A long post on CommonHealth about suicide last week. There, two docs from MGH offer this conclusion:
...(I)f we devote the time and resources to be personally available, the rate of suicide goes down even in difficult social circumstances. This has been found in settings as varied as high schools and military gatherings.
So, we can, it turns out, do a lot. Moreover, much of what we can do is what we ought to be doing anyhow. Screening for preexisting risk factors early in life is essential.
We need to detect and treat psychiatric illnesses more effectively and earlier in life. We need a better approach to the social factors that haunt us and put us at risk for suicide. We need to understand and spread the word more effectively about the risk factors for all suicides.
And, most importantly, we need each other. Every single study of suicide and its causes shows that through open, personal and informed communication, the rate of suicide can be decreased. We’re pack animals. We need each other.
On the other side of the river Matthew K. Nock, the director of Harvard University’s Laboratory for Clinical and Developmental Research, was the subject of a 2013 profile in the NYTimes Magazine.
Our understanding of how suicidal thinking progresses, or how to spot and halt it, is little better now than it was two and a half centuries ago, when we first began to consider suicide a medical rather than philosophical problem and physicians prescribed, to ward it off, buckets of cold water thrown at the head.
“We’ve never gone out and observed, as an ecologist would or a biologist would go out and observe the thing you’re interested in for hours and hours and hours and then understand its basic properties and then work from that,” Matthew K. Nock, the director of Harvard University’s Laboratory for Clinical and Developmental Research, told me. “We’ve never done it.”
In an August paper in the Journal of Affective Disorders, he and his team looked at STB — suicidal thoughts and behaviors — looked at risk factors for 2,400 people. They found a strong link between suicide and “mental disorders” but note that “actors like childhood adversities or trauma also play a considerable role in the new onset of STB, especially in the transition from suicide ideation to suicide attempt.”
His lab has been busy. He’s co-author on 15 studies so far in 2015, ranging from suicide in the military to college freshman to depressed adolescent.