developed questionnaires in app form. RNA is present in all cells and is a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for the control of protein synthesis. In some viruses, RNA rather than DNA carries the genetic information.
The researchers were able to predict which participating psychiatric patients would experience significant suicidal ideation with 92 percent accuracy. The biomarkers and app were also accurate in predicting which patients would be hospitalized for suicidality in the following year. The accuracy rate across all diagnoses was 71 percent and, for bipolar disorder patients, 94 percent.
The questionnaire app was capable of predicting the onset of significant suicidal thoughts with more than 80 percent accuracy. The research stresses Dr. Niculescu’s 2013 study in which researchers found biomarkers in bipolar patients were significantly elevated in those with suicidal thoughts.
The study followed 217 male psychiatric patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia. Thirty-seven subjects were identified who changed from no suicidal ideation to high suicidal ideation at different visits. RNAs from different visits were identified at different levels across the group of 37. Those were then evaluated to prioritize the best markers.
Working in conjunction with the Marion County coroner’s office, the researchers validated their work using blood samples from 26 men who had committed suicide. The researchers then obtained blood samples and medical records from a different group of patients with the same diagnoses in order to confirm that the biomarkers and apps predicted suicidal ideation.
The questionnaires were developed separately, one measuring mood and anxiety while the other asked questions related to life issues including physical and mental health, addictions, cultural factors and environmental stress. At no time is an individual asked if they are contemplating suicide.
Dr. Niculescu believes the apps are ready to be deployed and tested by medical professionals, particularly in ER settings. How well the biomarkers might work on people without a psychiatric illness is not known.
Mental illnesses could present real dangers if left untreated. Sovereign Health Florida treats addictions, behavioral problems and mental health disorders including depression and bipolar disorder. Treatment includes the most recent technological advances and excellent patient care. If you would like further information, please call 866-269-2493 to speak with a member of our team.
Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer
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