Category Archives: alcoholism

New analysis of international suicide data repeats 10 year old finding; 85% suffer from a mental illness

Almost startling in its consistency, a new peer-reviewed study published in PLOS ONE (April 2, 2014) , a full decade after the often-cited McGill University metastudy on the relationship between mental illness and suicide risk, produced essentially the same major finding —  within 2%. The Australian and American scientists responsible for the new research paper, titled The Burden Attributable to Mental and Substance Use Disorders as Risk Factors for Suicide: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, compiled worldwide data from the World Health Organization (WHO) to show that 85% of people who die by suicide have a debilitating mental disorder. One difference: this study includes addiction as a major mental disorder, which reflects more recent classifications in the mental health field.

The underlying WHO data doesn’t fully represent mid to lower income countries so even this high a percentage linking suicide and mental illness no doubt underestimates the real numbers of people who die by their own hand in places where national and local health systems simply don’t count them. For better or worse, this research certainly covers most of us living in the US.

Sometimes the numbers provide important nuances to help us understand who, how, where, when and even why…

  • Nearly 1 million people complete suicide every year with over 50% aged between 15 and 44 years [14][15].
  • Over 80% of suicides occur in low to middle income countries and close to 50% occur in India and China alone [15][16].
  • the risk of suicide was 7.5 (6.2–9.0) times higher in males and 11.7 (9.7–14.1) times higher in females with a mental or substance use disorder compared to males and females with no mental health or addiction disorder
  • Suicide from firearms, car exhaust and poisoning are more common in high income countries and suicide from pesticide poisoning, hanging and self-immolation are more common in low to middle income countries [17].

There is also a telling graph of which disorders rank as the most and least dangerous in terms of suicide risk, with major depression leading the way: journal.pone.0091936.g004 Lastly, the authors also looked at prevention strategies, and found that equipping general practitioners to diagnose and treat major depression had the highest value as a strategy, with a few caveats, as usual having to do with the quality of care. ” This was one of the few interventions for which there was good evidence of effectiveness as a suicide prevention strategy in a recent review by Mann and colleagues. That said, ensuring that care from general practitioners is evidence-based requires further consideration, given findings that rates of minimally adequate treatment for depression are lower among patients treated solely by general practitioners or in the general medical care sector, compared to those treated by specialist mental health providers.”

The unavoidable point: treatable mental disorders if left untreated put you at a much higher risk for suicide. What else is there to say?


A VA Psychiatrist Shares her Sleepless Nights in a post titled “Preventing Veteran Suicide” by Shaili Jain, MD

I’m pleased to reprint here a blog post from Shaili Jain, MD, a dedicated VA psychiatrist who works at the Palo Alto Veterans Medical Center — who also is a fine writer. In both capacities, she contributes to a new … Continue reading


A study documents importance of peer support…in recovery

Here’s further proof that peer to peer mutual helping relationships are key to recovery. This study looked at alcoholics and AA — but I submit same is true for any recovery. ScienceDaily (Sep. 6, 2012) — A new study published … Continue reading


The Different Impact of Problem Drinking on Men and Women; a Swedish Study

This article and study really hit home for  me. Having just recently, last Dec 2011, come to the sad conclusion that I could not be a “moderate drinker” and committed to sobriety, I can now look back to how my … Continue reading


Many boomers abuse alcohol after age 48 –

I’ll be the first to stand up and say this was me…although I probably started more like age 40…and now I’m happily sober. Interesting to note it was family members who influenced those who said they got treatment. I think … Continue reading

Whitney Houston, Addiction, Mental Illness: Understanding Self Medication


In light of the continuing controversy surrounding Whitney Houston’s death, including questions of blame and responsibility for what the coroner may determine was an overdose involving drugs and alcohol, here is a look at the science behind the central and often misunderstood concept of self-medication in mental illness, addiction and recovery. My interest in this is both professional and personal. My sister Rita died of a multiple drug cocktail at age 38 — after a downward slide that began over 20 years earlier and finally caught up with her. She was, like Whitney Houston, a victim of her own demons and a culture that favors self-medication over getting mental health treatment. As both of their premature deaths demonstrate, self-medication and aging don’t mix well.

Victoria Costello: Addiction Causes: Understanding Self Medication And How I Lost My Sister To Substance Abuse.


Shocking, but not surprising. I offer this new finding to set the context for my Huffington Post article, listed above. 10% of kids live with at least one alcoholic parent.


The Coming Transformation Of Public Addiction Treatment – Health Affairs Blog

One more reason to support Health Care Reform…. Under the Affordable Care Act, the broad expansion of Medicaid in 2014 is expected to double the number of non-elderly adults with behavioral health disorders who will be covered by the program. … Continue reading

Family History of Alcoholism May Affect Adolescents’ Brains | Psych Central News

A new study has found that the brains of adolescents with a family history of alcoholism respond differently while making risky decisions than the brains of other teens.

via Family History of Alcoholism May Affect Adolescents’ Brains | Psych Central News.

One more reason to know your family history of addictions and mental disorders and use it to guide your parenting. Not that it’s easy to convince teens they’re not invincible, but to use your personal family risk plus this type of scientific information to set your priorities and pick your fights.…Mental Health Mom Blog