Suicide and related behaviors are complex phenomena associated with different risk factors. Although most individuals who display suicidal behavior do not have a history of early-life adversity, a significant minority does. Recent animal and human data have suggested that early-life adversity leads to epigenetic regulation of genes involved in stress-response systems. Here, we review this evidence and suggest that early-life adversity increases risk of suicide in susceptible individuals by influencing the development of stable emotional, behavioral and cognitive phenotypes that are likely to result from the epigenetic regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and other systems involved in responses to stress.
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