Suicide is a staggering, tragic, and growing cause of death in the United States. Despite a government-led 20-year effort, the suicide rate increased by 25% between 1999 and 2014. To prevent suicide, it is essential to understand the biological factors—genetic and epigenetic—and environmental factors that underlie it. To gain this increased understanding, the equivalent of the “War on Cancer” initiative is needed. The War on Cancer initiative, which began in the 1970s, has transformed the treatments and outcomes of cancer, and the same could occur with a similar initiative on suicide. This article proposes a National Initiative to Prevent Suicide (NIPS), with the first step being the establishment of a National Suicide Database (NSD). The NSD would be established by a government-private partnership much as was done by the National Cancer Institute in the War on Cancer. The NSD would be established under the auspices of the National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately $600 million are currently spent annually by taxpayers in the United States to support the medicolegal death investigation system, composed of 3137 county coroner or medical examiner offices across the country. In their investigation of deaths due to suicide, these offices collect extensive information, including biological samples, from the >40,000 deaths due to suicide that occur each year. The proposal presented in this column calls for this material to be stored in the NSD so that vetted government and public/private researchers can investigate the causes of suicide. This information will make possible the development of new methods, including laboratory evaluations, for assessing suicide risk as well as new treatments to prevent suicide. In support of this proposed new initiative, this article/proposal reviews the current medicolegal death investigation system and recent advances in our understanding of the biological basis of suicide. The time for action on this proposal is now.
PRESKORN: University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, Wichita, KS
Over his career, S.H.P. has worked with over 130 pharmaceutical companies in the United States and throughout the world. Over the past year, he has received grants/research support from or has served as a consultant, on the advisory board, or on the speakers bureau for Acadia, Alkermes, Assurex Health (developer and marketer of the GeneSight test), BioXcel, Eisai, Forum, Janssen, National Institute of Mental Health, Merck, Naurex/Aptinyx, Rugen Holdings, The Stanley Medical Research Institute, Sunovion, and Vanda.
Please send correspondence to: Sheldon H. Preskorn, MD, University of Kansas Medical Center, 1010 N. Kansas, Wichita, KS 67217 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).