Is suicide genetic?

Is suicide genetic?

Suicide has many complex causes. It is hardly ever caused by one factor.

Genetics of some diseases is clear. This is not the case with suicide. There is no suicide gene. But genetics may have an effect.

The effects of genetics on suicide are due to inheriting mental illness and by inheriting traits. Several mental illnesses have genetic influences and increase the risk of suicide. These include depression, bipolar disease, schizophrenia and some types of anxiety. None of these mental illnesses are entirely genetic, they are also due to the environment.

The science is still in its early stages. We don’t have a clear understanding of the genetics of mental illness.

Suicide is also influenced by traits that are partly genetic. Pessimism or always looking at the negative things is caused partly by genetics. Feeling hopeless is also important. The genetics of pessimism and hopelessness are not clear but there seems to be a genetic component to these traits.

Being impulsively aggressive is related to suicide. Someone who lashes out without thinking has more risk of suicide. This trait is partly genetic.

Sometimes genes cause specific things. Genes cause eye colour. Genes cause sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis. If your parents give you the wrong genes, you will have one of these diseases.

This is not true with suicide. Having all the genetic risk factors for suicide does not mean a person will commit suicide. Suicide is never specifically caused by genes.

Having a parent who committed suicide is a serious burden. It increases risk of depression and suicide. Much of the increased risk is not genetic but because of having to cope with this trauma. However, most children who have a parent who committed suicide learn to deal with it.

Although suicide is an important cause of death, it really is quite rare. Statistics Canada reports that in adolescents aged 15-18 years the suicide rate is about 20 per 100,000 for males and just over 4 per 100,000 for girls. But that means that 99,980 out of 100,000 boys and 99,995 out of 100,000 girls do not commit suicide.

Suicide is a terrible tragedy when it occurs. Getting help can prevent suicide. Talking to someone who cares is important. For some, a religious counselor or a teacher can help. Many teens can talk to their parents or a close friend. Your school teen health centre is there to help.

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One Response to Is suicide genetic?

  1. RedMango says:

    Very nice post!