Have you witnessed an act of suicide on social media, in the news or in real life? Why do you think people who committed suicide might have committed suicide? Or, as Freud said, “Is suicide an emergency exit door that exists within all human beings?”. Let’s continue reading the article to examine the suicide phenomenon in depth.

According to Durkheim, suicide is “every death that is the direct or indirect result of a positive or negative act done by the deceased knowing that it will result in death”. Suicide attempt; It is an act defined for this purpose but stopped before death occurs. As it can be understood from the definition, what is important in terms of classification is the result of the action. In other words, actions that result in death are defined as completed suicide, while those that do not result in death are suicide attempts.

According to TUIK data, the number of suicides that resulted in death in Turkey in 2018 was 3,161 people. 75.6% of those who committed suicide are men and 24.4% are women. Apart from this, when unregistered data and suicide attempts are considered, the case of suicide is seen at a substantial level. So who commits suicide? What are the characteristics of people who commit suicide? What role do biological characteristics play in the background of suicide? Before moving on to all these questions, it is necessary to be aware of the risk factors for suicide.

Risk Situations for Suicide

1- Acute Problems; It can be summarized as relationship problems experienced with people who are important to the individual. Continuing problems with family, friends or a close person may increase the risk of suicide. In addition, the mourning process caused by the death of a member of the family is one of the situations that increases the risk for suicide.

2- Chronic problems; Problems in marriage come first. In addition, problems with children increase the risk of suicide. In a study, it was determined that at least one of the parents who physically abused their children had attempted suicide.

3- Physical health; Studies show that suicidal behaviors increase with accompanying severe depression in adverse conditions (deformity, etc.) resulting from neck and face surgeries. In addition, a high correlation was found between epilepsy and suicide. The suicide rate of epileptic patients is 5-7 times higher than other patients.

4- Psychological/Psychiatric Disorder; Studies have shown that psychiatric disorders accompany suicide 5-40 times more often than other diseases. Major depression, schizophrenia, affective disorder, alcohol and substance use disorder, antisocial personality disorder are the most common psychiatric disorders with suicide.

Many positive and negative things are said about those who commit suicide. Some criticize, others say they are right. It is often stated that those who commit suicide do not think about what is left behind and are selfish. What if we told you that there are biological elements in the background of even suicide?

What do animal experiments say about suicide?

Studies in the field of suicide have shown that aggression is highly associated with suicide. For this reason, animal experiments are more about aggression. In one study, it was seen that the decrease in serotonin levels in the brains of mice caused aggression, fighting, killing other mice and pups. In another study, mice that were left in isolation for a long time were given noradrenaline. Increased noradrenaline activation increased aggressive behavior. In another study, a decrease in the level of GABA in the olfactory tubercle of the brain revealed the behavior of killing other mice. Dopamine, on the other hand, has a regulatory role in aggression behavior in animals. Mice whose mesolimbic pathway, known as the dopamine pathway in the brain, was destroyed, started to become aggressive. As can be seen, some neurotransmitters have great effects on aggression. So, to what extent are aggression and suicide related? Is aggression sufficient to explain only the phenomenon of suicide? It does not seem possible to understand the phenomenon of suicide on animal experiments. Therefore, it would be useful to examine genetic studies.

Will Genetic Studies Shed Light on Suicide?

In one study, suicide rates were examined in identical and fraternal twins. In this study, in which a total of 179 twins were examined, it was found that if one of the identical twins committed suicide, the probability of committing suicide in the other twin was higher than in the fraternal twins.

When we look at the adoption studies, very striking results emerge. A Copenhagen study examined 5,483 adoption records. Among them, 57 completed suicides were identified. Out of 269 biological relatives of these 57 suicides, 12 died by suicide. In the control group of the study, only 2 suicides were found out of 269 biological relatives! This study shows that the suicide rate is 6 times higher in the biological relatives of those who died by suicide.

Looking at genetic studies, Nielsen et al. investigated UL and LL genotypes in a group of alcohol-dependent patients with suicidal behavior. In this study, UL and LL genotypes were detected in 34 of 36 subjects who attempted suicide. The L allele is thought to be associated with suicide. It was found that those who showed the LL gentopy showed more than one suicide attempt.

In another study, it was studied with identical twins whose twins committed suicide. This study focused on TPH(tryptophan hydroxylase gene). 17370 identical twins were screened in Sweden. TPH polymorphism (presence of two or more different phenotypes in the same species population) was found in 17 of 28 subjects who accepted the study, 36 twins who committed suicide. Surprisingly, 7 of these 17 individuals had LL, 9 had UL and only one had the UU genotype.

It clearly reveals that biological factors are effective in the realization of suicide, from studies on animals to all genetic studies. However, this does not mean that “everyone with genetic UL will commit suicide”. It should not be forgotten that biological predisposition is triggered by risk situations. Hope your negative biological predispositions are not triggered… Stay healthy.

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