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A New Strategy for Suicide Prevention

  • Broadcast in Health
Columbia Psychiatry NYSPI

Columbia Psychiatry NYSPI

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Drs. Barbara Stanley and J. John Mann will be speaking

Every year, there are more than 30,000 suicides and ten times as many suicide attempts in the United States.  Better prevention is urgently required. That requires improving our knowledge of the causes of suicidal behavior.  We know psychiatric disorders, most commonly major depression, are associated with suicide. But most people with a psychiatric disorder never attempt suicide. The group at higher risk of suicide have a predisposition to suicidal behavior. Learning about how genes and childhood experiences affect how we deal with stress, depression and make decisions, and how those functions are in turn related to brain functioning are key to understanding why people die by suicide.  The Conte Center for Translational Neuroscience at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, has been at the forefront of this research. 

Differences in brain circuitry in suicide attempters are linked to the predisposition to suicidal behavior and are the result of a combination of genes and childhood adversity. Evaluating brain circuitry of family members of those who have suicided or made serious nonlethal suicide attempts may identify a higher risk group.  The Conte Center for Suicide Prevention uses two brain imaging modalities, positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), along with several biobehavioral measures to study risk and resilience factors for suicide in patients with major depression. 

In this radio program, we will describe how we seek to prevent suicide by studying the brain biology and abnormalities in stress coping and mood regulation that increase risk of suicidal behavior, and then seeking ways to reverse these effects.

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