Suicide Research Team

From left: Prof Raj Ramesar and Ms. Sanne Colijn

Worldwide,  suicide  is  among  the  top  three  causes  of  death  for people  aged  15–44  years,  and  is  the second  leading  cause  of death  amongst  university  students  (World  Health  Organization, 2010).  South  Africa  has  the  eighth  highest  rate  of suicide  in  the world:  each  year,  approximately  six  to  eight  thousand  people commit  suicide,  making  suicide  the  third  greatest  cause  of unnatural death in the country, after homicide and unintentional causes. Young adults (19-24 years of age) are considered to be the most at-risk group for depression and suicidality (including suicidal thinking; self-harming behavior and suicide attempts). For more information, see the Fact sheet.

Within the Division of Human Genetics, there have been previous investigations into suicidal ideation as a component of suicide. These studies have motivated for a closer investigation of the genetics of suicide and its associated behavior. The goal of this research is to provide a foundation for future investigations into the neurobiology of suicide with the ultimate aim of identifying predictable markers for suicide.

Blood samples for all of the suicide studies have been collected from the Salt River Mortuary since the end of 2014. To collect a blood sample, consent is taken from a family member by a qualified pathologist. All patients are anonymous. To date we have 75 confirmed suicide samples in the storage facilities of the Division of Human Genetics and collection is still ongoing.

UCT Student Careline: 0800 24 25 26 or SMS 31393 for a call-me-back

Anyone experiencing anxiety and/or depression should call the UCT Student Careline for immediate help. The line offers 24/7 telephonic counselling, advice, referral facilities and general support to individuals who are facing mental health challenges or are contemplating suicide. The line may also be used by a person concerned about another person who might be experiencing distress.

SUICIDALITY: Current Project Members

Sanne Colijn:

Sanne Colijn is a Master's student investigating the association of 9 genetic loci in research groups of (i) suicide completers and (ii) bipolar disorder patients, (iii) with and (iv) without suicidal ideation, in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Tracy Glass:

Tracy Glass is a Master's student investigating genetic polymorphisms and organophosphate neurotoxicity amongst emerging farmers in the Western Cape

SUICIDALITY: Previous Projects


Monique Brouwers

(Avans University Graduation Internship)

A pilot investigation of suicide ideation and its potential association with the genes SLC6A3, TPH1, TPH2 and HTR1B, within a psychiatric research group, in South Africa.

Sanne Colijn

(Avans University Graduation Internship)

A Pilot investigation of genotyping specific variants in the BDNF, TPH2 and CREB1 genes, in a research group with mood disorders and suicide ideation, within the Western Cape, South Africa.


Amy Lee Roberts

MSc Dissertation: Genotyping of specific variants in ABCB1 and SLC6A4, within the Western Cape, South Africa, in a research group with suicide ideation, and suicide victims.