The Challenge of Predicting Suicide, and Other News

Person walking through fog in woodsSuicide rates are rising. In 2014, the latest year for which data is available, the suicide rate climbed to a 30-year high. That year, 42,773 people died by suicide. Interventions such as suicide hotlines, suicide awareness campaigns, and crisis mental health programs have not made a significant dent in the suicide rate. According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, 50 years of research have not been successful in bringing experts closer to predicting suicide.

The research team reviewed 365 studies of suicide risk factors. The meta-analysis revealed various suicide risk factors were no better at predicting suicide than random guessing. Researchers with extensive knowledge of suicide could not be expected to assess risk any better than a person with no knowledge of suicide risk factors.

The study points to flaws in the methodology of previous research. Studies often looked at only a single risk factor, rather than exploring the complex interplay between numerous risk factors and a person’s environment.

The study’s authors say further research on the combination of multiple risk factors is necessary. They also point to preliminary artificial intelligence research. Algorithms could eventually combine hundreds of risk factors to predict suicide, with early studies pointing to an 80% accuracy rate.

Fear of the Unknown Common to Many Anxiety Disorders

New research points to a common underlying theme of anxiety diagnoses such as social anxiety and phobias: fear of unknown threats. Known as anticipatory anxiety, the fear of an uncertain threat could make a person feel anxious and hypervigilant during an entire day. Threats that are more easily predicted generally produce a fight or flight response, and then the fear dissipates. Understanding this common fear may help researchers better understand and target therapies for anxiety.

Pessimists More Likely to Die from Heart Disease

People with coronary heart disease who are pessimistic are more likely to die from the disease. While pessimism increased the odds of death, high levels of optimism did not offer extra protection against death. These findings suggest pessimism may damage heart health more than optimism helps it.

Along the Autism Spectrum, a Path Through Campus Life

As students with autism enter college and adjust to life away from home, many find novel ways to manage their social lives. One such student, Crosby Gardner, a Western Kentucky University (WKU) student, has developed a strategy for getting a girlfriend. Gardner plans to sit with four new girls during each meal, allowing him to eventually meet the entire female population at his university. Crosby participates in WKU’s Kelly Autism Program, which offers him scripts for social interactions and social skills training. Schools across the nation have developed similar programs to support students on the autism spectrum.

Teen ‘Choking Game’ Played Solo Points to Suicide Risks

Four percent of teenagers admit to playing the “choking game,” which uses temporary strangulation to induce feelings of dizziness and euphoria. Teens who play the game alone, a new study suggests, are nearly five times more likely to have thoughts of suicide than teens who play the game in a group. The “choking game” has been linked to fatalities, though the exact numbers are unclear, as many of these deaths are often labeled as undefined suicides or accidents.

For Some Older Chinese-Americans, Caring for Grandkids Can Enhance Well-Being

Caring for grandchildren can induce a combination of many emotions, from frustration to joy. A new study of more than 3,000 Chinese-American grandparents age 60 and older explored the effects of caregiving on the 35% of respondents who were caregivers to grandchildren. Respondents spent an average of 12 hours per week on childcare. Eighty percent said the care they provided was not a burden. People who cared for grandchildren also had better overall mental health.

Many Mothers Feel Guilt, Stigma About Infant Feeding Choices

Most mothers have heard “breast is best,” and that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Health education campaigns encouraging breastfeeding may have an unintended negative mental health consequence. Mothers who feed their babies formula report feelings of guilt, shame, and defensiveness about their choices. In a study of 601 mothers 68% reported feeling stigmatized, 67% reported feelings of guilt, and 76% felt defensive. Most participants said opinions of other mothers made them feel this way.

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  • Mika


    November 25th, 2016 at 5:06 PM

    You can never predict suicide clearly because how do you know what is going to happen to someone from day to day that could cause them to want to do that to themselves?
    Everything may seem on the outside like it is going great but then life happens and they decide that this is more than they can take.

  • Stacia


    November 26th, 2016 at 8:44 AM

    Well I had a baby who just refused to latch on and nurse so what was I supposed to do? Let him starve?

    No you go get a bottle and you either pump or you supplement with formula and you provide the same nourishment to your child that those who are able to breast feed do.

    I am unsure why this has become such a competition.

  • Jeff


    November 26th, 2016 at 10:50 AM

    It could be difficult as a college student to be on the autism spectrum and still want to find a path to having a normal college life. It must be difficult making friends when you have this other part of you that can at times take over and you have to explain. I would say not to make excuse for that, just commit to being yourself and doing the things in the way that keeps you the most comfortable.

  • sebastian


    November 27th, 2016 at 7:52 AM

    Oh wow I had some friends from a few years ago who lost their only child to playing that choking game. IT has been nothing but pain and devastation for them ever since because there are always those questions for them, whether he meant to end his life or not. And they will never have the answers that they are looking for.
    Not that it would change the outcome, their son is dead, but they think that if they knew more then they could more easily make some peace with it.

  • Gentry


    November 28th, 2016 at 7:32 AM

    Pessimists generally do the least to take care of themselves because I think that they are probably thinking that it is only a self defeating thing anyway. So naturally to me it feels that they would have greater health problems and have to struggle with more things physical than those of us who tend to be a little more optimistic.

  • Elka


    November 28th, 2016 at 2:52 PM

    How can we live life scared and anxious about things over which we A have no control and B can in no way predict? I think that it is a lost cause and one that we will never conquer because there is simply no way that you could ever conquer that unless you can tell the future.

  • barney


    November 28th, 2016 at 4:23 PM

    I don’t think that there will ever be any real predictors for suicide. And the thing is nothing could ever prepare you for it happening to someone in your family even if you knew that it was going to be a possibility/

  • Hope


    November 29th, 2016 at 2:05 PM

    My grandchildren are my world, so much better than being a first time parent because I think that you are able to simply appreciate the time with them more than you could when raising your own children.

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