Monday, September 4, 2017

Genetic Link with Adoptees and Suicide?

Children are placed for adoption for a variety of reasons. It is true that many are born to mothers whose choice was based on reasons of selflessness and love, but the harsh reality is that some adopted children were abandoned, unwanted, abused, neglected, and even made victims of sex trafficking or other crimes.

Sometimes adoptive parents and adoption agencies are aware of the circumstances surrounding the placement; sometimes they are not, yet, if adopted children are loved and cherished and raised in wonderful, stable homes, why are they more likely to commit suicide?

Studies have found that the odds of a reported suicide attempt were 4 times greater in adoptees compared with those who were not. There could be a few reasons behind this elevated number, one being the fact that adoption, or the separation from one’s mother, is in itself a trauma; Another reason is that adoptees often lack any type of family history or medical background, which could include mental illness or even suicide, which in itself could induce anxiety in the adoptee.

As an adoptee, there is almost an invisible line dividing one from the adoptive family, simply because things like looks and even personality characteristics are different from the rest of the family. Anxiety and depression can also occur because, even though an adoptee may have only known love and family security,  many may also grapple with the idea that if they were chosen, then it is possible for them to be “un-chosen”

This idea can occur even if the child has only ever been shown unconditional love and acceptance. I had a foster sister for nearly two years when I was around five to seven, and when she went back to foster care, was the day I knew I was expendable. After all, if she could be returned, surely so could I.

Adoptive families must recognize that their child may have feelings of depression, anxiety, abandonment, and loss, even if their adoption occurred during infancy and especially if the circumstances surrounding the placement are unknown. Doctors and other professionals encourage adoptive parents to help their child learn as much as they can about their biological heritage if the child has a desire to know.

Parents who have frequent and open conversations with their child about their adoption are more likely to be aware of the concerns and feelings of their child and will be able to help their child navigate through the fears that naturally occur. Adoptive parents need to be extremely aware that even though they have loved their child from the start, their adoptive child may need more than love.

However, perhaps there are more than just external circumstances that lead to suicidal behaviors and thoughts. A new study from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, is suggesting that there is evidence that a specific gene, which is involved in the development of the nervous system may be linked to suicidal behavior. CAMH scientists have found that among people with a psychiatric diagnosis, those who had a specific variation of the gene were at higher risk of suicidal behavior.

The mutated version of the gene may cause a chemical imbalance in the brain, which in turn may lead to suicidal ideations and actions, and may also provide a link to a genetic trait. Some scientists suggest that genetic factors seem to play a role in 30%-50% of cases with suicidal behavior, independent of other psychological disorders or environmental stressors. The hope being that the beginnings of this discovery could eventually lead to the development of genetic tests which could help to identify those at risk.

I am adopted. My birth mother, who I never met, had five suicide attempts before succeeding on the sixth. My half-sister (same mother) has survived two attempts, and I have survived three. Three related people, three different environments and one commonality…suicide, perhaps supporting the theory that being suicidal is not completely environmental and possibly there is some genetic base that further complicates the situation.

It's very possible there is a genetic link according to research.

- Jody (Jody's Blog)

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1 comment:

  1. Jody, This is very interesting as I have nieces and a nephew who were adopted and a couple of them have struggled. I wish more parents knew this. Thanks for sharing!






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