An examination of genes, stress and suicidal behavior in two First Nations communities: The role of the brain-derived neurotropic factor gene
Zai, C.C., George, J., Cheema, S.Y. Zai, G.C., Fonseka, T.M., Danesi, M., ... & Kennedy, J.L.
Suicide claims over 800,000 lives each year worldwide. Suicide rates in indigenous populations in Canada are about double that of the national average, making it a serious public health issue. Numerous factors are involved in suicide risk, including genetic factors, as well as various psychosocial stressors, such as historical experience with the Indian Residential School system for Indigenous populations, as well as protective variables such as social support. Here, we report the first genetic study of suicidal behaviors that includes multiple measures of stress and social supports. We investigated the role of the functional Val66Met marker (rs6265) in the Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) gene in suicidal ideation and suicide attempt in a First Nations community sample (N = 278). We did not find a significant association between the BDNF rs6265 marker and suicidal behaviors. We found childhood adversities, recent life stress, chronic stress, perceived stress, difficulties, and hazardous alcohol use to be associated with both suicidal ideation and suicide attempt. Thus, while additional studies with larger samples are required to elucidate the genetic component of suicide, addressing environmental stressors may be important for suicide prevention.