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January 2019

Advancing Our Understanding of the Who, When, and Why of Suicide Risk

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
JAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(1):11-12. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3164

Suicide is one of the most devastating and perplexing of all human behaviors. Whereas the mortality rate for many leading causes of death (eg, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and influenza) has declined over the past century, the suicide rate is virtually identical to what it was 100 years ago.1 Our lack of progress in suicide prevention is in large part owing to our limited understanding of this problem. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) rarely occur in a research laboratory where they can be carefully probed, and we have not had the technology to study them in situ. As a result, we lack a firm understanding of the fundamental properties of STBs, and when, why, and among whom they unfold.

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