Lifetime History of Suicidal Ideation and Attempts Among Incarcerated Women in Israel

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Background: Evidence indicates that rates of death by suicide are higher among female inmates compared with male inmates and the general population. Despite the high rate of lifetime suicidality, little is known about the predictors of suicidality for these women. Objective: The purpose was to examine sociodemographic, criminological, and psychological variables associated with a history of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among incarcerated women. Method: This cross-sectional study investigated a history of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in a sample of 46 Israeli incarcerated women. Participants completed a confidential interview that included the Addiction Severity Index, the Renard Diagnostic Interview, self-report measures of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, and the presence of symptoms of depression. Results: More than half of the women reported a history of suicidal ideation or attempts. Those who reported such a history were characterized by a high prevalence of childhood victimization, early onset of substance abuse, high prevalence of mental health problems, and high prevalence of mental health problems in the family. Child abuse, depression, and family mental health problems are related to suicidal ideation and attempts in incarcerated women. Conclusions: As the number of women with mental health concerns entering prison grows, corrections staff are faced with increasing challenges to provide services that mitigate the risk of death by suicide. Inquiring about childhood abuse and symptoms of depression and mental health problems, as well as providing treatment for the emotional impact of trauma exposure, may reduce the risk of suicidality in this population.

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