Suicide predictability nears as researchers continue to uncover relative bio-markers in the brain that connect with suicidal behavior. The ability to predict those who are contemplating ending their lives would be a remarkable tool in the rescue of these sufferers. Admittedly, suicidal behavior is difficult to predict, but there are a plethora of signals that reflect concern. Some are visible and some not so visible. The message is to be responsible; do not ignore the visible signs of moodiness and severe depression, isolation, or reactive aggression to name a few, but rather begin your own research on behalf of yourself or your loved one. For the not so visible signs, seek professional help. You may just discover that there are “reasons” for some of the irrational behaviors that you or others are experiencing.
The question that plagues the minds of parents, siblings, spouses, and friends often is: “Would they really follow through?” This is a haunting question for those who know someone they might suspect, or even know has suicidal thoughts. How much more haunting would most believe it is for the one suffering from those thoughts? Ultimately the message is not to be fearful of intervening because every life is valuable and worth saving.
But there is a different scenario for the signs that are hidden. Current genetic studies are beginning to identify specific brain functions and how those functions correlate with structural integrity of the brain. Neuro-imaging has promise as a valuable tool in determining those who are at highest risk for suicide. Dr. Kees van Heeringen, PhD, Ghent University, Belgium, has said that it is still a mystery as to why some will sacrifice their life to suicide, when others in a like-environment would not even consider the thought. What is known, is that there are two pathways that point to those choosing to commit suicide. The first is financial, professional or psychiatric illness; and the second, unknown vulnerabilities. Interestingly, suicidal behavior is not witnessed in most patients with disorders that are psychiatric in nature.
Sadly, the strongest risk factors for the taking of one’s own life are categorized within the events of one’s early life. Childhood adversity that resulted in sexual abuse as well as physical abuse are documented in longitudinal studies and strongly indicate the predictability of suicide. There appears to be an association with the stresses later in life which point back to those adversities faced in early childhood. Dr. van Heeringen projected that the brain in children suffering from sexual abuse will reschedule the response of stress. This is known as an epigenetic mechanism. The response can be so strong that the stress hormone can interfere with brain circuitry and brain chemistry, literally killing serotonergic brain cells. This type of knowledge should prompt all of humankind to rescue children from the above mentioned abuses.
Observing the combination of heightened risk of genetic markers and neuroimaging studies may better identify suicidal vulnerabilities; thus, suicide predictability nears. However, Dr. van Heeringen notes that taking ones life never takes place because of a single cause. Suicidal traits are the consequence of environmental stresses and susceptibility of suicidal behavior. These “traits” do show up in family lines, indicating biological connection. Even post-mortem studies confirm a genetic, biological basis for suicidal tendencies.
Disturbances of the serotonin in the brain has long been known to be linked to suicidal behavior. Neuro imagery is huge in identifying one’s ability to make decisions, reactive aggression and mood fluctuations as correlated to brain circuitry and neurochemistry changes. When various stimuli are altered, structural connective pathways are impaired. This impairment contributes to the susceptibility of suicide. In this type of structural abnormality, acute psychiatric illness could be involved.
Also, impairments in decision-making and cognitive control, links the association to suicidal behavior as analyzed by a neuropsychological study. Findings also indicated that those with histories of suicidal behavior were consistent with mood disorders and category verbal fluency.
Now that the scientific world view has been given, it is only fair to present God’s view as referenced in the Bible. Many will lean toward the scientific stance, while others will take a stand in leaning toward faith in God. As this leg of the journey begins, it is good to keep an open mind as to what one might find by the time the end of the article is reached. Biblically speaking, there are a number of references that address the “renewing of one’s mind.” In the book of Romans God tells people not to be conformed to this world, but that they are to renew their minds. The book of Isaiah makes reference to one having a perfect peace in his mind, providing his mind is focused on the Lord. Yet, in second Timothy it states that God gives a sound mind. All of these references are factual in stating that one’s mind can be restored.
Jonas Clark has an online ministry training of The Word of God, and points out in his Revolutionary Review, that “imaginations” are pictures, events and conversations that are not real. They are thoughts within every person’s mind, which is part of the unseen world within each individual. Those imaginations may seem real and feel real, but the true reality is that there is an opposing force…and it can be overcome.
If a person is currently having difficulty in overcoming their thoughts and need immediate help, they can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255. If they would prefer to chat online, they may go to Self Harm Chatroom at: www.remedyline.com/ This allows them to remain anonymous and chat about anything.
Why is there such a “stigma” with those who have suicidal tendencies and those who have mental illness; yet, those with physical illness seem to get all the sympathy? It is time to level the playing field; illness is illness, whether physical or mental. It stands to reason with these new findings on the horizon, that many of the suicidal vulnerabilities and mental illnesses may have their own physical roots. Remember, the egg got a bad rap! Wouldn’t most think it is possible that some of these individuals are getting a bad rap as well? Since abuse seems to be a factor in altering the structural integrity of the brain, then abuse needs to be more widely addressed as a preventive measure…perhaps many cases of suicide or mental illness could have been avoided with the proper intervention in the early years.
Lastly, the scientific world is examining neuro “imagery,” while the faith world is examining the”imaginations” of the mind, but from a spiritual perspective. This comparison is kind of like politics: a person is usually on one side or the other! Keep in mind that there is validity to both sides, because there is evidence of help having come from both sides. These latest findings that are tracking bio-markers in the brain of those who have suicidal probabilities, offer hope, especially to those who are faint of heart. Those who are of strong faith will continue to stand on what The Word of God says, believing for healing miracles. Surprisingly, both are valuable. Suicide predictability? That is a cause worth fighting for! So is the preventing of it.
Opinion by Jill Boyer-Adriance