Identifying who’s more at risk for a leading cause of death among young people

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Yale researchers getting a clearer picture of who is more at risk for suicide among young people – a leading cause of death in that age group.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescents and young adults.

The Yale study could have a huge impact on intervention, treatment and prevention.

Every day in the United States, hundreds of young people from grades seven to 12, attempt suicide.

Researchers focused on brain images of adolescents and young adults with bipolar disorder.

Senior author Dr. Hilary Blumberg explains, “We used specialized ways of scanning the brain. We were seeing subtle differences in the brains, in the adolescents who made suicide attempts, compared to the adolescents who didn’t make suicide attempts.”

The Yale Professor of Psychiatry adds, “So what this gives us is, new leads of where in the brain to look at, to start to try to develop new ways to identify individuals who might be at higher risk of suicide.”

They concentrated on the region of the brain that regulates emotion.

Dr. Blumberg points to, “Some gray matter decreases in the frontal lobe of the brain.”

It led to finding decreases in the structure, wiring and functioning of brain circuits.

Clues that could lead to early intervention and possibly prevention.

“One life is one life too many when it comes to adolescents and young adults who make suicide attempts,” says Psychiatrist Dr. Judah Weathers, who sees too many in the emergency department and in-patient care with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

He adds, “There is not a tremendous amount understood as to why this happens in certain individuals. And this research is a really important inroad at understanding in what brain causes maybe related to increased risks in certain youths.”

Meantime, Dr. Blumberg says the next step is following adolescents and young adults over time – to figure out which of the three brain differences has a direct link – to increasing the risk of suicide attempts.

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