Suicidal behaviour

Suicidal behaviour is the manifestation of psychological suffering deemed unbearable by its victims.

Among the main risk factors identified, in addition to a history of attempted suicide, alcohol consumption or relational life events (bereavement, separation, etc.), psychiatric disorders have been shown to be involved.

Some people are more vulnerable to suicide than others. Research has shown that nearly 90% of people who attempt suicide suffer from psychiatric disorders and that a history of attempted suicide is associated with an increased risk of relapse. Vulnerability to suicide constitutes a kind of “favourable” predisposition or terrain that can result in action under the effect of significant stress (loss of a job, family or marital problems, etc.). It is probably linked to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Indeed, several genes linked to suicidal behaviour have already been identified. Research has also demonstrated the involvement of various environmental factors, including childhood abuse, sleep disturbance, the presence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc. In concrete terms, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 44 year-olds and the population most at risk is men aged 40 to 50.

Treatments - the promise of research:

Promising work has identified the first biological markers of suicide risk, within specific biological pathways related to the control of impulsivity and anxiety, two psychological characteristics strongly present in those attempting suicide. Other studies have also shown the existence of chronic inflammation in such patients. The identification of these different biological markers of suicide is a source of hope in terms of understanding and screening people at risk.

In addition, the involvement of certain brain regions in the emotional and cognitive dysfunctions associated with suicidal vulnerability has been demonstrated. Neuroimaging studies, in particular functional MRI, have thus made it possible to highlight, in subjects who have attempted suicide, hyperactivity of the orbito-frontal cortex by viewing angry faces, revealing at a cerebral level a mechanism of hypersensitivity to social rejection and signs of disapproval.

Research is currently focussed on 3 priorities: identification of risk factors, detecting high-risk subjects and preventing suicide. Knowing the mechanisms related to suicidal conduct or act is essential. Research has a major role to play and has already provided some encouraging initial responses.

Concerning prevention, mobile digital technologies (e-mental health), in the form of applications for smartphones, constitute innovations with quite remarkable potential because they allow assessment, prediction and intervention in real time, in real situations (which is particularly useful during a period of suicidal crisis). Developed in partnership with immediate response emergency services, the proposed innovations using connected tools, could in certain cases constitute an alternative to hospitalisation.


Testimony of Madeleine

I said to myself, all alone: "Would my children be better off without me?" I thought, "Yes. Maybe they'll be better off not living with…