Suicide and schizophrenia are two forms of "catastrophic reaction to stress," Jack R. Ewalt, MD, told the University of California stress symposium. Ewalt is Bullard professor of psychiatry at Harvard, and superintendent of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston.
"Suicide is the final defense and lasting solution of people who find that all other resources have failed them," Ewalt said.
Loss of a loved one, or physical or social disaster that causes loss of self-esteem may cause sufficient stress to prompt suicide attempts in some people, he added.
Discussing schizophrenia, he said this disorder evidences an interaction of the somatic and functional elements. Genetic studies indicate "at least a genetic susceptibility necessary to the development of these symptoms."
The genetic predisposition has been calculated to be due to a single dominant gene, with approximately 25% penetrance, according to Ewalt.
"What the enzymatic or structural defect produced by this genetic