The poet Sylvia Plath, who made a name for herself through prose and poetry that conveyed a sense of depression and suicidal tendencies, famously died by asphyxiating herself in an oven in 1963.
The recent reported suicide of her son, marine biologist Nicholas Hughes, brings to light a known psychiatric phenomenon: the heredity of suicidal behavior.
A first-degree relative -- a parent, sibling or child -- of a person who has committed suicide is four to six times more likely to attempt or complete a suicide, said Dr. David Brent, psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Studies on twins have shown that suicidal behavior is between 30 and 50 percent due to heritable factors, he said. Suicide victims' biological relatives who were adopted away also show an increased risk of suicide, he said.
The rate of suicide in America is 10.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people, according to the latest information from the National Institute of Mental Health. That means, although the likelihood of suicidal behavior increases in families, a completed suicide is still a rare event, Brent said. Read full article »