IU researchers develop suicide-prediction tool

Can suicide be predicted?

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine think they have found a way, using blood tests and questionnaires on tablet computers.

In a journal article published in August, the IU researchers said their tests predicted with 92 percent accuracy which male patients would experience significant suicidal thoughts and with 71 percent accuracy which patients would be hospitalized in the following year for suicidality.

The tests’ predictive power was even higher for patients with bipolar disorder.

The IU team, led by Dr. Alexander Niculescu, a professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the IU medical school, reported in 2013 that key parts of the genetic material RNA were at elevated levels in bipolar patients who were either hospitalized for a suicide attempt or reported suicidal thoughts or had died from suicide.

In their latest work, Niculescu and his team tested patients for levels of those key parts of RNA, while also asking them a series of questions to measure their mood and anxiety, their physical and mental health, addictions and environmental stress. None of the questions asked patients if they were thinking of committing suicide.

Nearly 900 suicides occur each year in Indiana, according to a 2013 report by the Indiana State Department of Health, or 13.1 suicides for every 100,000 residents. That’s a higher rate than in the Midwest and nationally.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Hoosiers aged 15-34. White Hoosiers are the most likely to commit suicide, and more men kill themselves than women.•

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