Brain research is an important aspect of suicide prevention as of 2002. Since major depression is the single most common diagnosisin suicidal people, earlier and more effective recognition of depression is a necessary preventive measure. Known biological markers for an increased risk of suicide can now be correlated with personality profiles linked to suicidal behavior under stressto help identify individuals at risk. In addition, brain imaging studiesusing positron emission tomography(PET) are presently in use to detect abnormal patterns of serotonin uptake in specific regions of the brain. Genetic studies are also yielding new information about inherited predispositions to suicide.
A second major preventive measure is education of clinicians, media people, and the general public. Public health studies carried out in Sweden have shown that seminars for primary care physicians in the recognition and treatment of depression resulted in a rise in the number of prescriptions for antidepressants and a drop in suicide rates. Education of the general public includes a growing number of CDC, NIMH, and other web sites posting information about suicide, tips for identifying symptoms of depressed and suicidal thinking, and advice about helping friends or loved ones who may be at risk. Many of these web sites have direct connections to suicide hotlines.
An additional preventive strategy is restricting access to firearms in the developed countries and to pesticides and other poisons in countries where these are the preferred method of suicide.
Rebecca J. Frey Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,