“Blood test to reveal suicide risk”. I must admit that when I read that headline in my email inbox the other morning, my instant reaction was “WTF? A blood test? Really now lads come on!” I had a blood test the other day and it was to check my iron levels. Now that’s a proper medical thing to check for isn’t it? So let’s talk about the facts first.
A new research team under the direction of Alexander Niculescu at the University of Indiana have hinted that suicidal behaviour may be a distinct disorder regardless of any underlying conditions. This is based on research carried out on a controlled amount of subjects (9) which found that those with bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts had four genes present which those that did not have suicidal thoughts did not.
So they’ve done their homework. Now, I’m all for science and research and developing new cures for diseases but I have a fundamental problem with this, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, suicidal ideation is a problem with your emotions; it’s a problem in your head. It’s got nothing to do with your blood. It’s not something that you can simply fix. Saying “there’s a blood test for that” makes it sound like there’s a quick fix for it and there just simply is not.
Secondly, the argument in the first place is that there is a stigma attached to mental health and people just won’t talk about it. So what makes getting a blood test to find out if you might want to kill yourself any easier? Come on now, think about it.
Thirdly and probably the most relevant point (and the one I’m probably going to get grief for) is that if you’re at the stage of needing a blood test you probably already know the result.
Blood tests are useful; they help you find out a lot of things. Like if you have low iron levels, high cholesterol, you know the normal medical stuff that you’re meant to find out. It seems to be a medicine versus psychology argument but I think in this case psychology wins out.
[Image: Orange Tree Clinic]