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Final Word: Suicide — Is it really in your genes?

Maybe it all really does come down to what’s in your genes.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University say they are looking at how a group of chemicals affects a gene called SKA2 and say they could one day accurately predict that someone is at a greater risk of committing suicide.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans, and theoretically, if a person knows he or she is at greater risk, he or she might tend to avoid stressful situations, make better decisions regarding drugs and alcohol and tell loved ones to look out for warning signs, in case an intervention is needed.

Would you want to know if you or one of your children carried the gene?

I think I would.

Don’t think of it as morbid or morose — think of it as information. You would know that your son or daughter might have a harder time dealing with things, so you might try to teach them better coping techniques, connect them with a good therapist or even attend college closer to home.

It wouldn’t be fail-safe, but at least you wouldn’t ever have to say, “I didn’t see that coming.” And maybe, as the parent, you would tend to beat yourself up less if you knew that your child was predisposed to that behavior?

Think, too, how this might affect the decisions you would make for yourself on an everyday basis. And if it were you who carried the gene, your loved ones could be in on it with you and help you by intervening when you needed it. Maybe you would decide to never live alone.

Genetic medicine is the most rapidly changing field of medicine. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to tell just about anything about the future of your health. In some cases, we already can.

Why shouldn’t we try to do it with mental health?