Report: Biomarkers, apps help in suicide prevention

Early suicide prevention, especially in people who suffer from psychiatric illnesses, may soon be faster and easier through a new mobile healthcare app.

Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) announced the development of the tool, which researchers say has 90 percent accuracy.

RNA biomarkers from blood samples combined with questionnaires filled out through an app were collected by researchers. They then used that information to find out which patients would be most at risk for committing suicide, according to a study, published in Molecular Psychiatry.

"We believe that widespread adoption of risk prediction tests based on these findings during healthcare assessments will enable clinicians to intervene with lifestyle changes or treatments that can save lives," said Alexander B. Niculescu, a professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at IUSM.

The researchers added that integration of biomarkers and clinical data into universal predictive tools provides predictive capability across several psychiatric ailments.

A growing number of mobile tools are being used to target mental health issues. One app, MoodTrek, promises to help those suffering from depression by tracking moods and symptoms, and then sharing data in real-time with psychiatrists and physicians. Another device aims to provide faster and more accurate traumatic brain injury diagnosis for military service personnel on the battlefield.

The IUSM study specifically examined outcomes in males suffering from bipolar disorder, depression and/or schizophrenia. The effort tracked mood and anxiety, as well as life issues, such as cultural aspects and environmental stress.

"We now have developed a better panel of biomarkers that are predictive across several psychiatric diagnoses," Niculescu said. "Combined with the apps, we have a broader spectrum predictor for suicidality."

For more information:
- read the study abstract
- check out the IUSM announcement