The Idea that Suicide is Caused by a Gene Defect is Absurd. Enough is Enough Series: #2


A study qualifies for my ‘Enough is Enough’ series when bad science crosses the line to total absurdity. Today’s entry is Identification and Replication of a Combined Epigenetic and Genetic Biomarker Predicting Suicide and Suicidal Behaviors, by Jerry Guintivano, Ph.D et all, in the American Journal of Psychiatry online July 30, 2014.which is accessible on “Blood Test for Suicide May Come From Stress Gene Defect”. This well regarded study proposes that 80% of suicide, suicidal behavior, and suicidal ideation comes from a variation in the region of the SKA2’s genetic and epigenetic expression. Suicidality can be predicted by a simple blood test.

I had to double check that this article wasn’t published in the “Onion” before writing this blog. The idea that suicidality is caused by a defect in a gene is a total absurdity. And cortisol can predict suicidality?… So the public will now believe we can have somebody in the emergency room; give them a blood test; and bang, we can tell if they are suicidal. People suffer with pain from death, loss, depression, anger, failure, rejection, self-hate, illness, trauma, abuse, etc. and may struggle with suicidal thoughts. These are all human struggles. Anyone with a passing acquaintance with human suffering and suicidal behavior, knows that it comes from an individual’s incredibly complicated emotional life as reflected in his characterological issues. And furthermore assessing suicidality is a rather simple clinical skill. Human personality and human struggle is incredibly complicated and can’t be reduced to a gene and a pill. This study participates in the never ending quest and delusion that complicated human behavior and human suffering is located in the physiological brain, that genes biochemically create human behavior. And all we have to do is find the bad gene.

I have already written a post on the prevalent and bad science – correlation science – which explains no mechanism of causality, “Correlation and Causation”. We are talking about the incredibly complicated issue of suicide. Suicide is not caused by a gene defect, fix the gene and life is good. Yes, all of human behavior is manifest in the brain. It is in fact organized and mapped as the play of consciousness in the brain, but it is not caused by his brain.  See – “The Play of Consciousness: Consciousness is biologically organized as a Drama in the Brain”.

What has happened that this is even taken seriously? This kind of research is the extension of the house of cards built on the false belief that human struggle is a genetic-neurological brain disease. And a study such as this is actually honored as credible, and promoted. The idea that this is a myth is considered out of touch. Enough is enough.

4 replies
  1. Scott Gingold, MD
    Scott Gingold, MD says:

    This study plays into the erroneous notion that there is a biological and anatomical basis for “psychiatric disease.” I applaud Dr. Berezin for this blog. I couldn’t agree more that this notion is absurd. I am surprised that this study was published.

    • Robert Berezin
      Robert Berezin says:

      Awfully nice to hear from you. It is unfortunate that the idea that there is a biological and anatomical basis for “Psychiatric disease” has become the accepted truth. The APA and the DSM-5 are the expression of this misleading and destructive fantasy.

  2. Justin Leung
    Justin Leung says:

    If you ask me, I think this kind of research is prevalent because, nowadays, we have loads of clinically-oriented researchers who actually have no clinical experience, or even qualifications.

    These researchers design their studies based on what they have learnt from reading journals. They try to find “gaps” in the literature or whatever they like to call it, and “extend” the area of research.

    Science – at the end of the day – is meant to be a set of methodologies that we use in order to learn about and make sense of (natural or social or whatever) phenomenon that we “observed” (though not everything is eyeball-able).

    Yet these guys have not even “observed” the phenomenon they allegedly study, or aren’t able to tell what they are observing (e.g., because they blindly adhere to DSM which lumps all forms of psychologies that relate to, say, depression, together – so they are treating heterogeneous presentations as if they are homogeneous), or aren’t able to explore beyond anything skin-deep (e.g., even the worst clinician would know that clients don’t always “open up” without proper therapeutic engagement or without the right assessment/interview style).

    Their results are invalid because their basic concepts & study designs are fuzzy at best, laughable at worst.

    Actually, I blame the “system” for allowing non-clinical researchers to do clinical research, but I have to blame the actual researchers for not even knowing freshman level stuff like correlation does not equate to causation. The fields of clinical psychology and psychiatry have become so “low” I don’t know how we can even repair it other than a radical paradigm shift.

    If I live another 50 years maybe I can see the day where our fields frown at the current paradigm, like how we currently frown at radical behaviourism – which in my opinion, is eerily similar to our current paradigm, where we seem to be objectifying subjective experiences to the point of literally removing them from our “scientific” texts.


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