There has been much discussion regarding the need to reduce the rate of suicide and suicide attempts amongst prisoners but little investigation into preventing suicide amongst recently released inmates. Researchers from the University of Plymouth Peninsula School of Medicine and Dentistry in the U.K., supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula, investigated the subject and the results were published in Sociology of Health and Illness.
Newly released inmates are a high-risk group when it comes to suicide. A 2007 study on newly released U.S. prisoners discovered that the suicide risk was particularly high during the first two weeks following release.
In the U.K., data shows that the age-adjusted risk of suicide for male offenders following release from prison is eight times the national average and 25 percent of suicides among former prisoners occur within the first four weeks following release. For individuals on probation, 25 percent of deaths are due to suicide.
The people most at risk for suicide are repeat offenders, those who are habitually in and out of prison, sometimes known as “revolvers.” Their challenge comes from the frequent change between prison and life in the community. During their time outside prison they receive very little in the form of needed support.
For the investigation, the researchers interviewed 35 male offenders ages 18 to 52. The interviews were semi-formal and were conducted one week prior to release and again approximately six weeks following release.
The researchers discovered that the majority of the subjects led troubled personal lives. Many had childhood stories of the dissolution of their families, abandonment, physical abuse, neglect and excessive drug and alcohol abuse amongst family members.
Every subject reported personal problems in the recent past and more than 50 percent — 18 of the 36 participants — had attempted suicide at some point. Subjects in this category were divided into two groups, multiple suicide attempts and single suicide attempts.
The researchers found that those in the multiple attempts group felt they were less in control of their lives and used less violent means. The subjects in the single attempt group tended to premeditate the act and were more likely to use violent suicide methods expected to result in death.
There was no link found between suicide attempts and previous life experience, even though many of the former inmates had suffered traumatic events similar to the ones who had attempted suicide.
In order to provide a support system to help newly released inmates, Professor Richard Byng, Ph.D., of the University of Plymouth Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, recommends incorporating not only primary and secondary health care but also support from drug and alcohol professionals. There is also a need for assisting newly released inmates with living accommodation, employment and relationship problems. He said, “Our study suggests that there is a group of high-risk individuals with no previous attempt at suicide for whom identification and engagement is critical.”
For those struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders, help is available. Sovereign Health of Florida treats addictions, mental health disorders and behavioral problems. Effective treatment is offered to those with suicidal ideation to help them return to a more normal life. If you or a loved one is seeking help for such a condition, please call us to speak with a member of our team.
Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer
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